Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

Gliding high up above the Finger Lakes region in a motorless plane.

Have you ever gone for a sailplane ride?

When I learned that I had the chance to ride in a sailplane on a trip to the Finger Lakes (a region in New York state), I had to actually Google search what a sailplane was. A sailplane (otherwise known as a glider plane) offers a completely silent flight. The plane is dragged up into the air by a tow plane and released, allowing you to fly without an engine. I couldn’t even imagine the sensation of gliding up in the air, drifting in the breeze like a bird. I knew that I was in for an adventure of a lifetime.

And what better place to try a sailplane ride than the Soaring Capital of America, Harris Hill and the Elmira area?

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

MY FIRST GLIMPSE OF REALITY

On a Finger Lakes glider plane ride, you’ll experience the sensation of flight in a completely quiet environment. You’ll hover high in the air, gently circling around as gravity slowly brings you back to the earth.

It wasn’t until I approached the plane that I started to feel nervous. It was only then that I fully realized what I was getting myself into. What was I thinking? I’ve never been inside any helicopter, small plane, or anything close to this type of aircraft. I’ve only flown in commercial jets where it’s easy to forget that you’re even up in the sky.

In this plane made for two, I sat up in the front while the pilot sat in the back. The tow plane would bring our sailplane to an altitude of 4000 feet above sea level before releasing us. From there, we’d gracefully meander in the wind for about 15 or 20 minutes.

I’m sure that my legs were shaking a little bit as I approached the glider plane. However, once I was strapped inside my seat and I chatted to the pilot, my nerves eased up. I couldn’t wait to fly up above the spectacular Finger Lakes, experiencing the region from new heights.

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

UP IN THE AIR

Flying up in the sky on this Finger Lakes glider plane ride was nothing short of exhilarating.

Once we were ready to go, the tow plane edged forward, eventually pulling our glider plane along with it. Within moments, the glider ascended off the ground. The world grew smaller and smaller as we flew higher and higher. I looked from side to side and marveled at the lush landscape of New York state that extended all the way to the horizon.

Once we were at the proper altitude, the tow plane released the cord and veered in an opposing direction, disappearing out of sight. Our plane was all alone in the sky.

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

CAPTIVATING VIEWS

I couldn’t get over the silence.

I’m very accustomed to plane rides being very noisy. On commercial flights, it only takes a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to realize just how loud airplanes truly are. I find that I nearly have to yell over the white noise to communicate with someone sitting right next to me.

On a sailplane ride, it was so quiet up there as we lacked any kind of motor. It was also an incredibly smooth ride. We glided around in giant loops. The sensation was as close as I’ve been to flying like a bird.

Don’t forget to bring your camera. Even though I had to battle the reflections of the glass all around me, it was a great opportunity to take pictures of the impressive scenery. From flat farmland to lush, green hills, the Finger Lakes is such a stunning beauty.

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

RETURNING TO EARTH

We slowly descended throughout the flight, working with the powers of physics and gravity. Finally, it was time to land. While I expected that we could be in for a bumpy landing, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Much like up in the air, we glided gently to the ground and slowly came to a stop. I only wish that the flight was longer, but all good things must come to an end.

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

After my flight, the skies became gray and the weather didn’t cooperate for any other flights that morning. I traveled to the Finger Lakes with my sister, Robyn. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to experience a sailplane ride that day.

Thankfully, the skies opened up the following day and there were bright, blue skies. As we staying in the nearby town of Corning, we zipped back over to Harris Hill and learned that she could take her glider plane ride after all! I’m so happy that she got to experience this, too.

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill
I’m very happy after my glider plane ride because it was an amazing trip!

 

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

THE NATIONAL SOARING MUSEUM

Located right on site, you can also enjoy a visit to the National Soaring Museum before or after your sailplane flight. This aviation museum preserves the history of motorless flights. It’s home to many original and replica glider planes, and shows how far we’ve come with this technology. The National Soaring Museum is home to a vast collection of planes, from the late 1890s to the late 20th century.

Be sure to book a tour as I learned so much from our knowledgeable guide. He was truly passionate about the topic of aviation history.

