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article imageWhy World's Fliers Hope For An Invitation From Barron Hilton

By Karl Morgenstern     Aug 8, 2000 in Lifestyle
Yerington, Nevada (dpa) - Barron Hilton, president of the Hilton Hotel Corporation and one of the most successful and wealthiest Americans, has a spectacular hobby.
The man who rules over an empire of 2,000 luxury hotels around the world has also, since the days of his youth, been a passionate airplane pilot. And in the hot desert of the western U.S. state of Nevada, he has created a paradise unparalleled anywhere in the world.
It is all about flying and flying machines of all shapes and sizes, including some of the oldest, prettiest, and most sophisticated aircraft, be they gliders, jet planes, helicopters or colourful balloons.
A good two hours' drive south of the gambling city of Reno is where Hilton has set up his now-legendary "Flying-M-Ranch".
As early as two decades ago Hilton had made his Flying-M-Ranch open to pilots and astronauts from around the world. Around a dozen famous planes are found in the hangars, the aircraft include, among others, a blue-and-yellow Boeing "Steerman" bi-plane from 1941 and a snow-white Beech Staggerwing, built in 1934.
Then there are the famous German stunt-flying plane Extra 300, as well as the exclusive 10-seat twinjet Cessna Citation V. Despite his 72 years, Hilton still flies all his planes.
Late American country and folk singer John Denver - who was killed while piloting his own private plane in the summer of 1997 - was among any number of renowned figures who were Barron Hilton's regular guests. Denver once described the Flying-M-Ranch as a symbol of the American dream of "the West's unfettered freedom".
For him, as well as for so many other successful astronauts and pilots, the Flying-M-Ranch was "another world", one which offered exclusive solitude and flying with no restrictions attached.
In fact, Barron Hilton's flying ranch covers 2,200 square kilometres of area both in Nevada and California. One of the highlights comes every two years when the Barron Hilton Cup contest is staged.
The hotel boss invites the best glider pilots from around the world for an event in a landscape which is nothing short of a paradise for gliding.
This is due to the meteorological conditions created in the area east of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain with its 4,000-metre high peaks and above the hot desert floor with its thermal air currents permitting the kind of long-duration gliding which is rarely, if ever, found in Europe.
Two men who were equally enthusiastic at the most recent Barron Hilton Cup were Germany's world champion glider Holger Karow and the Italian world champion Giorgio Galletto.
"Nevada is a dream world for fliers. Unimaginably beautiful," Karow said, while Galletto added: "This is a modern fairy tale."
Guenther Jacobs, another successful German glider competitor, says that "being a guest on the Flying-M-Ranch is an unforgettable experience. This region is a dream world for pilots of all kinds."
The same view is held by astronauts from Europe and America who keep returning to the ranch.
Ulf Merbold, a German who has flown on missions both on a U.S. space shuttle and the Russian "Mir" station, says this about flying in Nevada: "This is pure flying in its most beautiful form. In Europe people can only dream about this."
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