Back in the eighties I went thru my flyboy period. I took sailplane lessons for awhile in an old Schweitzer WW2 trainer in Waynesville Ohio. There are a few sailplane places around Waynesville with pretty modern planes, but this was the best they had. Not to complain, it wouldn’t stay up all day but it was cool. Ken was my flight instructor, and I think he only did this so he could afford to go up all day.

Sailplanes are cool. As they kept reminding me, they didn’t burn when they crashed, as there was no engine. That was reassuring. They would get this old guy with a piper cub to drag you up a couple a thousand feet and let you go. (I can’t remember the old guy’s name, but when he was younger, his big thing was to fly low over a crowd, and crawl out of the backseat of his piper cub and shimmy up the wing root and climb into the front seat. This was neat as he was the only guy on board. What a guy!)

After he let you go, you looked around for some big fluffy clouds, for they marked the thermals. These were big warm columns of air that were rising. They were just a big sailplane elevator. Once you got in one you just circled around till you got high enough, then bailed out and sailed around for a while.

Once you ran out of thermals, it was time to come back down. This was dicey at this particular airfield as there were telephone wires close up to all edges of the field. To get a sailplane down you had to pass over the wires, then cross up the controls, in effect to drop the plane as fast as possible. Then just before you hit the ground, you staighten the controls up and make a controlled landing. Nothing to it. Except one day, my sister Lisa talked the old guy into giving her a ride in his piper cub, and he took off right in front of me on the way down. It was too late to go back up, so we turned into the plowed field next door and made an improptu landing. This is when you learn to land with the furrows, not against them.

Like they say, any landing you walk away from is a good landing. Especially if you don’t burn.