Flying the Friendly Skies: Hang gliders swarm Mingus Mountain at Labor Day Fly-In
The hang gliders and paragliders resembled mosquitoes as they hovered hundreds of feet above Mingus Mountain Saturday during the annual Arizona Hang Gliding & Paragliding Labor Day Fly-In.
Spectators pointed to the sky and squinted to see the pilots who maneuvered their crafts in the clear blue sky high above the Verde Valley.
They were flying in a swarm while skillfully avoiding each other.
The club has been launching from the world-class hang gliding site at Mingus Mountain for over 30 years, explained one of the organizers, Jim Afinowich.
The club built a concrete launch site in 1990 and even has a special use campground for their club through a partnership with the Prescott National Forest, he said.
“This is a world-class hang-gliding site, so having a campground right there is a special thing,” he said. “Not too common.”
Spectators are always welcome to come up, he added.
About 15 hang gliders and another 15 paragliders turned out to fly during the three-day weekend, Afinowich said.
During the fly-in, the pilots took off from the 7,800-foot elevation launching site, gained hundreds of additional feet in elevation by catching warm thermals, and hovered for hours over the mountain.
Eventually, they landed at the Cottonwood Airport or the park near the Verde Valley Fairgrounds, Afinowich said.
On other days, when the wind is blowing in the other directions and extremely strong, hang gliders can land at the fairgrounds in Prescott Valley or in Chino Valley, he said. When the winds are really strong, they will fly to the Sedona Airport.