Hang gliders will return to the skies over Big Spring next week. The Big Spring Nationals competition will take place at McMahon-Wrinkle Airport August 11 through 17.
This year’s event is part of a series of competitions to determine the 2019 U.S. National Hang Gliding Champion and is sanctioned by the U.S. Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. It will also be the test event for next year’s 1st FAI Pan-American Hang Gliding Championships, sanctioned by the World Air Sports Federation.
The public is invited to watch the launch activity, which normally happens between noon and 1 PM, depending on the weather. Visitors can see the pilots getting ready and lining up, towing up behind ultralight airplanes, and circling above the airport to get high enough to start. It takes about an hour to get everyone into the air.
The City provides shaded bleachers at the McMahon-Wrinkle airport (enter through the terminal). There are restrooms inside the terminal, and there is usually food available for purchase before the launching starts. The airport is on the west side of town, near where Business 20 intersects with Interstate 20.
Belinda Boulter, Co-Organizer and Meet Director, explained that the competition is a race to a goal, with a different task announced at a briefing every morning. Daily tasks are designed to take three or four hours for the winner to complete, and often include turnpoints, so they might look like a dogleg or a zigzag or even a triangle. The longest task ever called at Big Spring was 215 miles, with five pilots making goal. But normal tasks are more commonly between 100 miles and 150 miles. During the competition the Terminal office usually has some information about daily activities: (432) 264-2362.
“There are two reasons we keep coming back to Big Spring: the weather, and the community,” said Boulter, noting that this will be the seventeenth year for this event. “There are very few places in the world with such consistent, excellent flying conditions. And the support of the community is unique — visitors from other regions or other countries are always amazed at the genuine welcome we find in Big Spring and will agree there's no place like it.” She pointed out that many local volunteers work hard to make the competition a success.
Although tandem hang glider flights will not be available, it’s possible to take a flight in one of the Bailey-Moyes Dragonfly ultralight tow planes with designer Bobby Bailey. These flights take place in the early morning or the evening, before or after the other event activities and when the air is smoother. The price starts at $65 for a 15-mnute flight. All flying is weather-dependent, and reservations are advised: call Jim Prahl at 352-516-8618.