ALBUQUERQUE, MN — Jan took a glider flight Tuesday. I was supposed to go too, but I chickened out. Here’s Jan’s story . . .
The balloon ride was too expensive, 4 times the cost of a ride in a sail plane. So instead of hearing the roar of the furnace heating the air to make the balloon rise, the only sound I heard when soaring was the wind.
Moriarity Municipal Airport over the pass and on the high plains desert 45 miles east of Albuquerque is the HQ of Sundance Aviation Inc. where you can soar. Tom let his fear of flying get to him, so I went up with pilot Brian, a relocated Wisconsinite.
Tuesday was a really calm day, good for both balloons and soaring. The tow plane was a converted crop duster, single seater, two cylinder plane with struts above and below the wings. The sail plane had flying controls in both the front seat and the back seat, and as a passenger I knew that I needed to keep my feet away from the pedal controls and not obstruct the stick. After a little lecture about what not to touch, like the canopy lever, and how to work the window that let in air, we were off. Sail planes have two wheels, but they are in a line like inline skates and the pilot has to balance on them using the controls – flying – both on take off and landing.
The young man who acted as the ground crew only steadied the wings before the tow plane began moving us. Once moving the sail plane pilot (Brian) had to steady the wings and keep them level. The sail plain is very light and the space needed for take off is very short. We were airborne before the tow plane was fully off the ground. Then we circled the airfield gaining altitude. The field is at around 6000 feet. We went up to around 7800 feet where the tow plane pilot found an updraft, and we released the tow rope. What little noise there was to be heard from the small tow plane dropped away as we began soaring on our own.
It was only a basic 15 minute flight. We did lazy circles above the field, finding the updraft and climbing about 1500 feet and then gradually floating back to earth. I grinned from ear to ear the whole time. Flying agin. Real flying where you can feel the wind push you up and see the horizon miles and miles away. Moriarity sits on a large flat plain, surrounded by mountains on all sides. I was surprised by the haze since it was such a clear day with only the smallest puff of one cloud on the horizon. There were no other planes in the air on a late Tuesday afternoon. I guess another way to say it is we had the sky to ourselves. BEAUTIFUL.
Before the ride ended, my pilot treated me to some more aggressive turns so I could feel the G’s and have fun with the roller coaster effect when he pulled up and then pushed over the top and went down and back up, making me feel weightless at the top and heavy at the bottom. He even showed me what a stall would feel like when you really float and then start flying again by gaining the strength of the lift of the wings by pushing the nose of the plane back down toward the earth. You need some speed to get the lift out of the wings. We had been riding the thermal so well that he had to actually do these tricks and use the brakes to slow us down and get us back to earth. My head was in the clouds when we came back down. Wonderful. I kept thinking about my Dad and the times he would take my flying in the two seater Globe Swift. Great memories. I am getting verklempt just thinking about it.
Soaring is safer than ballooning. The sail plane with its long graceful wings is made to soar and come back to earth safely. I went soaring about 35 years ago and would gladly go again and again. Perhaps I should learn to fly one?