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Friday, November 25, 2011

The Life and Times - Gliding

I know this is a few weeks late, but it took me that long to regain my equilibrium.  While the Lakeside team was here we took a few free hours on Sunday afternoon to take them gliding.  Mind you, this isn't hang gliding, where you are in a little fabric cocoon under a set of wings, rather you are in a little plane without an engine.  There is a local gliding club that offers rides for around $15 per 20 minutes.  This was my first time...and most likely my last.  I'm not terribly afraid of heights, nor am I terribly prone to motion sickness.  But the launch combined with the circling inside a thermal teams up on my abdomen.  I'm getting a little nauseous just thinking about it.

Often the glider would be towed up by another aircraft.  This club uses a tractor's PTO to wind a cable attached to the front of the glider.  It moves so quickly that it hauls the glider up several hundred feet into the air, where it hangs like a kite for several seconds before disconnecting from the cable.  That's a rush.  The glider runs maybe 100 yards along the ground before liftoff, then rises up to the release height-all this within a matter of seconds.  Once it's at the peak of the cable's extension the pilot pushes a pedal that drops the cable. All this takes maybe 7 seconds.  Then you start to nose dive a bit until he picks up enough speed to steer.  At that point he needs to find a thermal as soon as possible or gravity wins.  It's actually pretty safe.  You'll remember the pilot who landed the plane in the Hudson River.  He was a glider pilot first, which is probably what saved the flight as he knew how to land without alternate power.

So even if the pilot can't find a thermal he knows how to guide the craft downward without free fall.  The problem with the altitude change, whether up or down, is that it needs to be in a circular motion.  And that's when my lunch decided to pay me a little visit.

Oddly enough, I was the last one of the group to go, and everyone else made it without using the barf ziplock.  Of course, I gave everyone else a hard time, but then it came back to bite me.  Grant's ride was probably the most amazing.  I don't remember the maneuver the pilot used on him, but it is where he climbs as fast as possible, then leans the glider over to the side and free-falls.  Grant is a little bit of a thrill seeker and he said he almost lost control of his bowels when this happened.  I got a nice, smooth, reasonable ride and still ralphed, so I can't imagine what would have happened if they had done that to me.

All in all, a fun afternoon, although it really did take me about 2 days to fully recover from the motion sickness.  Ick.


  1. Excellent write up Louis! :)

  2. That officially trumps going down in the gold mine as scariest South Africa thrill. I would never do this. You guys are brave.