It's a bird, it's a plane it's … a hang glider?
It may sound a bit strange — especially along the West Texas skyline — but it's likely the case, as the 2013 U.S. National Hang Gliding Championship prepare to get under way Sunday at the McMahon-Wrinkle Airpark.
Marking the 11th year in a row the championship has been held in the Crossroads area, more than 40 hang glider pilots from all across the nation — as well as the world — are expected to take to the skies for the week-long event.
According to U.S. National Hang Gliding organizer Belinda Boulter, the pilots couldn't be happier to be headed back to the West Texas skies.
“We're very excited to be coming back to Big Spring,” Boulter said. “We receive so much support while we're there and the conditions are just amazing for hang gliding. We have pilots from the United States, of course, as well as Canada, Mexico, Australia and Norway. It's going to be a tough — and amazing — competition this year.”
Boulter, who took over organizational duties for long-time championship head David Glover this year, said smiles and plenty of gratitude aren't the only things the hang gliding pilots will be bringing with them when they arrive in the Crossroads area.
“We are excited to have a large team coming from Mexico this year,” Boulter said. “Mexico will be hosting the next World Championship in 2015. Also, Hungarian pilot Attila Bertok, winner of the 2007 World Championship in Big Spring, will be returning for the first time since he became world champion. Of the 43 pilots registered at this time, 10 will be coming from other countries.
“Also, the Cloudbase Foundation, a pilots' organization which raises money to help children in places where we fly, will again be raising money from participants for the Big Spring Rainbow Room, a program which supports Child Protective Services in Big Spring. We hope to present the money at our awards dinner scheduled for Aug. 10. This is just a small way of saying thank you to the Big Spring community.”
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.”