It’s a rare sight in most areas, but Rancho Penasquitos and nearby neighborhoods see it often: A hang glider or paraglider riding the wind near Black Mountain.

What many local residents may not realize is that the venue from which these airborne enthusiasts launch has a name (Little Black), a “Pilot in Command” (Lori McBride), a “Straight Line” hang gliding record (36 miles, established in 1986 by Glen Volk), and a “Straight Line” paragliding record (28 miles, established in 2000 by Steve Rohrbaugh).

And most residents likely don’t realize that Little Black is actually overseen by a significant professional organization, the San Diego Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association – which is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of foot-launched soaring.

The Little Black site requires pilots to hike hang gliding or paragliding gear to the various launches. Pilots are encouraged to get a site briefing from a local pilot prior to flying, and typically utilize Glider Point Trail starting at the kiosk or other trails established by the Park Service to ascend to the launch sites. Of significant note: The gliding group warns enthusiasts to park only in designated areas, do not utilize off-road vehicles, and to “not land on top of the water reservoir under any circumstances.”

While it may appear the gliders are decending effortlessly along the thermals, it is clear much hard work, planning and coordination is necessary to ensure successful flights. In fact, SDHGPA members actually use 2-meter ham radios for communication during flights (which makes for both a successful and safe trip).

Still the romance and beauty of silent flight is not lost on residents near Black Mountain on early summer evenings as they watch with wonder as the winged adventurers soar – and then slip back to earth.

And, now, all in the region know the details of where that adventure begins – high atop the mountain at a place known as Little Black.

For more information on the San Diego Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association – and joining members who go aloft at Little Black, visit the group’s website at www.sdhgpa.com.