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Closed through April 2017 (607) 734-0641

Make Harris Hill part of your Finger Lakes experience

Pure & Beautiful

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Experience silent flight at one of the most scenic and historic soaring sites in America, Harris Hill.  Co-located with the National Soaring Museum, and Harris Hill park a visit to the Hill makes a pleasant day trip amid the beauty of the Finger Lakes.

Your FAA-certified commercial glider pilot will take you aloft in a modern high performance ASK-21 glider.  The ASK-21 carries a single passenger -you! and your pilot.

There is no practical age limit, young or old.  All you need is a desire to experience graceful, silent flight over the Chemung valley.

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Weather permitting, each ride lasts 15-20 minutes.  All flights are towed to an altitude of approximately 4,000 feet above sea level.  Your pilot will point out the local sights and on most days, Watkins Glen and the Finger Lakes are visible to the North with Elmira and Corning to the Southeast and Northwest, respectively.   

Cameras are welcome to record the rolling hills and incredible beauty of Upstate New York from the air.  Skirts and dresses are fine, but the location of the dual controls in the glider favors pants or shorts!

All seasons are great for taking a flight at Harris Hill with the Fall foliage in late September and October being particularly spectacular.

Want even more information?  See our Detailed Passenger Ride Frequently Asked Questions, below.


ASK-21 High Performance Glider – $96

Harris Hill Soaring Club, Elmira NY Photo by Brady Lane, EAA. October, 2013.

Photo by Brady Lane, EAA.

The ASK-21 is a two-seat (one passenger, one pilot) high performance, German fiberglass sailplane and the most popular choice for public glider rides.  It features wrap around canopy for spectacular views, comfortable semi-reclined seating.  The ASK-21 is quiet, modern, and ideal for a sight seeing.

Passenger weight limit: 245 pounds

Detailed Passenger Ride FAQs

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No.  There are two seats in the glider – one for you and one for the pilot.  The glider is not designed to allow you to hold a small child on your lap.

All of our ‘employees’ are volunteers, working on behalf of the club once or twice a month.  Between no-shows and changing weather, it is too complex for them to manage a reservation system -we would likely make a complete mess of the operation, leaving rides unflown and passengers unhappy.  We recognize that this is inconvenient for you but taking reservations introduces a level of complexity into the operation that could easily result in many more disappointed customers.

Show up early.  If possible, be there when we open at 10am.  Being here in the early part of the day means weather is calmer and fewer passengers are waiting, though there will be less thermal activity.  You will be less likely to experience lengthy waits or weather cancellations.

$96.  We accept Visa or Mastercard or cash.  If you have cash, exact change is preferred.  We prefer credit cards.  Why?  Harris Hill Soaring is a non-profit all volunteer organization.  The staff you interact with are our club members who work one or two shifts per month as part of their club duties.  While we try to keep petty cash on hand to make change, we don’t always have change on hand and may have to ask you to seek it at the National Soaring Museum gift shop.

No.  Any age young or old can take a ride.  However, very young children may have difficulty seeing over the side of the canopy and may become very nervous without an adult in the seat with them.  It is up to the pilot’s discretion whether a very young child can fly or not.  On the other end of the scale, we have flown individuals with as much as 100 years of ‘life experience’.  If you can get into and out of the glider, or you can be assisted to do so, you may fly.  We cannot take medical devices such as oxygen tanks onboard, however.  The pilot always has the final say whether a passenger’s condition precludes a ride or not.

If we can fly, we will, but we will only do so if it is safe.  In addition, while we are able to fly in many conditions, some such as gusty winds create a rather turbulent and uncomfortable ride for non-pilots.  We want you to enjoy your flight -after all, that is the purpose of taking a ride!  If you are coming from a distance, give us a call if you can to find out the conditions.  The following are guidelines only for conditions when it is ‘good’ to fly. Note that due to our location atop the ridge, it is ALWAYS windier at Harris Hill than anywhere else (colder too – remember a jacket if it is that time of year).  To find out what the winds are at Harris Hill, you can check our onsite weather station and webcam.
Wind – We can and do fly with different wind directions, but if the winds are over 10 knots, especially if it is gusty, conditions are such that the rides may be uncomfortable for you due to shear and turbulence caused by our location.  Even though we may not be flying public rides, some of our private members love these conditions and you may see them fly even though the passenger operation is grounded.
Clouds – Low cloud ceilings will limit how high we can fly and prevent passenger rides.  Also, fog in the valley will prevent us from flying.  Usually, fog will burn off by 10-11am and often occurs on very good soaring days.  Cloud bases need to be approximately 4,000 feet above sea level to allow us to conduct passenger rides.  This site forecasts cloud bases for the Elmira area.  
Thunderstorms or rain – We do not fly in or near thunderstorms, rain or if rain is imminent.  Summer afternoon flying can sometimes be cut short by the arrival of a thunderstorm, either temporarily delaying or canceling flying.  As you can imagine, waiting 90 minutes for your ride on a popular day and having it canceled by a thunderstorm is frustrating for you and us.  Arrive as early as you can but if you are canceled, remember that your ticket remains good for a flight at another time.

Very safe.  Carrying passengers requires a commercial glider rating, issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.  Earning that rating requires passing an extensive written test and flight test with a designated FAA examiner where the pilot must demonstrate increased proficiency in flight.  In addition, commercial glider pilots must have greater experience in both hours and number of flights before being eligible to fly passengers.  Safety is always our focus, and we pay particularly close attention to our passenger rides and operate them conservatively.

