Hang glider championships off to great start, officials say

If it seems like the skies above Big Spring are busier than usual, it's not your imagination, as the 2013 U.S. National Hang Gliding Championship continues at the McMahon-Wrinkle Airpark.According to U.S. National Hang Gliding organizer Belinda Boulter, with just two days under the pilots' belts, the championship is shaping up to be an amazing time for all involved.“We ended (registration) with a field of 49 pilots, including a strong last-minute entry by the Guatemalan team,” Boulter said. “Everyone had a great time at the welcome dinner, which was hosted by the city of Big Spring and organized by the local Hang Gliding Committee.“Sunday we had classic Big Spring conditions, with some helpful clouds at the beginning, high climbs to around 10,000 feet and a 25-mile-per-hour tailwind for most of the task. Sunday's task was to fly downwind to a turn-point at Brownfield, then crosswind to a goal at Town & Country Airpark, which is a total of 109 miles.”Boulter said favorable conditions helped the pilots.“Between 15 and 20 pilots made goal,” she said. “First to arrive was Mike Bilyk, a young California pilot who has only been competing for a short time and who was very happy, indeed. This competition includes a Sport Class of eight pilots, who are either new to competition or are flying lower-performance hang gliders. They also had a tremendous day.”Area residents who would like to get a taste of the winds during this year's championship will get their chance, according to Boulter.“We will again be offering tandem discovery flights early and late in the day, as weather permits,” Boulter said. “Members of the general public fly with a certified tandem instructor, towing up to about 2,500 feet and flying for about a half hour.“Tandem flights will cost $100 and for an additional $35 people will receive an SD card filled with either still photos or video of their flight. Contacts for tandem discovery flights are Jonny Thompson at 252-207-9597 and Russell Brown at 352-516-8616. Remember, however, tandem flights are dependent on the weather.”