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Bald Eagle Valley Provides the Perfect Setting for Glider Rides

by and on June 11, 2018 5:00 AM

JULIAN — In order to have a successful ride on glider plane, the wind has to be just right, and the wind in the Bald Eagle Valley may be the best for gliding in the world, said glider plane world record holder Thomas Knauff. 

The longtime glider pilot owns Ridge Soaring Gliderport, 3523 S. Eagle Valley Road in Julian. He said that on perfect days the wind comes across the Allegheny Plateau from the west and then drops down into the valley before rebounding against the Bald Eagle ridge, allowing gliders to be flown for long distances along the ridges.

Knauff rode the ridge all the way to Knoxville, Tenn., and back again in a glider, which, of course, has no engine. The nonstop, out-and-back flight was more than 1,000 miles, and was the considered the longest flight in a glider for 20 years.

Knauff and his wife, Doris Grove, have set many glider records, and at their airport they are glad to show people the joy of letting the wind take you for a ride.

“Flyer gliding combines the thrill of a ski jump with the exultant triumph of reaching the top of a mountain and the joy of maneuvering a sailboat,” said Knauff, “all at pretty (reasonable) price.”

Ridge Soaring offers different flight experiences based on elevation. A small plane tows a glider up and releases it at 2,000 feet for $120. As the elevation climbs, so does the price. A pilot is on board as the glider plane flies through the valley, bringing the glider to a safe landing.

“It is very safe. We are all trained and certified pilots,” said Knauff.

He said the view is something that people will never forget.

“It is absolutely a beautiful view. You are in a clear cockpit and you can see out all around from 4,000 feet. It is something.

“You are up in the sky and you can see all around you," said Knauff. "You can see the mountains, the rivers, the roads and houses all from a different viewpoint."

All in this area that often provides the perfect conditions for gliding. “This area is internationally known by gliders as a destination" he said. "If the winds are flying in the right direction you can ride the ridge for miles.

"People come here from all around the country. And, planes and gliders are not the only thing using the airflow here. I have flown in a glider and had eagles flying along next to me. Now, I can’t guarantee that you will see an eagle, but you are going to see some pretty beautiful things in a glider."

Since the rides are weather-dependent, he said it is best to call Ridge Soaring at (814) 355-2483 to set up an appointment, but if it is a nice day and people show up, he always does his best to get them up in the air. 

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

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