Best of 2001: Best Place To Soar

    Sky Sailing (at the Warner Springs Airport)
    31930 Highway 79, Warner Springs

    Soaring is the sport of flying engineless gliders or, more specifically, sailplanes. "The difference," explains Bret Willat, owner of Sky Sailing, "is a glider has less than a 20-to-1 glide ratio. That means less than 20 feet forward for every foot down. A sailplane has a glide ratio of greater than 20-to-1." All of Willat's craft are sailplanes. For $70, $95, or $125 ($90, $130, or $170 for you and a friend), Willat or one of the other certified glider pilots will take you up for a 20-, 30-, or 40-minute flight. During the first part of the flight, you're being towed behind an engined plane up to 3500 feet above the airport, just above the 6500-foot Lookout Mountain, highest peak in the county. Willat will tell you when to pull the knob that cuts you loose from the tow plane. After that you will soar along feeling the lift caused by wind rushing up and over ridges and by bubbles of hot air, called thermals, which rise up off the valley floor. The view up here is marvelous and, without a loud engine, all you hear is the wind rushing by the cockpit. And you don't need headphones to hear the pilot in the back seat giving you instructions as he lets you take the controls.

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