Recently I decided to check out a fellow jumpers passion for hang gliding. Bryon Estes is not only a skydiver but also a licensed hang gliding instructor and the owner of US Hang Gliding, Inc located in Middletown NY. I have enjoyed rushing through the sky and piloting my canopy in countless locations around the country but let me tell you, nothing can compare to truly feeling like a bird attached to the glider. The sound is bone chillingly quiet, the wind is soft and the adrenalin is full throttle. Hang gliding is one of the most spiritual or zen activities I have ever experienced in my life and I hope you to have the opportunity to experience it for yourself. If you like to fly, need speed or just crave some adrenaline than this sport is for you. All links to Bryon’s school are listed at the bottom of the short interview below.
If anyone is headed out to take a lesson let me know i'd love to join you
Explore, Live and love - get out of that box and try new things!
Me Bryon and Bill at US Hang Gliding, Inc
How did you become interested in hang gliding? When did you start?
I first became interested in hang gliding back in the mid 90's when my dad started taking hang gliding lessons again, after a 20 year break from the sport. He had actually built his first hang glider from hand rail molding, duct tape, and 8 mil plastic.
I started training for hang gliding in the fall of 98' when I was 14. Got my first mountain flight on July 4th the following year. See statue of liberty picture on my website. This was my landing zone (lz). I can confidently say that I caught the bug from my dad. We love all things that fly. There are many times that we will fly several different types of aircraft in the same day. Ie hang glider, ultralights, airchair (ultralight sailplane), skydive. Even when we cant be in the pilot's seat, remote control airplanes/ helicopters, kites, motorcycles, ect will fill the void.
The Tug - amazing to be towed behind it
What was your inspiration to start hang gliding and what drove you to start your school?
My inspiration to start HG was my dad. We had always been together when he was free. He took us with him whenever he could. My early years weekends were spent at Cail City DZ, while tandems were still new to skydiving. Or we would go out riding quads/ dirt bikes in the desert, or camping. As I got older I had worked at a couple of different flight parks/ HG schools and traveled to many different hang gliding events all over the country. I had never really thought of myself as a teacher but as I look back at everything that I have done over the years. I have learned the job and have been able to give that knowledge to others. After many years of working for other companies it time for me to open a school of my own. A few years back I had come up with the name US Hang Gliding, Inc. Not wanting to think too small. I have now acquired all the gear necessary to run a full on full service Flight Park and whatever I dont have, I will get.
Typical Trainer ( tandem set up )
What is your favorite part in Hang gliding?
What I like best about flying solo is just being able to stay aloft without any motor to keep me up. Riding those lift currents, what makes it hard is the fact that we can't see the currents. We do use a device to help us out called vario's and flight computers. For tandems, it's definitely giving the gift of flight to others. Seeing people reach their dreams of flying/ HG and making it a reality. Everyone's reactions are different but no one hates it.
What's next for your school?
What's next you ask, well as business picks up. We will be reinvesting the revenue back into the company and the grounds that we operate on until we can get it where we want it to be. The end goal is to have a country club style flying center. One call takes care of all your flying needs. Maybe one day opening another location.
Nah its not for riding - this pulley allows people to learn close to the ground
Can you tell me a bit about what a new Glider will go through when they arrive for a lesson?
So from a student's perspective a first day lesson goes as follows.
Take care of paperwork and payment if not already done
Set up hang glider
Show everyone how to properly hold glider
We use the simple progression technique. There is a video of the simple progression launch steps that can be found on my website.
After all students have had a chance to get familiar with these we can move on to steering.
After learning how to steer the glider we can start to fly.
We use a low powered stationary scooter as a winch to tow students into the air. Each student will get 3-5 attempts to fly/ flights. Lots of new information on day one.
After the flights are done we breakdown the equipment.
Class is over.
Awww my temp membership
How long does it take for a beginner to obtain a certification to fly on their own?
For most first timers it will take the better part of a summer to learn. The more often they come out the faster they will learn. Most people are limited to weekends so at best we get 4-8 days of training per month. Now not all of these days are going to flyable and there could be times at which you'll go 3 or 4 weeks without a lesson. By the time they get back its like starting over. Certainly anyone who has previous flying experience will learn a lot faster as they will really only have to learn craft.
Where would you like to see your school in 10 years?
I would hope that in 10 years, there are at least 2 maybe 3 more locations around the country.
What is the craziest request you have ever been asked to do with you glider?
The craziest thing that I have been asked to do with my glider is to put on an acrobatics routine for a summer camp, sadly it never came to be for many reasons. Sadly I have done crazier thing in my glider on my own without being asked.
Why Hang gliding and not Airplanes?
Believe it or not at one point I did want to fly commercially. I also wanted to be cook. After a bunch of research, compromises, and life it just wasn't in the cards any more, but hang gliding was and still is a very big part of my life. It is still one of the cheapest flying sports out there today.
What is your most memorable moment as a Hang Glider?
My most memorable moment in HG, was at a site in Woodstock, VA. I was on my home from a competition in Tenn. I had a new mountain pilot, meet me there and we flew. This flight is one very special to me because it is one of the only times, that I have been above the clouds without any outside help, like getting towed above them. It was only me and my skills that got me there with natural lift. I love this place, its a great site to fly.
One of the best times I have ever had on top of a man
Do you have any advice for a new glider?
My advice on gliders for new students is go single surface to start. After you have been flying for awhile 40+ flying hours and hundreds of flights later then look at what kind of flying you like to do. Then base that on the glider performance that you want. There might even be another step or two in there depending on the type of glider you want to get into. You need a good foundation to base that on. If you can only fly once or twice a month then a nice easy flying single surface glider is fine.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to progress in this sport?
To anyone looking to get into the sport. Don't wait take that first step. Come out for that first day lesson and or tandem or both in the same day. See if it is something that you want to do more of. It's not for everyone but I feel like everyone should try it. Plan for tomorrow but live for today, weather permitting of course.
I hear you are also a Skydiver. Tell me a bit about that.
Haven grown up on DZ, I had always wanted to try it. I took my first tandem jump at Skydive Sussex with my cousin out of a caravan. Many years later I was finally able to take lessons. I have around 50 jumps now and need water training for my B.
Do you find you get a similar rush from Gliding, like we so in skydiving?
For me the rushes are different from both. On the first tandem skydive I was like its over? Already? Really? I was excited and disappointed at the same time. By the time I was able to make my first jump, I had already had many flying hours in a glider. I was use to being up for hours at time and then the jump was over in like 10-15 mins diffidently felt like less time for sure. By the time I had taken my 2nd tandem and solo jumps I liked it a lot more. Im not jumping as much as I would like but I will be.
Do you see a lot of Skydivers flying gliders, and do you see it crossing sport lines in the near future?
I have had a hand full guys and gals cross over from both sports over the years. I think its inevitable that people will cross over for both sports. Both have their ups and downs depends on what the person wants.
If you were a drink what would you be and why?
Id be a delicious drink of course because who wants a crappy drink?
Plain and simple - Amazing !!!!!!
If you are interested in learning more about US Hang Gliding Inc. or about the sport in general. Make sure to check out the links provided below. And a special thanks to Bryon and Bill for opening my eyes to the world of hang gliding.
US Hang Gliding Inc. - https://www.ushanggliding.com/
Info - https://www.ushpa.org/