This Sunday I went out with my friend Mark for coffees in the morning. He was on his way to the glider club for a day of flying. He’s the chief tow pilot for the glider club. He invited me to join him and take a glider flight. Since I’m trying to save money, I politely declined his offer. He then said that as a member he has 3 free flight and since he flies the tow plane he never flies gliders any more so I can have one of his flights. Well, I couldn’t very well pass that up. So off we went.
We got to the field and he introduced me to one of the instructors, Dave. He then suggested that Dave might want to do some aerobatics with me. I, being the adrenaline junky that I am, jumped at the opportunity 🙂 We went on to help launch the trainer glider and them moved the glider we were going to take up into position. While doing the safety walk around the glider, Dave asked me if I wanted a parachute… I think it was at that moment that it struck me that we were about to do had a certain element of danger associated with it. See… I’ve been gliding before and I regard it as one of the most calming things one can do. It’s so quite up there when there’s no engine propelling you forward and although some people might find that concept a little unsettling, I find the quite very peaceful. So back to the parachute, I ask Dave if he’ll be wearing on and he replies “Yes, because there is a danger that something might go wrong”. Well then, I guess I’ll wear one too then. I also asked him what the procedure was if we did have to bail. “Well” he said “we would detach the canopy and it should just fly off, then you just roll out of the glider and pull the cord on the chute”. Simple enough, until you try to get into that glider. It’s very tight and quite cramped, the concept that you can just roll out of it is a bit… ridiculous. After all, it took a shoe horn and a can of Crisco to wedge me in there to begin with 🙂 I proved this point when I tried to get out of the glider after we landed, not my most graceful moment.
At any rate, we were towed to 3000 feet, detached from the tow plane and proceeded to climb for another 1300 feet. “Are you ready” I hear Dave say “We’ll start easy and see how your stomach handles it. The first thing we’re going to do is called a ‘wing-up’ maneuver. We’re going to dive to pick up some speed, about 80 knots, and then we’re going to climb and go vertical. Once we’re vertical, we’ll rotate onto one wing and dive again. We’ll repeat that a couple of times alternating the wing we rotate on”. “Let’s do it” I reply. And off he went, felt my stomach inching it’s way closer to my throat as we dove and then we pulled about 2G as we climbed to vertical. Can’t quite describe what my stomach was doing when we spun on the wing, but it was GREAT. We did a couple more and then on the final one, as he climbed out of the dive he arched the plane and dove again, getting me feel about negative 2G, that was also cool. “So, you still feel ok?” he asks. “Never better” says I. “Excellent, looks like you can take negative Gs well” he said jokingly “are you ready for a loop?”. “Sure am” I reply. We’re at about 3500 feet now. He puts the glider into a dive again, we get up to just over 100 knots and he starts pulling up. I tighten my stomach muscles like I heard you should when pulling Gs, I felt my cheeks sagging from the force of the vertical ascent, then it felt like were just hanging there, I look up and see ground, we dive, inverted and then pull up and my cheeks once gain sag. “How’re you doing?” he asks, but not waiting for my answer, he goes on “Well, we pulled 4G on that one, what did you think?”. I think I had the biggest smile on my face, all I could muster was “That was great!” I felt like a kid at the candy store that’s been give $20 and permission to buy whatever he wanted.
“You ready to do another one? This time try looking at the wing tip as we do the loop, it’s a really cool perspective” Well he’s the expert and so I take his advice. He was right, it’s most likely a matter of perception, but you feel like it’s world turning around you not the other way around. We proceeded to do about 4 or 5 more wing-ups and then just cruised a bit. We’re at about 2500 feet now.
At pretty much the same time, we both notice that there’s a glider below us in a field. It’s the trainer glider. Dave proceeds to bank the glider quite steeply so that we can get a better look. We started circling the downed glider like a hawk stalking it’s pray. At first look it seemed as if part of the tail had broken off and we couldn’t see anyone getting out of the glider. Tried to radio the ground, but were unsuccessful. Managed to radio Mark, the tow pilot, who was still in the air. Mark then called the Waterloo airport tower so that they could call the emergency department in case anyone was hurt down there. We cut our flight short and landed.
No one was hurt and there was no damage to the glider, the shadows played tricks with our eyes from that high up. I also learned something new. To get the glider out of that field, they had to tear it down, remove the wings and put it on a trailer to bring it back to the glider club. But more importantly, the glider instructor now had to buy everyone beers 🙂
All in all, I had my best glider flight ever and since no one was hurt, it turned out to be a very excellent day.
Here’s a picture of the glider in the field: