Garrick “Garry” Lee
Watching a turkey vulture float effortlessly over Table Mountain or Big Chico Creek seemingly without moving a feather can be a mesmerizing experience. For those who wonder what it would feel like to soar silently on updrafts in the summer heat, Table Mountain Aviation Glider Operations is your best bet. Pilot Garrick “Garry” Lee and his team of aviation enthusiasts began offering rides out of Oroville Municipal Airport in April, towing a two-man glider behind a prop plane and releasing it thousands of feet above Butte County. On the slow coast back to ground—which can take up to 35 minutes—passengers are offered a bird’s-eye view of the region, including the Sutter Buttes and, perhaps most impressive, Lake Oroville Dam. Go to http://tmaglider.com for more information, including rates.
How safe is the glider?
The gilder is probably safer than a power plane. We can slow it down to where we’re still flying at 35 mph. You’ve got 52 feet of wingspan there—that’s a lot of force that creates lift. It’s what I train my pilots in because if they ever have an engine out, your plane becomes a glider.
Why did you base the operation out of Oroville instead of Chico?
Because there is no control tower [in Oroville], and there’s a lot more scenery around Oroville. There’s a lot of diverse topography I can point out to people and give them a geological perspective to whatever they’re looking at.
What do you like to point out to passengers?
We give them a large area to look at, but especially with the water diversion system that flows into the Forebay. It’s really interesting to see how the whole water system works for farming from the air. All of that water is put there for farming, but of course the byproduct is going to be recreation.
How high do you take the glider?
The glider ride we normally give will be between 3,500 and 4,000 feet, and that will get us as far as [Oroville] Dam. The best ride available is the one that goes past the dam. We have to go about a mile high for that one, and it lasts about 35 to 40 minutes. I slow the glider down quite a bit over the lake to give people time to take pictures and take it all in.
What do you hope people will get out of the experience?
The bottom line is, we’re out there to have fun. Everyone out there, they’re just enthusiastic about getting people to enjoy flying. That’s the whole idea.