seen from a mounted GoPro, Central Florida Explorer
Patrick Connolly hang glides with Wallaby Ranch
owner and instructor Malcolm Jones at Wallaby Ranch
in Davenport on Aug. 23, 2018.
wouldnít consider myself a daredevil. However, I do say
yes to a lot of things, and Iíd like to think Iím
generally open to new experiences. After all, I do enjoy
discovering new opportunities that come my way. So when I
was presented with the question, "Do you want to go
hang gliding?" I was immediately interested.
recent sunny morning, I found myself driving south on I-4,
headed for Wallaby Ranch in Davenport, Fla. Itís about
45 minutes southwest of downtown, a few exits past Disney.
not too far from the rest of Orlando and its theme park
attractions, but upon arriving, Wallaby Ranch feels like
its own world.
only other open-air flying experience Iíve had was
riding in a hot air balloon. Even when that happened, I
felt the butterflies in my stomach as we took off.
feelings never set in leading up to my hang gliding take
off. Rather than anxiety and fear, I felt excited, at
peace and secure.
certainly helped to have an experienced pilot. Malcolm
Jones, who founded Wallaby Ranch in 1991, estimates that
he has been on roughly 38,000 hang-gliding flights.
ranch was the first of its kind, utilizing aerotowing for
easier hang-gliding instruction. With aerotowing, a plane
tows the glider up to about 2,000 feet before the glider
is released into the sky.
so high up didnít feel scary or overwhelming. It just
felt peaceful and incredibly freeing. Having so much
flying experience under his belt, Jones was able to
articulate how hang gliding feels for him.
ethereal, itís a real feeling of freedom. And you get
that sort of innate feeling that youíre somewhere youíre
not supposed to be," Jones said. "Itís just
odd that you can be flying around like that."
arenít supposed to be able to fly, but hang gliding
really does make you feel like you belong in the sky.
in the same position as a bird, and you become very
unaware of the wing," Jones said. "Itís just
we were released from the tow plane, Malcolm gave me some
instructions and had me take over control of the glider. I
found it to be fairly intuitive ó just pushing arms in
and out to control turns and speed.
the air, the glider never hits more than 25 or 30 miles
per hour. Itís very serene, just gliding through the
air. You can even have a conversation while 1,500 or 2,000
we soared down from more than a quarter mile high, I
couldnít wipe the smile off my face. I loved looking
around and changing my perspective on Central Florida ó
was just trying to soak up every moment of my time above
the Earth while I could. Before I knew it, we were back on
that was awesome," was all I could manage to say, and
that stupid grin never left my face.