Passenger rides are first-come, first served.  We take no reservations, simply show up at our flight center (the red building with the deck on it), purchase a ticket and we’ll let you know about 30 minutes before your ride is ready.  The rule of thumb is to allow 30 minutes for each customer.  If you are 3rd in line, the wait for your ride is between 60 and 90 minutes.  We schedule a single glider and FAA licensed commercial pilot for rides each day of public operations which permits approximately 16 passenger flights per day.  When possible, if we have high demand for rides on a particular day, we will try to add another pilot and glider to speed things up, but this is subject to both pilot and glider availability.

On good soaring days, many of our club members will be sharing the line for the towplane with our customers.  While we place a priority on our public glider rides, this can also slow things down a bit.
If the wait is lengthy, give us your cell phone number, if your ride is ready earlier we will give you a call.  Meanwhile, head over to the National Soaring Museum to visit.  If you show your passenger ride ticket, you may visit the galleries without paying the entrance fee.

Your pilot or the ground crew will assist you into the glider, make sure your seat belt is fastened and review basic safety information.  He/she will also go over the function of the basic instruments before takeoff.  Once the canopy is closed, it won’t take long before you are airborne and your pilot will point out the sights including the Finger Lakes, local cities and landmarks, other aircraft and so on.  If the soaring is good, you will experience climbing in a thermal as you circle above the hills and valleys below.  After 15-20 minutes, you will land back at Harris Hill on either our grass or paved runway.

One other note – it is almost always windier at Harris Hill than the lower valley locations.  If it is not a very warm day, be sure to bring a wind breaker or jacket!

For women, a short dress makes it difficult to get into and out of the glider and once seated, the dress must be situated to allow the dual controls between your legs to move freely.  Shorts or pants or a longer dress are a better solution.  It is very sunny many days and you should bring adequate sunscreen or clothing to prevent sunburn as you wait for your ride.

Unless you are first in line, allow yourself a couple of hours if you want to take a ride.  Wait times of 1 to 2 hours are not uncommon and we’ll do our very best to make sure you know the approximate wait before you purchase a ticket.  Sometimes the wait is extended by a passing rain shower, a need to switch or fuel tow planes, many gliders awaiting a tow and so on.

Yes, in most cases.  The main challenge is entering and exiting the glider.  If they can be helped in or out and can be buckled into a standard seatbelt with no restrictions, we can accommodate them.  However, there simply is no room in the cockpit for unsecured medical items such as an oxygen tank or medical devices.  If you or a relative or friend who is disabled wants to take a glider ride, contact us with specific questions and we’ll do our very best to accommodate them.

Yes!  Taking a passenger glider ride is not a risky activity.  Our safety record is outstanding and you are in the hands of capable and FAA-certified pilots who have years of experience and are very familiar with the conditions nearby.  While the glider may appear fragile on the ground, our passenger ships are extremely sturdy and although we do not offer aerobatic rides, our high performance aircraft are certified for them, meaning they are extremely strong.  In addition, you’re not the only person who has ever been nervous – speak up and tell your pilot what your concerns are.  They fly because they love it and want you to enjoy your experience.
Once you are in the air, your nervousness will have to compete with the incredible 360 degree view of the amazing Finger Lakes region.  You’ll glide almost silently above the hills and valleys with only the whisper of wind to accompany you.  You’ll easily be able to ask questions of your pilot, who will point out the sights of the region.  Almost universally, our formerly nervous passengers exit the glider with a huge smile on their face and are extremely happy to have experienced the magic of soaring.
Still not sure?  Come on out to Harris Hill and just watch the gliders takeoff and land.  Watch them depart with passengers and return with soaring enthusiasts.

Very.  The short answer is that the FAA certifies each glider for a certain maximum weight and requires that pilots do not exceed it.  Ignoring certified limits on an aircraft is illegal and unsafe, so we don’t do it.  Limits are 245 pounds for ASK-21 passenger gliders

Whether you can sit up front or not is both weight and pilot dependent.  Some of our pilots prefer to fly from the front seat.  In addition airplanes (even really big jet airplanes) are like teeter totters and the distribution of passenger weight in the front and back seat affects the balance point and thus the aircraft handling.  Smaller aircraft like our gliders are more affected by small changes in the distribution of pilot and passenger weight.  Your pilot knows and understands those limits.  Thus, the maximum weight limit per passenger is firm and it will be up to your pilot to determine whether you can sit in front or not.

However, the view from both the front and rear seats is extremely good and the rear seat of the ASK-21 is quite a bit roomier than the front seat.  Some passengers prefer the rear seat as they can see what is going on with the pilot and feel more secure sitting closer to the wing rather than out front.  The only promise we can make is that the rear seat has an excellent view -just like the front seat.
See the video at the bottom of our passenger page to see what it looks like from the rear seat of an ASK-21.

It’s not that we don’t want to talk to you!  We are a non-profit soaring club, and thus we are only here during operating hours.  There is no regular paid staff in the office to answer the phone.  Allowing callers to leave a message that is unlikely to be listened to is not a good solution.  If you have questions, you may either call during the hours when we offer public glider rides (10am-6pm on weekends between April and the end of October)* or you may email us at webmaster@harrishillsoaring.org  *During our 7 day a week operations, approximately the months of June-mid August, we do have staff on the field that can answer the phone between 10am-6pm weekdays.