I enjoyed the thrill of experiencing a Finger Lakes glider plane ride first hand, while I also appreciated the trials and tribulations that got us to where we are today.

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill

Check out even more photography from Harris Hill Soaring and the National Soaring Museum! Here’s my travel photography album of my glider plane ride experience.

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Harris Hill Soaring 42.121880, -76.901378 Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill (Directions)

 

Finger Lakes Glider Plane Ride: Soaring at Harris Hill in Elmira, New York, USA

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Thanks so much to Steuben County and Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes Tourism for inviting us to try a sailplane ride. My opinions, as always, are entirely my own.

You might also like:

Have you ever flown in a glider plane before? Would you like to try it?

 

12 Responses

  1. Ryan Biddulph
    | Reply

    Hi Lauren,

    Wow! I too would need to Google the term. Not a keen fan of heights or small planes but being in such a small plane without a ton of folks around would comfort me. I actually would feel better because even though flying is A-OK by me, I get a little claustrophobic with other meat suits around on a plane. I’d totally dig the silence too.

    Thanks for this thrilling share 🙂

    Ryan

  2. Marc
    | Reply

    This is a bucketlist item for me. Really amazing pictures.
    Marc recently posted…Summer Bugs – The Good and the BadMy Profile

  3. Kavey Favelle
    | Reply

    How wonderful! I’ve been up in many tiny planes – usually cessna 4 or 6 seaters when transferring from one remote safari camp to another, and also when flying between the various Falkland Islands – I’ve even been permitted to take the controls, directing us left and right and up and down over the view below. But I’ve never been in a glider and would love to experience that same thrill but without any engine noise!
    Kavey Favelle recently posted…Discovering Stockholm’s Foodie CredentialsMy Profile

  4. Fiona Maclean
    | Reply

    This is something I’d love to do. I’ve even looked into gliding in the UK – but never quite got there. I’ll have to get my act together, it sounds so fabulous
    Fiona Maclean recently posted…Hamburg Music City – The ElbJazz Festival and The Beatles BackstoryMy Profile

  5. That sailplane ride looks totally awesome! We’ll be flying with a ULM tomorrow ( a bit different, but it’s also a small plane!). Hopefully one day we’ll get to try the sailplane too! 🙂
    Mei from Travel with Mei and Kerstin recently posted…Tracking Apsaras and Devatas in the Angkor TemplesMy Profile

  6. Danik
    | Reply

    I would love to try this out, don’t care where in the world, it just has to be done. Totally loving your photos as well 🙂
    Danik recently posted…12 Photos that will inspire you to visit British ColumbiaMy Profile

  7. Lois Alter Mark
    | Reply

    What an amazing experience! I think I’d be a little freaked out too, especially with the pilot behind me instead of in front of me, but that scenery is absolutely gorgeous.

  8. Christine
    | Reply

    This is right up my husband’s alley. He would love to go to the National Soaring Museum and up in a glider. I tried it once and found it both awesome and eerie at the same time. It was weird not to hear the drone of an aircraft engine.

  9. Barb
    | Reply

    This sounds like an amazing adventure. I m glad to see you had so much fun and you were smiling after the ride. I dont know if I would be brave enough to try this….

  10. Nisha Jha
    | Reply

    What an adventure! I have never been on a small plane , let alone a glider. The place I used to as youngster, there was a flying club who used to teach gliding and later flying in small twin prop. I was told I was too young to fly those. Then somehow I forgot about it all till too late 🙁

    I love the photos.!

  11. Sandy N Vyjay
    | Reply

    This sounds like an experience that I would love to do. The glider plane and its flight sound so fascinating. Gliding smoothly up in the sky and looking at the beautiful views stretched out below must indeed have been a unique experience. The museum too looks fascinating.
    Sandy N Vyjay recently posted…Konark Sun Temple-An Enduring Enigma on the Sands of TimeMy Profile

  12. Mike Cotton
    | Reply

    What an incredible experience. It must have been so surreal to be up there above the earth and not have the constant drone of an engine. I’d definitely want to have a go in one these planes.
    Mike Cotton recently posted…The Fernie Backcountry Collection: Limited Edition PrintsMy Profile

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