The lower Owens Valley is well-known among flying enthusiasts worldwide for “Big Air”, powerful bone-jarring turbulence and record breaking flights. During the warmer temperates of summer the valley creates conditions perfect for altitude gain and open distance flying. Many world records have been achieved by sail planes, hang gliders and paragliders. Flying here is a serious proposition, having some of the strongest lift anywhere which can lift pilots to altitudes of 18,000 feet where oxygen starvation and cold are risks — it is not for beginners.
Spring and Fall offer the best flying conditions for everyday recreational hang gliding and for those seeking an introduction to flying in thermals, and cross-country flights. The winter months can offer calmer flying conditions better suited to training for the less experienced.
The normal flying season is Memorial Day through Labor Day. During this period there is a Porta-A-Potty available.
Popular launching spots for advanced pilots include Walt’s Point, on the Horseshoe Meadows Road, above the Alabama Hills. Launching off Walt’s Point is for ADVANCED hang glider pilots only! This “Big Mountain Air” site is self regulated. The launch point elevation is 9,000 feet.
The women’s long distance cross country record was set there in 1983. It was set by Kari Castle of Bishop and this record still stands. It was 200 miles from Walt’s Point to Austin Nevada. The men’s long distance cross country record was set there also in 1983 by Larry Tudor which stood for many years. It was the same route as Kari Castle’s.
Tandem flights, flying clinics and instruction are offered by certified instructor and world champion pilot Kari Castle. Call 760.920.0748 for more information. Photos provided by Kari Castle.