Thrill seekers find the ultimate soaring sensation at Central Florida’s largest gliderport
|Seminole-Lake Gliderport is located 12 miles southwest of Clermont, Fla., at the intersection of county roads 33 and 561. The gliderport office is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and closed on Mondays and Tuesdays between the months of July through September. For more information, call (352) 394-5450, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to www.soarfl.com.
Want to soar like a bird? Without the wings and feathers it’s almost inhumanly possible — almost that is.
Welcome to Seminole-Lake Gliderport where dreams of soaring above the clouds come true for local aviators and visitors from afar. Situated in rural South Lake County, about a dozen miles southwest of Clermont, it is the largest glider operation in Central Florida.
With its open spaces and ideal location, owner Knut Kjenslie says his business is drawing customers globally.
“We get people from all over the world,” he said. “Like today, we have several gentlemen here from Japan. A couple times a year we have groups of Japanese residents that come to the Gliderport and stay here.”
Why would a Japanese tourist come to Florida to learn how to pilot a glider? Simply (a) many experts will argue that soaring opportunities are world class in the middle of the state; (b) the cost is beyond reasonable; and (c) it’s the ultimate thrill.
With the two sea breezes uniting in the heart of Florida, it pushes warmer air up causing ideal soaring conditions.
“It’s a beautiful place to fly and of course the soaring is the best in the middle of the state,” Kjenslie said. “On a good soaring day, you can go to Georgia and back.”
Glider instruction provides the most business for the Seminole-Lake Gliderport. According to Kjenslie, a Federal Aviation Administration registered powered pilot needs only a minimum of 10 instructional flights plus 10 solo flights to receive a glider rating.
“It doesn’t matter if you are flying a glider or a 747, the controls are the same,” Kjenslie said, “The only thing we don’t have is a motor that can quit. We have gravity and gravity hasn’t quit yet.
Most glider pilots are airplane pilots, but the gliderport has helped a number of individuals to attain their glider license from scratch. Eager learners from pre-teen to senior citizens have all descended upon the gliderport to learn the unique skill.
While registered pilots can complete the training in a week, for those that are not pilots its closer to a month’s worth of training. Some of the guests to the gliderport stay an entire month to complete the training. The gliderport offers RV hook-ups for extended stays.
“Of course when they’re here, they live and breathe soaring,” Kjenslie said. “They fly and study, and fly some more.”
For those thrill seekers that just need a taste of glider soaring, the gliderport offers rides that range between $90 to $150. Based on the cost of the glider rides, the 20 to 45 minute tour is better than any theme park attraction.
“The thing about Florida is you really can’t get to see much because it so flat,” Kjenslie said. Once you get up in the air, you can really see the countryside.”
Beside its daily operations, the Seminole-Lake Gliderport hosts one of the nation’s largest soaring competitions each year. The 16th Annual Senior Soaring Championships is scheduled for March 12-18, 2006. During the competition, 50 pilots test their skills as each flies the same assigned task to determine who is the fastest.
“Soaring is really where the fun is because it’s the purest of flight,” Kjenslie said. “It’s a challenge to fly a glider. You have to work with Mother Nature to get where you want to go.”