On The Road: Chemung County

By Erika Mahoney

June 29, 2012 Updated May 20, 2013 at 3:39 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) Looking for something to do this summer?

Action News takes you on the road to show you some fun things to do in Chemung County.

Elmira, "The Soaring Capital of America" is known for its gliders, or planes without engines.

The glider port and museum on Harris Hill make it a thrilling getaway for people of all ages.

"I saw those nice birds floating around in the sky and I thought that looked like fun," said Juergen Loenholdt, Elmira.

"For gliding, I love how quiet and peaceful it is. When you're up there, it's like nothing else," said Samantha Olson, Elmira.

Just past the Harris Hill Amusement Park, you'll see the signs and you'll hear the tow plane. That's what gets the gliders in the air, holding on until the pilot says "let go."

You can take a glider flight at Harris Hill up to 2,000 feet or play it safe inside, in the simulator. Historic gliders line the ceiling at the National Soaring Museum.

With the 2012 Summer Olympics just around the corner, one really stands out.

"This is called the Olympia Meise and it was built in Germany for the 1940 Olympics. Unfortunately, the war began. WWII began in 1939, and there weren't any Olympics subsequently," said Ron Ogden,
Director of Marketing and Development.

Most people think of B17 Bombers, P51 Fighters and DC3 Cargo Planes when it comes to WWII, but gliders were flown as well.

The training at Harris Hill was the first place in the country where training took place for WWII military glider pilots.

John Gill, a veteran, didn't train for the war at Harris Hill. Instead, he found his passion, now approaching nearly 8,000 flights.

"I started here when I was 13 years old, but actually, back in those days, a 13 year old kid didn't have any money, so I didn't do too awful much I just stopped here and helped around quite a bit, and hopefully someone would give me a ride, and they did," said Gill.

Since 1930, Harris Hill has hosted soaring contests, including 13 national ones. So many records were set here that it became known as the "soaring capital." Now that history and name live on. The Harris Hill Youth Camp teaches kids as young as nine to fly.

"I'm definitely going to use it later in my career, hopefully something to do with aviation which is what I'm striving for," said Michael Harrison, Florida.

Whether you want to take a ride or just watch and learn, Harris Hill is the perfect place to land.

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