Sunday, November 04, 2007

First Soaring Flight

I experienced my first sailplane flight yesterday at the Sandhill Soaring Club just outside Gregory Michigan. I've passed the club many times and promised myself that one day I'd get up the nerve and take a ride. Enjoying a late season motorcycle ride prompted by yesterday's clear blue skies, as I passed the Sandhill club I realized that it was a perfect day for my first soaring experience. You don't so much climb into a glider as you slip into it as you would if donning some specialized article of protective clothing. I focused on a red-tailed hawk circling overhead to combat my rising claustrophobia as the pilot and I waited for our tow. Bumping down the grassy runway behind our tow plane, you could feel the glider rise even before the tow plane reached take-off speed.

At 2500 feet, I was allowed to pull the cable that released the thin yellow tow rope that signaled we were now kept aloft by nothing more than the invisible currents of warm air rising from the patchwork of freshly harvested fields spreading out below us. After several minutes of level soaring to determine my sense of comfort, John the pilot asked if I'd be open to more aggressive maneuvers. "Let's do it," I said while ensuring that the air sickness bag was within reach. Soaring has to be experienced to understand the rush of unpowered flight but if you imagine riding a roller coaster with wings you'll have some idea of the sensations felt as you fall into or out of the rising thermals. If you've ever dreamed of soaring, the good people at the Sandhill Soaring Club are ready to help make your dreams a reality.


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