Hello! My name is Mimi and I’m a 37 year old Mother of 2, a loving wife to Benji and a Marketing Coordinator for Bluewater. Pretty normal, typical life I lead. The days of wild adventures and long weekends are few and far between. Most weekends of the summer are spent looking for ways to keep my family entertained and activities to keep my children’s minds wide open to the possibilities life can present to them. When I was given the opportunity to experience something new courtesy of Kitty Hawk Kites, I accepted. Not only for the break in the norm, but to set an example for my kids to get out there and LIVE! You have to take risks to get rewards.
This is the first year Kitty Hawk Kites offered Hang Gliding in Beaufort. The flagship center on the Outer Banks has been “teaching the world to fly since 1974.” Boasting that students from ages 4-92, both male and female have participated in some form of flight, from hang gliding, kiteboarding, parasailing to paragliding. From the physically fit to physically challenged, all it takes is the desire to learn and fly. This opportunity ties in well with Ride the Wind Day.
Ride the Wind Day is a unofficial national holiday in the US, celebrated on August 23rd, that commemorates the anniversary of the first human powered flight to win the Kremer prize. Established in 1959 by industrialist, Henry Kremer, for pioneers of human-powered flight, the first of which was given to Dr. Paul MacCready when his Gossamer Condor, piloted by Bryan Allen was the first aircraft to fly a figure eight around two markers a half mile apart and a least 10 feet above ground. But I’ve decided I’m going to think of it as commemorating Kitty Hawk and the first flight of The Wright Brothers, even though that was December 17, 1903. Just go with it! Ha!
I’m celebrating the holiday early and in my own way – Come with me … Here’s my day.
7:45 I’m awake, I need coffee. What do I wear for this? Yoga pants and a t-shirt … sure, sounds good. Everyone in my house is still asleep, um bye guys!
9:00 Arrive at Michael J. Smith Air field, Beaufort. Oh gosh I hope I’m in the right place. Why have I never been down here before? Oh there’s a sign for hang gliding; that was easy.
9:02 I walked through the office to a picnic table under a shaded tree. My first thought … are all these people hang gliding today? Answer: YES! Even that 11 year old: YES! Second thought these people are so cool, laid back, excited and not even a little scared. This is the perfect scenario for my nerves. They’ve been sky diving too? YES!
Ok, I’ve got this.
9:18 A voice comes over the walkie that sits at the end of the picnic table. “Hey, is anyone there? If so, pick up the pink walkie with the seashell” We reply, “Yes, there are people here, over.” Moments later we meet James, a super high-spirited guy from Chattanooga, TN. We go over paperwork, sign waivers, get basic information about the flight as well as receive our US Hang Gliding & Paragliding Assn., Student / Affiliate Membership.
9:25 Golf cart escort with James to center of the field where to gear up for flight. I get to go first? Oh my gosh, I’m so excited at this point.
9:28 Gearing up and introductions from Richard and Chris. Chris is the pilot of the Bailey-Moyes Dragonfly aircraft. This thing is so basic-looking compared to planes I’ve seen before. It has an open cockpit and looked like it had pretty basic controls and this will pull the North Wing Freedom 220 hang glider up to 2,000 feet and let us go.
Richard, oh sweet kind Richard. He is amazing. This guy’s job is allowing people to experience a bird’s eye view of Beaufort and Beyond. Amazing, where do I sign up?
9:33 You ready, Mimi? Let’s GO!
9:34 -9:43 My flight lasted 10 minutes. I moved my head the entire time. I wanted to absorb as much as I could, knowing that it would be over waaay too soon. I’ve always known that I was lucky to be born and raised in this area but when you see it from the air, it’s like art. I could see almost to Emerald Isle, thanks to the clouds that had lifted for better visibility, Fort Macon, Beaufort Waterfront, Shackleford Banks – all were in a second’s view of one another. The wind and air temperature were about 10-15 degrees cooler, it felt amazing! Once we reached 2000 feet, Chris released us.
In that moment, I was jarred. I’m really soaring. It was just me, Richard and some metal and canvas. I was surprisingly ok with this fact. A moment later Richard asked, “Do you want to steer?” Um, yeah! He tells me to place my hands on both sides and pull my weight forward gently. This motion takes us slowly and steadily down. My next instruction is to shift and pull my weight to the left to steer us left then right slightly to even us out.
I did it! I flew that dern thing! Richard gives me kudos for staying calm, he said that was the hardest part, getting people to remain calm. Thanks, Richard. You were a great coach.
As we got closer to the ground, I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. Everything about this experience was positive. Every single encounter was positive. I just went hang gliding! Oh gosh, I’m going to have to do this again! And with that thought Richard brought us safely and perfectly to the earth.
The first thing I did was lay on the ground, just lay there. The contrast between the two feelings was the ultimate high. Parting from Richard, I insisted we hug. We both laughed and he wished me good luck on my blog. My response was “don’t get too excited, I’m not much of a writer” His reply was better “Well I’m not much of a pilot” Touché, sir, touché.
For more information about hang gliding with Richard & Chris check out the website.