In early May, I received an email from a gentleman who read my article about taking a flying lesson in a Cessna. He enjoyed it, but invited me out to fly in a glider with the Tucson Soaring Club, saying it was a cheaper way to learn how to fly.
After a few months of flight days getting cancelled due to wind or scheduling conflicts, we finally were able to meet up and he took me up in my first glider flight.
As I arrived at the glider airpark on land leased from the Bureau of Land Management in the Ironwood Forest National Monument, one of the first things I was asked was, “Do you get airsick?”
To which I wondered what kind of flight I was in for.
I told my pilot that I have gotten nauseous, but only when I was in a small aircraft doing circle after circle while flying above Mount Lemmon. I was then told the only way a glider gets lift is by flying circles upon circles while staying within in an updraft.
I swallowed hard knowing I might be filming myself throwing up, but I’ll have you know I didn’t get even the slightest bit airsick throughout our 30-minute or so flight.
After touring the planes, meeting with a couple other glider pilots and watching someone else go on their first glider flight as well, it was my turn.
I was strapped into a five-point harness as I struggled to keep my two cameras out of the way of the joystick, my legs and a small bottle of water. As soon as the canopy closed, the inside of the glider turned into a sauna. But, as our tow plane took off, pulling us from behind, a gentle breeze came in through a side window and cooled me off.
The glider took flight first, followed only a short time later by the plane in front of us, which we were tethered to.
The pilot showed me a few maneuvers pilots in training do called “boxing the wake.” He essentially took the glider up, down and side to side behind the tow plane. Though it is not a normally used maneuver, it is done my students to show their instructors they have complete control of the plane, rather than the plane having control of them.
Once we gained about 5,000 feet in altitude, the pilot took our glider high and to one side, as the tow plane went low and to the other side. The cable was released.
“You are now flying in a plane without an engine,” the pilot seated behind me said.
The cabin of the glider wasn’t whisper-quiet as I had imagined it being, but it was quiet enough that we didn’t need headphones to talk and could carry on a normal conversation, much like one could do standing on a river bank next to rapids or sitting on a bus stop bench next to a fairly busy street.
After a few turns in the sky, I was handed the controls to the glider. As soon as the pilot told me “the stick is yours” the plane seemed to drift off course, dip down, and pretty much not do what I was trying to do. I some how managed to get the glider to turn, which I later learned was achieved by my pilot turning the rudder with the foot pedals.
After a short time I handed the controls back over to the pilot and continued to take pictures and record video.
With every turn and move, my pilot was kind enough to tell me exactly what to expect. No nausea could come from that.
It was an absolute dream to fly as we did, and the best way I could describe it was that we were on a rollercoaster that we could control.
We pitched the nose up to a stall, and then the nose dipped as we fell straight down towards the earth. We banked hard, pulling about two Gs.
The landing was simple and smooth, and the pilot was off of his target, a large ‘X’ at the end of the runway, by a mere few feet.
For the following few nights I had glorious dreams of flying over mountains and lakes the likes some have seen in Harry Potter movies.
If you like roller coasters, flying, or both, I highly recommend taking a trip out the Tucson Soaring Club and taking a flight or signing up for some lessons.
To read more on the Tucson Soaring Club click here: http://explorernews.com/news/article_b7fa8492-cace-11e1-997e-0019bb2963f4.html