New York Slope Site: Sterling Bluffs on Lake Ontario

by Dave Garwood  –  MAY 7, 2008

We like water out in front of our slope sites because without upwind turbulence-makers, we fly in smoother air. One such site available in upstate central New York is Sterling Bluffs in Sterling Park, located on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, northwest of Syracuse and south of Oswego.

An aerial view of the flying site, looking east. The ridge is the top of the tan area and the large grassy area is in the center of the photo. You can get an idea of the scale of the place from the houses at the right.

Joe Chovan’s Leading Edge Gliders P-80 Shooting Star at Sterling Bluffs.

The lift in a northwest wind is excellent and the site features a wonderful landing zone which slopes gently into the wind and is covered with long grass. The LZ is larger than a football field and is suitable for initial flight testing of large planes. Memorable maiden flights include Steve Savoie’s large scale Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady, my first flights with the Plain Insane Models all-wood Thorn, and my Yellow Aircraft ducted-fan kit (converted to slope) Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. See photos of the A-4 in “Slope Trash Wheels” in the Slope Trash Magazine section of this website.

Dave Garwood’s Leading Edge Gliders P-63 Kingcobra at Sterling Bluffs.

Joe Chovan flys his Trinity F3F 3-meter racer.

The odd erosion patterns present three bowls to fly in which offer some lift on a small variety of wind directions, but I don’t consider the site particularly accommodating to non-perpendicular wind directions. 320 degrees is ideal. The hill is flyable in 290 to 340 degrees.

The site produces strong and reliable lift but may not be entirely suitable as a training site because it’s not trivial to recover a plane that goes down out front. The slope face is steep and presents hazardous footing. That said, I have not seen an instance of a plane that could not be recovered eventually, or an injury to a person on that slope face. There are also tree lines on both ends of the ridge, which we have tangled with a time or two.

20 MPH NW winds forecast at Sterling is a siren song to get out the  
Slope Scale iron horses and get together for a Slope Scale Party. In 5-10 MPH lightly loaded sailplanes will fly. At 10-15 MPH DAW foam warbirds and LEG foam warbirds launch and produce plenty of smiles. At 15-20 MPH pretty much anything will fly. I have not seen a slope plane that this hill will not support.

To get to the ridge, drive to the end of McIntyre Road as shown on the online map, park at the barrier and walk a few hundred feet down the gravel road. When the trees on your left open up, cross over into the grassy field, and continue to the lake shore.


Sterling, NY Lakeshore Park

Sterling Park Trail Map

Sterling Park Map and Driving Directions

NWS Marine Forecast for eastern Lake Ontario

Joe Chovan launches a P-38 Lightning, that Paul Conger converted from a power kit over the gently sloping grassy area behind the ridge line. One of the features of this site is this part of the park is highly suitable for checking balance and control throws before throwing off the big hill.

Joe at the edge, ready to commit the P-38 to big air out over Lake Ontario.

Paul Congers’ P-38 takes to the air at Sterling Bluffs.

Paul Congers’ P-38 on low pass at Sterling Bluffs.

5 thoughts on “New York Slope Site: Sterling Bluffs on Lake Ontario

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  2. I may take my boyfriend to Sterling Bluffs this summer. Are the conditions suitable for a Snipe 2? That’s what he has.

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