Traded in a supercar drive for a glider flight
A different adventure for me this weekend. I swapped driving supercars to embrace my other passion, aviation. Thanks to a friend of a friend I was invited to Hope BC to fly in a glider. Readers of my articles will have noticed aviation sprinkled through many of them over the past few years. In March of this year I took a Ferrari Portofino to Edwards AFB and to the Mojave Air and Space Sport. Today however was all about flying a light weight Super BLanik glider and reaching for the heavens.
This past Sunday I drove two hours from my home in downtown Vancouver to the gliding capital of Hope BC. I have seen endless gliding videos, but now it was now my time to experience the thrill for myself. After watching others go up for their flights it was finally my turn to strap on my parachute. I have never worn a parachute before, though I was assured I would never need to use it (famous last words). I did feel a tiny bit like a fighter pilot suiting up before a mission. I was flying in a two seat glider called a Super Blanik which is used as a training glider. A single piece canopy makes for an intimate environment.
The canopy came down then a man appeared in front the glider to attach the all important tow rope. A rather unimpressive and thin rope it must be said. Next thing I knew I could see the the tow plane taking up the slack and then we were bouncing down the grass runway. After a rough 50 feet or less on the grass runway we became airborne behind the yellow tow plane. We had slipped the "surly bonds of earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings" to quote John Magee's famous High Flight poem.
All I could hear was my voice whooping it up in the cockpit and air rushing over the glider. The tow plane then started turning and dragging us toward a tree covered mountain where we would find the best thermals coming of the mountainside. Suddenly my pilot called for disconnect and with a thunk the tow rope released and we were alone in the the sky, save for a big mountain beside us. We spent the next 15 minutes spiralling trying to gain altitude to get above the mountain. Unfortunately rain started to splatter the canopy forcing us lower so we took off to view the town of Hope from above.
I had began feeling a but quizzy during our spirals so a bit of straight and level was just what I needed to gain back my equilibrium. Even better Nikola my pilot gave me some instructions and then handed control of the glider to me. As usual for a novice I was too heavy on the yoke and the rudder pedals causing Nikola to take back control again. Gradually however I got the hang of making small inputs and small rudder deflections to make the glider go where I wanted it to go.
Flying in any form is surreal, to fly without an engine takes it up a whole notch. It seems natural and wholly unnatural all at the same time. I remember one point Nikola aiming us a rather large formation of trees on the mountain and from my perspective sitting in the front we barely barely brushed over the tops of those trees. I was not scared but it was certainly an adrenaline rush.
Sadly my air sickness had returned and I was handed the bag of shame. Fortunately I did not fill the bag at all, but clearly I was losing a battle with my body and I reluctantly asked Nikola to land. I tried to take in all my surroundings, the mountains, the river below us and all the dials in the cockpit. Soon we were flying our downwind leg to the airport. A short bumpy landing on the grass and my latest adventure was over. I was elated at one moment and embarrassed that the flight had not gone on longer, however I am extremely grateful to Nikola for giving the opportunity to "put my hand out and touch the face of god." I will be back even if it takes some motion sickness pills to get me back in the air. I heartily recommend taking the chance to experience a unique form of aviation if you get the chance.