By Gisele Dierks
To the flying community, near and far, novice and advanced, young and old, etc., etc.,
The crew and pilots at Morningside and Kitty Hawk Kites have been working on some big changes and improvements this winter, and we can’t wait for May 1st!
One new addition… I’m going to attempt to keep a blog going to keep everyone in the loop about happenings at the park and to start some important conversations about the flying community. I’ll dive into that all in future posts, but first introductions and a history lesson.
Morningside Flight Park, in Charlestown, NH was a dairy farm, until some hang glider pilots showed up in the ’70s and asked the farmer if they could cut a few trees and fly. He granted th
em permission, on the condition that they taught him too. Phil Haynes was instantly in love and Morningside Flight Park was born.
Since we have all summer, I’m going to take things slow—there is a lot to be learned from history.
Jeff Nicolay worked in Glastonbury, CT at Zephyr Aircraft building hang gliders, when he was asked if he knew anyone who would want to help run a new flight school up in New Hampshire. As it turned out, he had the perfect person in mind—himself.
Jeff and Phil spent the rest of their careers getting people in the air. I showed up on the scene in 2000, as Jeff’s daughter. Jeff died when I was ten, and Kitty Hawk Kites bought Morningside in 2011. I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on the fact that there was essentially no preparation for the task of transition. (Is it just me or are there a lot of pilots who are allergic to paperwork? We’ll unpack that later…) Even with the best of intentions, it has been a monumental project to figure out how to understand and run this strange place successfully, but we are all starting to find our groove. Jeff was one of a kind, and the changes that came with new management were tough on the hundreds of people who have found a home and a family at Morningside. Again, I’ll have more to reflect on this later.
I started helping out at the park during my summers, and I have been working there ever since. We have been operating for almost five decades, I have lived it and loved it for two of those. I care deeply about flying and Morningside is both another home and another family to me.
Watching over and being a part of this home and family, I have noticed a widening schism in the flying community. If we don’t start talking about it, I fear for the future of free flight and the amazing group we have created over the last half-century.
Our differences of opinion (on hang gliding vs. paragliding, national politics, how to regulate and insure ourselves, risk vs. reward, new school vs. old school, etc.) are all worthwhile things to discuss, but not to the point where we can’t share the skies and schools together because it got ugly. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about how we are having these conversations, and if there’s a better way for us all to find a happy, safe medium.
Let’s head into the new season ready to help each other soar, above all.