Weekend Adventures: Hang-Gliding at Wallaby Ranch in Polk County

DAVENPORT, Fla. - From the ground, it's awe-inspiring.  Floating just like a bird.

But the "up there" view is even more awesome here at Wallaby Ranch -- touted as the world's first full-time aero-tow hang-gliding park.

In fact, Malcolm Jones, who opened the park in 1991, practically invented the tow-and-go concept of hang-gliding when he outfitted a tandem glider with wheels and got an ultra-light to haul it up in the skies over Davenport.

"You've got the ability to up with an instructor in a glider built for two," he said, noting the major difference in the training here. "As opposed to running down a hill by yourself with somebody yelling at you about what to do.  It's a whole different world of opportunity to learn."

And of course, TV's John Thomas jumped at the opportunity

"Going first once again… once again."

Within seconds, he strapped in and good to go.

"Slowly let yourself all the way down like  you're gonna do a push-up… " instructed Malcolm.  "There you go, just relax in the harness… does that feel OK?"
"Yeah, I could go to sleep right now," replied our ready-to-soar co-anchor.

Soaring over the 500 acre ranch, the views were spectacular...

"It's… I keep saying it… it's so peaceful," remarked Mr. Thomas

"It's all about how the weather is…" I interjected.  "It's gotta be nice," replied Malcolm. "That's why you wanna get up early and get out here early."

Having hoisted adventurers from all over the world, Malcolm insists even the reluctant are relieved once they see how smooth the ride can be.

"Even when people aren't planning on doing the flying, I kinda work 'em into it and make 'em… let go and see that it flies -- in a stable form -- all by itself," he explained.  .  And then show them the very gentle little weight shift it takes to make the glider fly."

"You go up to 2000 feet…" wondered our very own Ashley Glass, as she was strapped into the aircraft and properly helmeted.  "That's higher than the Empire State Building"

"Ashley," broke in the 'been-there-done-that-by-now" John, "I'm telling you, you are gonna love this."

Indeed she did, but so too did a woman we met at the ranch... back for one of her regular rides... after she started gliding once she was "much more mature."

"Oh, it's absolute peace and beauty," exclaimed Jackie Preis. "It's a religious experience when you fly over the groves and see the water.  It's just a very wonderful time."

It sure is.

 

For more information, contact Malcolm Jones at Wallaby Ranch!

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