Paragliders learn to soar through Columbia skies

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 | 5:00 p.m. CDT; updated 7:20 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 19, 2012

COLUMBIA – For many people, being able to fly is a childhood dream.


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For four Columbia men, it’s not just a dream — powered paragliding has made flying a reality.

Two and a half years ago, Tom Dresner began paragliding. Since then, he has trained Eric Appleton, Mark Gortmaker and most recently Kevin O’Connor in the sport.

O’Connor decided to start paragliding because of his long-term interest in aviation. Appleton’s interest in paragliding began when he saw people participating in the sport overseas. Gortmaker saw Appleton and Dresner flying one day and wanted to join in.

Because paragliding is a delicate and dangerous process, Dresner won't let the men fly until they have finished training – however, O'Connor, who is currently in training, is already excited.

"My dad’s a pilot, and it's always interested me," O’Connor said. "It’s unique that Columbia actually has a trainer."

As an experienced paraglider, Dresner has had many different experiences with the sport, from having an emergency landing in a Kohl's parking lot to flying at Beach Blast, a huge paragliding event in Florida. Dresner admits he's "totally addicted."

The four men agree that flying is more than just an individual experience. Through paragliding, the men have become friends and have enjoyed sharing their experiences with the sport. 

"That's the cool part about it," Dresner said. "Flying's really cool, but it's more fun to fly together."

Supervising editor is Brian Kratzer.

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