This March I joined the Saskatoon Soaring Club (SSC) and started attending the glider ground school. Hearing gliding stories from John Toles who led the instruction only bolstered the excitement I felt about the prospect of learning to fly a glider (one of my favourites is how he was “beat by a bladder”). Little did I know the excitement I felt was only the beginning. My first flight was on May 9th at the Cudworth Aerodrome. It was a cool Saturday morning with clear skies and a light breeze. Fernando Garza was the Pilot in Command and we were flying in SSC’s Super Blanik L-23 (a beautiful glider with a wise and confident appearance). We launched via aerotow and on my first ever flight Fernando taught me how to do co-ordinated turns. On my third training flight I learned how to thermal as Fernando and I reached over 6000ft AGL!
Since then I have managed a 52 minute solo flight from a release altitude of 1300ft AGL (and soared with Fernando who was in another glider) and I only need 3 more solo flights to get my glider pilot license. I have had the opportunity to fly solo in each of the club’s three gliders, the L-23, a Blanik L-33, and a Schweizer 1-26 (acquired this summer). It has been a fantastic summer!
As a final hurrah of this gliding season, some of us flew up to Birch Hills (CJD3) on a cross-country aerotow with the L-23. We visited with the Prince Albert Soaring Club and were able to fly winch launches in their K-7.
Gliding is an exhilarating and freeing experience. The raw mechanical feel of the glider enables the plane to somehow become an extension of yourself; as if you were the one with wings. Each flight provides the opportunity to learn and a chance to hone your skills. Gliding can also be a relaxing escape into the vertical
dimension, where far below one leaves the everyday things to be replaced with eagles and hawks (they show you where the thermals are!) and stunning views of the clouds and the prairie below. Perhaps more importantly, gliding is a social sport. It is about teamwork and camaraderie; we take pride in each other’s accomplishments. It’s a bit like joining a second family. Even though this gliding season is ending, the Club is making plans to keep active over the winter season. This is only the beginning of my gliding adventures!
Below you can see more pictures of the SSC gliders. If you are interested, I have an album on Flickr with even more photos.