It’s a tow-plane combo

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A Queenstown hang-gliding operator is taking a novel approach to Glenorchy skies this winter to pump up business. 

From this coming Monday, Skytrek Tandem Hang Gliding & Paragliding will operate from the Glenorchy airstrip utilising a specialised microlight to pull the pilot and passenger up into the air. 

Skytrek couldn’t operate in Queenstown during the past two winters after the airport and Airways Corporation pulled the pin on its Remarkables launch pad because of increased aerial activity. 

The company had relied on the Remarkables in winter because it can’t use its Coronet Peak summer launch pad due to the wind effect created by snow. 

“A third of our business was done through the winter so it was quite a big loss,” Skytrek boss Ian Clark says. 

Skytrek is teaming up with microlight operator Trevor Leighton from Tasman Sky Adventures, near Nelson. 

Ironically, Leighton’s microlight formerly belonged to ex-Queenstowner Danna Burton. 

Burton tried to operate a tow-plane hang gliding operation in the mid-2000s from Cardrona but ran into consent problems and ended up having to shut down. 

Clark says the hang-glider launches off wheels so the customer doesn’t need to run beside it to get airborne. 

“It takes an element of risk away, compared to operating off a mountain, and opens it up to people less mobile, as well.” 

After a seven- to 12-minute tow-up to about 1000m above the ground, the pilot releases from the tow line and the pilot and passenger experience a 15-minute ride back to earth. 

Clark believes it’s a unique way for people to immerse themselves in the spectacular scenery used for The Lord of the Rings and other feature films. 

The winter trip, including transport from Queenstown, will cost $269 compared to $210 for the summer experience. 

Clark says his Department of Conservation consent runs till the end of September. 

Hang-gliding at Glenorchy wouldn’t work beyond then because of the turbulence created by wind and heat, he adds. 

Skytrek – owned by Clark and Shai Lanuel – has flown more than 60,000 passengers since launching as New Zealand’s first commercial hang gliding operation in 1992.