Aerotowing in Middletown, NY is OPEN!

Bill Estes sends:

I know many of you have wanted aero towing over the past few years. It’s been 12 years since there was a solo towing operation in the area.
I apologize for the length of this posting, but I feel that is necessary for all to understand what lays ahead.

A bit of history
When I came to this area 20 years ago, there was a towing operation at Randall airport in Middletown. It closed down when the owner decided to move out of state due a job change.
The owner was not not making any money as there was no regular (steady) tandems to pay the bills. He had to run the operation and maintain the airplane by himself and it got old, so in 2004, he
sold the operation to a club (Redwing in NJ).

Redwing was operated as a club, all participants were members of the club and donated their time for the greater good of all. Along came the FAA in 2008 when they changed the rules for towing.
After that date tow pilots are required to be FAA rated private pilots. Those that were flying on ultra light ratings could no longer be tow pilots. The lack of qualified pilots caused the downfall of that club.

Also in 2004 a new tug came to Randall. This was purchased by a private person and was operated as a friendly, small, private club. We all towed each other and co-operated for the benefit of the group.
We all chipped in for gas and assisted in doing the maintenance and up keep of the property. In about 2006, a tandem operator came and it was discovered that one could make money doing this
(tandems) and that was good for all of us and Hangar 3 was formed as a business. 2008 rule changes happened to us also. We were forced to get our FAA ratings in order to continue flying. This operation made the
business decision that solo tows were NOT profitable. ($180 vs. $25, you can do the math). No one can fault that as a BUSINESS decision. About 2012, the owner sold out to go into the restaurant business.
The new owner continued the no solo tow policy, again this is/was a business decision.

Somewhere in the same time period, Mountain Wings tried to have an operation in Ellenville. I was not involved in that operation, so I do not know the details, but that operation did not succeed either.

Fast forward to last year. I bought a fairly new (2007) 912 powered C-model Dragonfly and spent last winter in Florida with my son (Bryon) attempting to have our own towing operation at a public airport. It took a long
time to get things going there and due to things outside our control, (airport use issues) we returned to NY.

So, here we are with two separate Dragonflies at the same airport. I fly and maintain BOTH of them. The tandem operation on the weekends and solo pilots during the week. There is a HUGE
difference in the two operations. The tandems are a BUSINESS that puts money in my pocket, and the solo operation on which I will not be making a dime! I DO NOT own the tandem operation, I am an employee.
I do own the solo operation as a private individual/private pilot/mechanic. I am NOT a business. I am retired and do not NEED to do this to make my living. I am doing it because I can, but I can’t do it if it is going
to take money out of my pocket.

With my own funds, I have invested over $60K in this operation. I have my FAA private pilot AND FAA mechanics rating, I can both fly and maintain the aircraft. I have one launch cart.
There are expenses that MUST be paid in order to operate including, but not limited to, hanger space (needed in the winter also when there is NO money coming in) as the airplane can not stay outdoors (UV and weather
effect me the same as a hang glider), fuel, inspections, registrations, maintenance, replacement parts, engine life span, etc.

Sorry to inform you if you didn’t already know, but aero towing is expensive……..

So, how can we make this operation succeed, where so many have failed?

My son has made the decision to pursue other ventures (read that as getting a “regular” job) so, I do not have a tandem instructor nor do I own a tandem hang glider.

I would be open to working with qualified tandem aero tow instructors. Any one out there interested? I do own a tandem over/under harness. I MAY be able to rent a tandem from Hangar 3. I would be open to the purchase of one also
if that becomes an option.

Spare tow pilots are needed. I can show you how to fly the tug and tow hang gliders. Minimum of a Private pilot rating is REQUIRED. Contact me directly if interested in being either a tandem instructor or tug pilot.

Any assistance you can offer will be appreciated.

I am proposing the following:

  • Daily $15 or seasonal (April to Nov) $80-$100 user fee. Go to any towing operation and there is some fee daily, weekly, monthly, yearly fee plus tow fee; The simple fact is that $25 a tow will not cover the expenses.
  • Solo tows to 2000-2500 feet or release in a thermal: $25 each, but pay in blocks of 4 for $100. I am NOT interested in selling one at a time, nor will there be any refunds for unused tows. They will be good as long as the operation is here though.
  • Pattern tows to 700 feet $12
  • At this time, I can not offer weekend towing as that is when I am tandem towing. Also there is interference with the sailplane folks.

If you are a current, rated aero tow pilot, the operation is ready now.

If you need to learn aero towing or need a refresher, we will have to go through Hangar 3, subject to change in the future. Contact me and I will arrange that you you.
I do have weak links, some releases and bridles available to buy or rent if needed. (You really should have your own though)
I also repack hang glider reserves if you need that service.

Cash is King. I am NOT a business, therefore I will not be accepting checks or plastic.

I do not sit and hang out at the airport, so contact me BEFORE coming out. If you simply show up at the airport, chances are good that I will NOT be there.
I do not have a website.
I am open to ideas/thoughts from the masses, let me hear what you propose.

Randall airport (06N) is located in Middletown, NY approximately 30 miles south of Ellenville.
The current XC record is held by Bryon, flying a king posted RamAir. Released at 1000 feet and flew 29 miles to Lafayette, NJ.
Ryan flew home, north to Pine Bush, I believe 17 miles (Truck tow if I remember right).
West winds are NOT good for XC here. Your flight path would take you to the controlled airspace at Stewart.
SW winds would allow you to thermal up the valley towards Kingston.
L&V days hold a lot of options.
NE winds allow you to head towards NJ.
East wind sucks for XC as PA has a LOT OF TREES!! Very few landing areas.
N & NW sucks for takeoff and landing at Randall due to rotor from the tree line, but you want to be at the mountain then anyway….

About me:
Many of you already know me, but for those that don’t,
My life is in the air and has always been. I caught the flying bug at 3-4 years old.
At 14 I started flying sailplanes.
I built my first hang in 1974 out of hand rail molding and 8 mil plastic, duct tape and hose clamps while still in high school.
I spent 20 years in the Air Force as a jet mechanic working on F-4’s and F-16’s.
I worked on a hot air balloon team for a year.
I did skydiving for 18 years and was a jumpmaster/instructor making 2000 jumps, 40 BASE jumps and I was active in the early days of tandem skydiving perfecting new techniques.
I was on the Budweiser skydiving team and the US Forces Korea demo team.
I was an powered ultra light instructor 2004 to 2008 when the rule changes happened.
I have been towing hang gliders for 12 years. Towing literally thousands of hang gliders. I currently do 400-600 tows a year.
In 2008 I got my FAA Private pilot rating and in 2009 my FAA mechanics rating.


Contact info
Bill Estes
Home 845-692-8164
Cell 914-309-9663