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Aaron Kjenslie is a lifelong soarer who serves as the chief tow pilot at the Seminole-Lake Gliderport located in Clermont, Florida.
Having grown up at the Seminole-Lake Gliderport founded by his father, Knut Kjenslie, Aaron Kjenslie is one glider pilot who truly has the passion for soaring in his blood. Today, he is a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association as well as the Soaring Society of America.
After experiencing the joys of gliding at the young age of 15, Kjenslie went on to receive his private glider license. Today, he operates with a commercial glider and airplane license, allowing him to provide customers with commercial glider rides out of the well-known Seminole-Lake Gliderport. Through his efforts, he is recognized as the chief tow pilot at the gliderport, making him an instrumental part of the operations and services this unique establishment offers.
In recent years, soaring has become an intriguing activity—especially in Florida, as the Seminole-Lake Gliderport has been popularized as a tourist destination. Aaron Kjenslie loves introducing both new and experienced patrons to the many incredible joys of gliding.
While traditional pilots are trained to operate fuel-operated aircraft, Kjenslie believes soaring offers many different challenges, as gliders are always in a constant state of descent. This means that glider pilots have an in-depth knowledge of descending a glider in response to current air currents—which are often favorable in the Florida area.
Kjenslie explains that as a result of this no-fuel descent, he and his passengers are able to catch an incredible sense of freedom as they view the vast beauty of Florida below them. Today, the Seminole-Lake Gliderport offers several gliding packages to those who want to see the world in a different light—which may include seeing a breathtaking view of the famed Walt Disney World, located only 20 minutes from the site.
Having grown up at the Seminole-Lake Gliderport and fallen in love with the excitement and beauty of soaring, pilot Aaron Kjenslie is proud of the history this unique facility carries. In fact, the legacy of this gliderport began with Kjenslie’s father, Knut.
While Florida soaring had remained popular for many years before it’s establishment, Aaron Kjenslie reveals that the activity faced certain challenges in the late ‘80s when Orlando International Airport airspace began to require all aircraft to carry transponders. At the time, soaring had been based at the Flying Seminole Ranch; however, these new regulations made it impossible for the activity to continue within this area.
Knut, who was deeply connected to the soaring business, had a mission to continue this unique experience and was intent on making sure patrons and pilots—such as Aaron Kjenslie—would be able to enjoy it for years to come. As such, he looked beyond the radius of Orlando International’s airspace to find a viable piece of land—used for farming at the time—that could be transformed into a new site for soaring.
After purchasing the property, Knut Kjenslie worked many months to build the Seminole-Lake Gliderport that exists today. Gaining all the appropriate permits, he designed the site to become an exclusive gliderport, creating a runway and roadway to ensure operational capacity. On July 1, 1989, Seminole-Lake Gliderport became operational and slowly grew in its services with the help of many trusted pilots and community members.
In the beginning, Seminole-Lake Gliderport offered flights only on the weekends. With only one hangar constructed and the main office based in a mobile home, Knut became committed to expanding the site’s infrastructure. Soon, a new office, private on-site accommodations, a private home, T-Hangars and even a swimming pool were built to become part of the rapidly growing Seminole-Lake Gliderport. Ongoing developments have continued, including the construction of a 6,000 square foot hangar to house the growing population of advanced gliders held at the space.
Throughout his childhood, Aaron Kjenslie was exposed to the incredibly fascinating world of soaring and remained inspired by the passion and drive his father took to attract more pilots to the Seminole-Lake Gliderport. Eventually, the gliderport became a hot spot for both new and experienced glider pilots—especially during the winter months. Given the favorable climate of Florida in comparison to other states, many were attracted to Seminole-Lake Gliderport as a place to learn how to fly gliders or stay current and practice their skills before spring soaring seasons began.
When looking back on the history of the Seminole-Lake Gliderport, Aaron Kjenslie reflects on its development with pride, as the site has become a solid spot of inspiration not only within the local community, but also within the entire gliding community. Along with offering the resources to expose individuals to the sport of soaring, and even help pilots improve their skills, the gliderport has also hosted ongoing events that continue to draw attention. For instance, since 1991, the gliderport has hosted its Annual Senior Soaring Championship, one of the most popular gliding competitions in the United States reserved for pilots aged 55 and older.
In 2008, Mihai Tanjala, who has helped continue the expansion and operation of this prized site, purchased the Seminole-Lake Gliderport. While directed to the future, the gliderport continues to offer its prized history, employing professionals who are connected to the Seminole-Lake legacy, such as Aaron Kjenslie.
Aaron is impressed with the ongoing excitement the gliding provides to flight enthusiasts, pilots and tourists, noting that is has become a major part of the Florida lifestyle over the years. For example, he notes that Florida-area soaring has often been covered by news segments and television programs. Celebrities—and astronaut Neil Armstrong—have also been attracted to the sport, giving soaring an ongoing sense of intrigue throughout the country.
According to Aaron, Seminole-Lake Gliderport is one of the most active glider operations in the entire country, as it offers an ideal place for individuals to experience exceptional soaring all year long.
Although gliding has remained a popular activity for many decades, Aaron Kjenslie says that technological innovations and increasing interest have made it an exciting time for soaring. For example, those who come to fly at Seminole-Lake Gliderport can choose from a myriad of packages that will expose them to great landscapes of central Florida, making it a very accessible and affordable activity for those visiting in the area. Better yet, thanks to GoPro camera technology, passengers can now get a DVD of their flight so they can remember it for years to come.
Kjenslie also notes that there are many interesting aspects of gliding that could eventually play a part in revolutionizing flight—especially in eco-friendly matters. While some may be skeptical of the capacity gliders offer in terms of experiencing flight, he believes that soaring will always be the purest form of flying.
Not outfitted with motors, gliders offer an alternative sense of flying that is based off of different aspects of physical science. Paying attention to rising currents, known as thermals, Kjenslie and other pilots have the ability stay airborne for five to seven hours if they manage these naturally occurring conditions strategically. In Florida, a glider can even travel 300 miles in one flight.
While gliding is not likely to become a new mode of common transportation, he believes this is an incredible observation when considering how much fuel is used in other vehicles—such as cars—to travel the same distance.
Excited by the ongoing developments in gliding and the planned expansions at Seminole-Lake Gliderport, Aaron Kjenslie says he expects to enjoy piloting and flying for the rest of his life. In the future, he looks forward to continuing his journey as a professional pilot and expanding his services in commercial arena.
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