There are numerous ways for a person to get off the ground and into the air, not all of them to be recommended and a lot of them not at all popular. A firm boot up the backside can result in the recipient becoming airborne for a short, if uncomfortable period of time, while the much more relaxing airline flight to London, while enjoyable can be very expensive and most tiring!
The way I chose, fulfilled all my aeronautical desires. It provided me with sport, adventure, accomplishment and fun, all in one reasonably inexpensive package — I took up gliding!
I really got into gliding by chance, when I was working in the garden one Sunday morning (a job I don’t enjoy!), trying rather unsuccessfully, to get things as Jacqui wanted. During a break to wipe my brow, I happened to glance up into the sky and spotted an aeroplane swooping silently about, right above me, all long, narrow wings and slender body, a thing of beauty! In that moment an idea was planted and once I had completed my gardening chores, I set about finding where the plane had come from, and what I needed to do to become a pilot of such a craft.
I discovered a gliding club, 10 miles from where we lived, and a few phone calls later I had established that I would be welcome there any weekend for a ‘joyride’, with a view membership! That was the beginning of a love affair that has lasted for many years, as strong now as on my first flight, one week later; a flight which in many ways, changed my life.
I arrived at Keevil Airfield early on the Saturday morning — “Get here early if you want a decent flight”, the person on the phone had said. “If you arrive late, you’ll miss the best thermals!”
On my arrival, I was told to put my name on the ‘list’, which was the way you booked a flight. First on the list was first to fly, and so on throughout the day. I was fourth and it was about 11am when I heard my name called by someone, standing beside a lovely silver aircraft, a ‘Bocian’ (that being the manufacturer). The next thing I knew, I had a parachute on, with no idea what I was supposed to do with it, wondering if gliding was dangerous after all, if it required such safety equipment! I then clambered into the plane, and discovered the parachute was worn, not so much as a safety issue, but to make it possible for me to see out; my seat had a cavity in the base to accommodate it, making it necessary to wear one. I was relieved!
The pilot strapped me in, very much like strapping into a car, climbed into the seat behind me, muttered some indecipherable sentences to himself, which I discovered later were his pre-flight checks and suddenly we were airborn behind an Auster aircraft, detaching ourselves from it at 2,000 feet making all, quiet and smooth. It was the most wonderful experience I had ever had and from that moment I was hooked. The instructor allowed me to fly the plane for more than half an hour, telling me how the various controls worked, and demonstrating various manoeuvres, then all too soon, it was time to land again and he took control back from me.
I flew solo 65 flights later and went on over the following weeks and months, to pass my bronze badge and then my silver, making me a fully qualified glider pilot, able by law to fly anywhere; something new to me — until you get that desired silver, you have to stay within the distance that means you can always get back to home base without having to ‘land out’.
I have never lost my love of flying and, more particularly gliding, even though it is many years since I last flew one. Jacqui and I have moved about the world quite a lot during our married life, and I’ve found there just isn’t a gliding club near to every place you live! It’s also almost impossible to take your glider with you when you move home, so I sold mine. Now of course, I am really too old to take it up again. More’s the pity!