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The wheat harvest combines have rolled

across Oklahoma, the hot July sun is warming the air and summer vacation is in full swing for families. While a majority of Oklahomans head to the baseball park, golf course, or one of our many lakes for their summer recreation, a few folks look for a slightly different way to spend summer. Whether you prefer recreation in the air, on water or in the cool confines of your automobiles, these summer activities will provide you with unique family fun.

the air. The club has two single-seat gliders and one two-seat glider for training. Numerous private gliders are owned by club members. New glider pilots are welcome and instruction is available to club members. For more information, visit

Tulsa Skyhawks Soaring Club

Based out of Mid-American Industrial Airport in Pryor, Okla., the club offers members the ability to learn gliding in the Tulsa area. Visit their Facebook page for more information or contact Randy Teel at 918-289- 3310 or Rex Niver at 918-361-3132.


ed-tailed hawk are not the only creatures to soar over the western Oklahoma landscape, searching for updrafts created by hot sun warming wheat fields and parking lots. Men and women in sleek fiberglass gliders launch into the summer air, hoping to rocket upward on the rising drafts for a view unparalleled from the ground. Fly- ing a glider is a quiet sport, with only a whisper of wind rushing by the aerodynamically designed cockpit. Noisy motors are left behind. Pilots, like birds, use the natural convective lift created by the sun and the earth to fly high into the Oklahoma sky. While flying a glider is most often a solo sport, it requires a team effort to launch and recover this delicate aircraft. Wing walkers hold the long spindly wings from dragging on the pavement during launch, and the launch craft—either a ground tow or airplane tow—must be manned. For this reason, most glider operations in Oklahoma are performed by glider clubs rather than by individual pilots. Enthusiasts gather during the warm summer afternoons and take turns launching and recovering gliders for each other. Joining these weekend flight operations is a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon. You can bring the family, launch chairs, sun- glasses and a big floppy hat, hang out with other glider enthusiasts, and learn how to launch and recover gliders. You might even get to ride in a glider and eventually learn to fly yourself. There are two glider clubs in Oklahoma, plus a website that offers de- tailed information about gliding in the Ouachita Mountains in southeast Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Soaring Association

An hour west of Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Soaring Association is based at the airport in Hinton, Okla. Club members fly most weekends and use both ground-based tow and airplane tow to get the sailplanes in

Talihina Soaring Talihina Soaring is a website dedicated to teaching pilots how to safely

fly a sailplane in and around the Talihina, Okla., area. Sailplane pilots launch from the Talihina airport to fly the abundant ridge lift created by wind blowing over the mountain ridges that make up the Talimena Drive. On a windy day visitors along the drive can see gleaming white sailplanes gracefully riding over the mountains. Interested pilots can join the Talihina Soaring mailing list to stay apprised of when pilots gather to fly. Visit for more information.

Another way to get aloft and literally feel the wind in your face is to experience hang gliding (with a hard wing) and paragliding (with a para- chute-shaped wing). Both are non-powered methods of flying free like a bird in the skies, with only the wind and thermals to keep you aloft. Hang gliding is popular in southeast Oklahoma because of the abundance of launch sites and the steady, regular winds flowing over the mountains that create reliable “ridge lift” used to stay in the air. Hang gliders have been launching from Buffalo Mountain, Talimena Drive and Heavener, Okla., for years and can often be seen while traveling the Talimena Drive. “I have lived in Buffalo Valley all my life and would always drive by and see the hang gliders and paragliders flying off the mountains. Finally I decided last year to give it a try myself,” says Kiamichi Electric Cooperative member Dave Shaw of Talihina. Shaw joined a paragliding group called the Buffalo Mountain Flyers and

began lessons.

“I can toss my wing in the back of my truck, drive up the mountain and be in the air in 15 minutes. There’s nothing like the feeling of stepping off a mountain into the wind and soaring the ridge for hours before coming down. My sons, Deston and Derek, are also learning to fly. It’s a great family sport.” The Ouachita Mountains are one of the few east-west mountain ranges in the United States. Because of the strong southerly wind flow in the spring and summer, the mountains create excellent ridge flying opportu- nities for hang gliders, paragliders and even sailplanes.

Buffalo Mountain - Talihina

Buffalo Mountain Flyers is a club dedicated to hang gliding and para- gliding in southeast Oklahoma. Club dues provide insurance for flyers through the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. The club also maintains relationships with area landowners to provide launch and landing spots in southeast Oklahoma. It is an active club that wel- comes newcomers and provides both basic and advanced training to flyers. Even if you have never flown, you can check their website, find out when they are flying and come join the fun of launching and recovering hang gliders. Bring a launch chair, bug spray, sunscreen and hiking boots and be prepared to watch the beauty of unpowered flight. Visit www.buffalo- for more information.

JULY 2016 13

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