Friday, September 14, 2012

The Bucket List - A Glider Flight

Well, OK, this was really on Paul’s brother Jon’s bucket list.  I had never even considered riding in an airplane without an engine, but, hey, why not?

It was a beautiful morning for the ride.  The air was cool and crisp, the sun was shining and the wind was still.  Our pilots explained that we would each ride alone, in the front of the glider, while the pilot controlled the aircraft from the rear seat.  Paul went first.  They strapped him into the cockpit and lowered the glass, then connected the tow strap from the tow plane, a single engine Piper, to the glider.  I watched as the tow plane pulled the glider into the air, then cut the line and let the glider sail.  It landed about 20 minutes later, and my exhilarated husband exited, all smiles.
Then it was my turn.  They had to add ballast to the front seat to ensure proper weight and balance, jokingly telling me that I had to sit on the “lead butt.”  It was true – they put about 40 lbs. of lead weight under the cushion of my seat.   The weights made a nice booster seat; it’s always good to be able to see over the control panel.  No more short jokes today, please.
Jon, Paul, and Pilot Tom
After attaching the five-point harness that strapped me in, my pilot, Tom, showed me all the controls and told me how they worked.  He then lowered the glass and I snapped it securely into place from the inside.  Thumbs up.   We hooked up to the tow plane and Tom announced our departure on runway 22.
The plane rose steadily to about 2000 feet above the airport before the pilot released the tow strap, and we were sailing through the air.  We soared across the mountains.  My hand was on the control stick and my feet were on the rudder pedals, so I could feel what the pilot was doing to control the aircraft.  The glider responded to Tom’s slightest touch, as the physics of flight played into his hands.  There was no wind noise.  There was no turbulence.  The peaceful floating sensation was interrupted only by Tom’s enthusiastic commentary about the flight and the area over which we flew.
All too soon it was time to land.  I was startled when Tom lifted the spoilers, which interrupt the flow of the air over the wings and help to bring it down.  Whoa – the "lead butt" landed with a slight bump - about a foot off the ground. I felt like I could reach down and touch the runway.  The glider rolled to a stop in the exact spot where I had boarded, and an exhilarated Cheri exited, all smiles.
Jon took the last ride.  Our introductory flight was a “teaser” designed to give first time “soarers” a taste of the thrill, and the peace, of gliders.  It worked.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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