Best Seat in the House
Here in Elmira, one of our biggest claims to fame is that we’re the “Soaring Capital of America.” Or, if you run across a particularly enthusiastic Elmiran, “Soaring Capital of the World” or “Soaring Capital of the Universe.” :)
Yes, we’re pretty proud about the area’s ties to gliding. It’s really a fascinating history that goes back decades, definitely worth a trip to the National Soaring Museum to learn more about. The tradition continues today up on Harris Hill, and, in my opinion, there’s no better time to see what it’s all about than to visit the hill when a gliding competition is happening.
At any given time, seasonally and weather permitting, you can catch gliders taking off from the hill, but if you go during take-off and landing times for these competitions, you can see one right after another, and it’s a pretty impressive sight, especially from the Harris Hill Overlook just below the runway.
This particular competition was the Soaring Society of America’s Region 3 Soaring Contest this summer. Thirty-five pilots from New York, Connecticut and parts of Massachusetts competed to move on to the national competition, and points were earned by setting the fastest times over the soaring course, which was at least 150 miles. Pilots took off in succession between 12:15 and 1:15 p.m. and landed between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m.
You can see the line as a glider is hoisted into the air by a tow plane. Gliding is motorless flight, and Harris Hill is famous for its fantastic wind thermals, which is why it draws pilots from all over for national and international competitions.
The tow planes return shortly after takeoff, but the gliders continue on, as they are being timed until they complete the course.
By the way, The Overlook is a great place just to go hang out and watch a sunset; it’s got a tremendous view of the Chemung River Valley (plus, swinging benches!):
For information about when gliding competitions are happening, or about arranging a glider ride, make sure to check out:
51 Soaring Hill Drive
Elmira, NY 14903
Harris Hill Soaring Corporation
(Located next to the National Soaring Museum)
(607) 742-4213 or (607) 734-0641