Upon arrival at Hope Airport, I was warmly greeted by my instructor and pilot, James Swank of the Vancouver Soaring Association. James is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about gliding and it was a real treat to be taking my first gliding lesson with him.
Before take off, I sat comfortably in the front seat for my "crash course" in gliding while James gave me an overview of the instruments in the glider. Gliding is a unique flying adventure in the sense that it is very simple, allowing passengers to experience a motor-less flight. I had to get over my concern of flying in the air without an engine. How was I going to take off? And most importantly, how was I going to land?
For take off, we were hooked up to a tow plane which was going to take us up to Hope Mountain. The tow ride on the ground was bumpy as we were pulled by a long rope that was connected from the glider’s nose to the end of a small plane. It pulled us across the field and into the open sky; we went from bumpy to smooth within minutes. When we reached the altitude of 3,000 feet, James released the tow rope through a quick release mechanism. The glider wobbled a bit and I felt insecure knowing we were flying so high without an engine. I have to admit that I was quite nervous at first but I loved the quietness of the flight as we sliced through the air.
James was great as he constantly communicated with me, reassured me, explained what was going to happen, what he was doing and pointed out what was down below. There are three types of rising air that glider pilots use: thermals, ridge lift and wave lift. In the Hope area, they mainly take advantage of the ridge lift in order to gain altitude and increase their flight time. I can’t emphasize enough how magical it felt being in the glider. I naturally soared through the air with just the ridge lift and the pilot’s gliding skills. I had an amazing time gliding and sightseeing from the sky. James even let me take control of the glider. It was thrilling to be a glider pilot even if it was for just a few moments. I really felt as if I was one with the glider as it responded to my every gentle maneuver.
So this was the moment I’ve been waiting for: how were we going to land? James said it was like landing any other plane except he needed to control the rate of descent relative to the distance traveled so that he could land the glider in the right location. That equation reminded me of my nightmare days in algebra class. Landing a glider takes an incredible amount of skill, precision and calculation, as James had to decrease the lift produced by the wings without changing the speed of the glider. We were on the home stretch and I saw the open-air field below us. We were coming in at a fast but steady speed while decreasing in altitude. The glider landed straight and smooth on the field. All my questions and insecurities vanished as we safely and smoothly touched down. I was so impressed with our landing!
Phone: (604) 869-7211