Guide to Florida, USA

  • Fly cloudstreets over the flattest of flatlands
  • Get towed up into epic convergence
  • All year round, but April and May are best
  • Flee the snow into a subtropical paradise
Florida is flat: Following friends along the milk run. Photo: Ricker Goldsborough

Florida is flat: Following friends along the milk run. Photo: Ricker Goldsborough

WHY GO?
Scan the ground for your next trigger and go – benign XC flying.

WHERE IS IT?

WHAT’S IT LIKE?
A black parking lot, a group of houses and a long highway. Just scan the ground for your next trigger and follow the wind. This is Florida flatland flying at its most benign. Sunny skies with cumulus clouds are the rule, and they entice pilots in the grip of an icy cold north-eastern winter to abandon their wood stoves and brave the drive on highway 95 for a week’s respite in a tropical paradise.

Big flights are possible when the winds blow out of the south or north and converge over the middle of the Florida peninsula, creating a cloud street that goes to the horizon.

Florida is flat, so you’ve got to find a way to get into the air. There are three main aerotow hang gliding flight parks: Quest Air, Wallaby Ranch and the Florida Ridge Flight Park. At certain times paraglider pilots can be truck-towed into the air at the Florida Ridge Flight Park.

Major hang gliding competitions are often held in April, with good international pilot attendance.

Quest Air and Wallaby Ranch are near Disney World, but there are also plenty of entertainment options available near Orlando for other family members. The Florida Ridge is way out in the Florida Everglades, but it’s still possible to head  to the east, north of Miami, or west coast, Fort Myer, for non-flying fun.

FLYING CONDITIONS
Florida is flyable all year round but many pilots come in winter when the rest of the US is shivering. Lift is soft and spotty in the winter months and fully formed in the spring and autumn. Summer brings afternoon thunderstorms, but morning flights are possible before it gets too wild.

WHEN TO GO
April and May are the best spring flying months.

ALTITUDE
Launch: 30m
Landing: 30m
Cloudbase: 1,500m AMSL

Launch and land at the flight parks, or fly XC and outland – all of Florida is low-lying.

HANG GLIDER ACCESS
Florida is hang glider central – the lack of a full-time truck tow operation rules out paragliding for much of the year.

MUST BE FLOWN
The milk run is from Quest Air to Wallaby Ranch and back (80km). With a north wind go from Quest Air to the Florida Ridge (200km) or to the beach on the west coast at Venice, 145km. With a southerly, pilots head up the west side of Interstate 75 or up highway 101 into Georgia and then as far as they can. The record is 455km, set by Jonny Durand and Dustin Martin who flew together from Quest Air.

DANGERS AND ANNOYANCES
Don’t fly into big black clouds. There’s airspace all over the place, so consult the flight parks and charts before heading out on big XC flights.

ACCOMMODATION
Quest Air: Camping, hotels, rental houses, rooms to rent.
Wallaby: Camping, hotels, rental houses, cabins.
Florida Ridge: Camping, RV park, cabins,

GUIDES AND COURSES
Aerotow hang gliding instruction is available at all three flight parks. Quest Air also provides scooter tow training.

TAKE THE FAMILY
The flight parks all have pools, and Quest Air has a small lake. Wallaby Ranch has plenty of playground equipment. You can also go kayaking or canoeing in one of the many wilderness areas within an hour of each park – you’ll see alligators and  turtles. If it’s too windy, go kite surfing at the beach. Road and mountain bike riding is nearby.

WEATHER INFO
The sun heats up the land and the cumulus clouds form. That’s the Florida story. Since Florida is so dead flat, the weather is pretty much the same everywhere. There are onshore sea breezes from both coasts that set up the mid-state convergence when the general winds are light or out of the south or north. Winds are more often from the west or east rather than north or south. You’ll find the Florida weather here.

GETTING THERE
For Wallaby Ranch and Quest Air, fly into Orlando. There’s not much public transport from there. For The Florida Ridge, fly into Fort Myer. Rent a car. Most folks get to Florida with their hang gliders on top of their trucks. Paraglider pilots can fly in.

USEFUL CONTACTS
Quest Air
Wallaby Ranch: Malcolm Jones
Florida Ridge Flight Park


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