|Launch altitude amsl:||307m|
|Landing altitude amsl:||201m|
|Launch direction:||SE through S|
|GPS Launch:||22.912900° N, 121.119650° E|
|GPS Landing:||22.908049° N, 121.120051° E|
Located in a broad inland valley, Kao Tai is one of the most attractive and best equipped sites on the island. The Kaotai launch used to be built on two large wooden ramps, so it’s hang gliding heritage is quite clear.
The whole area has great XC potential, though it’s tempered with rather wet weather and lots of high-voltage power lines. There is a large tea house behind launch that relies very much on the spectators the flying attracts, so they are very friendly. There have good BBQ pits behind the tea house, toilets too. Camping is available, and there’s even a playground for kids.
|Google Earth placemarks:||kaotai_area.kmz|
|XC flightlog 1:||n/a|
|XC flightlog 2:||n/a|
The take-off is just 100m above the LZ, and features two fairly large spots covered with rubber running-track surface with a steep drop off, obviously the site was developed for hang gliders. The surface is nice and it lets the spectators know this is not a barbeque spot. The launch is uniquely built on a spur which means the wind comes up this way or that, but never straight up the middle. Flying is possible from the Kaotai launch when there’s a southerly through south-easterly wind and cloudbase can be from about 600m to 1600m. The drive back up takes about 10 minutes on a good road.
It’s possible to soar in front of Kaotai when the wind is enough and blowing from between S and SE. However, the real action is on the much larger mountain range to the east, which forms the western side of the Huadong valley. It can be tricky getting up when there is only 100m between launch and landing, but with some thermal activity it should be possible to climb high enough to cross over to the bigger mountains like Taipingshan, and from there head north up the valley.
|A look out over launch into the valley to the south, complete with all-too-typical rain shower.|
|This is a view of the same launch, looking north at the hill. This one obviously taken on a better flying day. You can see the tea house between the two launch decks.|
|This is the higher launch at Taipingshan, looking east over the Huadong valley.|
On days when the north wind blows, there is an alternative site on Taipingshan (22.928400°N, 121.099983°E) at 900m amsl, 700m agl. It’s possible to fly there year-round since it takes winds south, through east to north. It is up a badly broken road, so it’s 4WD or trucks only. This does keep the crowds away though… There are also launches at Jrbun and Taimali which work in a south to southeast wind. They are a bit harder to find and are considerably more advanced in terms of the launches themselves and the conditions you are likely to find. The launch at Lijia overlooks the airport and has been closed due to airspace issues.
Kaotai is currently closed after a tandem accident on July 27th 2011, by order of the Huadong Valley scenic area authority. No free-flying is permitted whatsoever.
The Kaotai launch is basically controlled by a group of tandem pilots that cater to the visitors, which does impact on the use the solos get from the site. If tandem business is good, they will not appreciate solo gliders soaring in front of launch and getting in their way. They also expect to be able to top land whenever they like. Solo gliders that fly too long, or too high, also make them look bad. It’s to the benefit of the tandem operators to allow spectators to run free on launch, so expect a lot of onlookers stepping on your glider or blocking the way.
Weather and season
There’s most often flyable weather during March through October, though it’s a wet part of the island and the typhoons do love it. Arrive at launch early and be prepared for afternoon showers.
Suitability for beginners?
The Kaotai launch is on a small spur so the wind can be very tricky, shifting from side to side and almost never coming up straight. The launch is only 100m above the landing area so expect any thermal lift to be broken and bumpy. The LZ itself is reasonably large, but surrounded by power lines, trees and pineapple fields so pilots need to be accurate and confident here. The alternate launches are all much too advanced for Novice pilots.
How to get there
There are flights from Kaohsiung and Taipei domestic airports, though they usually arrive too late in the day to make launch at a resonable hour, and depart just as the flying day is getting going. Taidung is pretty isolated and is several hours from either Taipei or Kaohsiung by either road or rail. Plan on making it part of a round-island trip or fly.
Where to stay
There is a real lack of tourist class hotels in Taidung, so try these instead:
Gringo hostel and cafe, very basic, but cheap.
Tel: 089 355565
52 Shin Sheng Rd, Taitung, Taiwan
near the corner of Chung Hwa Road.
If you’re looking for something even more laid back there is a growing number of bed & breakfast places along the coast road north of town.