I am not a natural, when it comes to flying. This much my first flight in the motorized glider had shown me. In fact, I was prepared to leave the airfield behind and with it the foolish idea of me learning to fly. Yet, against my better judgment I stayed, rooted to the ground as I saw the first sailplane launch.
Attached to just a thin, long cable, a winch at the far end of the lawn towed the plane into the air within a split second. It rose steeply. I imagined a rollercoaster ride, being pulled up in high-speed, seeing nothing but the sky above you, while waiting, anticipating the peak – and the fall that would follow. 150, 200, 250, 300 metres the sailplane rose into the light blue sky dotted with white puffy clouds. And then it stopped.
“Is it standing still?”, I asked one of the teenagers next to me, my voice barely a whisper. Idiot, of course it is not standing still! The tought must have crossed his mind. Yet, he decided to answer in a friendly tone, telling me that this was just how it appeared from our perspective.
I might have lost a good part of my senses coming here in the first place, but I had not completely lost my mind.
The sailplane had reached the peak of its tow. It was released, flying in a small arch, then dipping its nose slightly towards the fields far below. It sailed, turning and circling soundless above our heads. The cable in turn fell, and as it did a small parachute opened up, guiding it securely back to the winch.
I laughed inside. Never mind the stranger I tried to impress! I will not get into one of these tiny flying objects. I might have lost a good part of my senses coming here in the first place, but I had not completely lost my mind.
I eased up and made myself comfortable on a garden chair, watching launch after launch and speaking to one of the more experienced pilots. I must have been just half listening, because as he asked me to join him, I sheepishly followed. “Take this.” He handed me a flat red backpack. “Secured the parachute tightly around your waist and thighs.”
“In an emergency just pull the small grips on each side of the canopy – but for now just lean back and enjoy.”
The parachute? Wait! I never agreed to fly with you! What is happening? My brain was blurred with a million refusals, but my tongue was dry and stuck to my palate, unable to move, let alone to form any syllables. I barely noticed the people around me, pulling the straps of my parachute, guiding me to the sailplane and helping me into the back of the two-seater.
“In an emergency just pull the small grips on each side of the canopy – but for now just lean back and enjoy.” He closed the canopy and obstructed my last escape. I was trapped. In a sailplane. And the winch already started to pull the cable.
We rolled, accelerated, and lifted just as lightly as had it been a model aircraft. I stared into the wide blue above my head, carried by 17 metres wingspan and millions of butterflies in my stomach. The white clouds dotting the sky came closer and suddenly our nose lowered and I heard a clicking sound. “We are released.”
I dare say my stomach was more aware of the circling than my butt of our rising.
I was amazed by the all round view the glassy canopy offered and by the calmness. The only sound being the swooshing of the wind as we motioned through the warming spring air. “Are you alright?” I was, astonished to admit it. “You are lucky, I think we will find some thermal winds, which will get us higher.”
He turned sharply and began to encircle an invisible column of rising air. “Can you feel that we are soaring? You should sense it in your bottom.” I dare say my stomach was more aware of the circling than my butt of our rising. But I could clearly hear it. In short, frequent beeps the audio variometer told us, we were climbing – or in a sorrowful whining, when we were descending.
“Are you ok in the back?” No answer. My lips were tightly sealed and covered by my scarf. Opening my mouth would have meant giving way to the contents of my unhappy belly. “Most people get sick on their first glider flights, but you seem to be alright. You must be made for this sport.” Oh, unknowing fool. I just hoped that I would be able to leave him in this illusion until we reached the ground.
I just tiredly smiled and stumbled across the lawn.
As we landed, we were cheerfully greeted by the others. “We thought you would come down all pale and sick! That was quite a wind up there and then all the circling for a good half an hour.” I heard my pilot repeating something along the lines of what he had said during the flight. I just tiredly smiled and stumbled across the lawn. “I think I need to leave now.” – “We hope to see you again!” Another vague smile. Never.
I tried it, even enjoyed it – for the first couple of minutes. But I will never ever learn to fly this glider on my own. Famous last words. Read on…