A hesitant return

Conferences, meetings, studies, holidays and the simple need for a calm weekend at home had kept me away from the airfield since the season started in April. It was end of May now and I had not set foot on the green field again after serving my winter working hours. There was this half-hearted attempt in mid-May, after too little sleep and too much good wine, but my train was delayed by almost an hour. A sign, I thought. So half relieved and half with a bad conscience I went home again.

There were many legitimate reasons to stop flying. Time was the most dominant one. A full-time job involving much travelling, commuting 3 hours every day, my need for seeing friends, doing sports, and not at least my long-distance studying. A Master of Science instead of a glider pilot licence was my new “anti-flying” mantra. Motivation was the other: After my initial “fly to impress” motivation faded away, I saw little reason in continuously challenging myself.

I was certain that the moment I would climb into the glider cockpit, I would hate it

One more time, I told myself. Return to the airfield just one more time to be sure (and do some justice to all the money, I had already paid for the season). I was certain that the moment I would climb into the glider cockpit, I would hate it, would barely survive the fearful launch and sickening circling.

You can imagine how joyful and motivated I took the train to the club that “one more time”… I walked onto the field and found everything repulsive – most of all the arrogant teenagers. With relief I hang on to the thought: This is my last time!

I helped checking the glider, when suddenly an unexpected fondness for the ASK21 overcame me. I brushed it aside – no need to get sentimental! We dragged her to the start and I gave way to the other students (“I won’t continue anyway, so let them start”). Secretly I hoped that my turn would not come up at all (“Well, at least I tried and went to the airfield…”). But it did.

“Oh, it feels so good to be back!” I could not help to exclaim

The procedure began: strapping on the parachute, going through the check-list and giving a “ready for launch” sign to a fellow glider student. The cable straightened. Where was my fear? My glance was fixed on the winch at the far end of the grassy runway, my breath was calm, one hand resting on the control stick. I was ready. I felt the pull, we rolled, launched, raised into the blue sky and released in barely 300 metres.

“Oh, it feels so good to be back!” I could not help to exclaim, once we dipped the glider’s nose and the landscape below me stretched to the horizon. It felt unexpected familiar. I recalled my maneuvers and I enjoyed it. I really did enjoy it – for the three minutes it lasted.

I had told my trainer that I did not have any ambitions to continue gliding. Thus we agreed to just take two turns. We quickly launched again and released at around 300 meters. Then we climbed: 2 meters per second, 3, 4, up to 5. I felt dizzy, was ready to land soon. “Ok, the glider is all yours, you fly.” Smart move. Once I focused, looked for  thermal winds, any sign of approaching motion sickness vanished. I flew. I found columns of rising air and we continued to climb – up to 1400 meters.

After 45 minutes we landed. My second longest flight so far. I was hooked – again. And I have no idea how I will either find the time to continue or the determination to stop..

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Learning to fly

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