October 16, 2007
October 16, 2007
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: Last week we wrote about our honeymoon in Maine and Linda’s first experience flying a seaplane. After entering four splash downs in her logbook the ink was barely dry when I took her for a glider ride–another first for my new bride. Wedged into the back seat of this supposedly three-person glider we felt like we were crammed into a one-person bathtub.
Gliders are launched by another airplane towing them aloft to a predetermined altitude or, less commonly, self-launched using a small engine that retracts upon reaching the desired altitude. In this case, we were towed aloft for a bird's-eye view of Acadia National Park. Once the Plexiglas canopy was closed and latched we were ready for flight. Our pilot wiggled the rudder telling the tow-plane pilot we were ready for takeoff. Returning the signal, the tow plane powered up for takeoff. Accelerating down the runway the glider actually lifts off the ground first but the pilot keeps it flying close to the ground until the heavier tow-plane lifts off. Then the glider maintains a position about 200 feet behind the tow-plane until released, using energy management to fly. The flight is almost silent except for the slight sound of air rushing by and any chatter between us. But here’s Linda’s impression of her first glider flight.
Linda: Air? After the canopy was closed and latched I snapped a few quick photos and thought, Yikes! It's tight back here! Our pilot, Jeff, briefed us as the tow-plane took the runway. Soon we're airborne, Mike and I squished in the back seat; no engine, no noise, no air flow, and... uh oh, a few minutes into the flight I sputtered, "I need air." Jeff pointed a small vent toward me but it wasn't enough. It felt as though we were just floating, suspended in the air–a dizzying feeling. I needed to get down on the ground–quick. Jeff pulled the release and we turned away from the tow plane and back toward the airport. Moving made me feel better and I am convinced now that I was made to do aerobatics, not to float. Captain Jeff made the rest of our ride suited to my liking–catching thermals to do wing-overs, not-so-lazy-eights and some semi-aerobatic maneuvers, and suddenly I wasn't sick anymore!
Mike: While Linda’s introduction to “silent flight” wasn’t what she expected, it is a sport many enjoy, including races and other competition, and an excellent way to improve piloting skills through energy management. I have some convincing to do to get her back in a glider though.
Linda: I figured if Mike enjoys soaring, I’ll be the tow pilot, that is, until I learned that tow pilots need a minimum of three glider flights per year to stay current. Maybe I’ll try it again some time because learning soaring skills will make me a better pilot–but next time, better make sure I have plenty of air.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com