Oh what an adventure! A magical evening, and one I’ll remember for a long while…
After a day of the predicted thunderstorms and rain, I was getting worried that gliding would be cancelled. But come 5pm it had cleared beautifully andwe were on our way for the 20mile drive to Gransden to the airfield of Cambridge Gliding Club. I had a car full of people, one of whom was a pretty bad navigator, but we managed to find out way to the airfield and were the first to arrive.
After signing the necessary ‘death or dismemberment’ forms we headed into the hangar for a safety briefing, shown how to put on the seat belts and required safety equipment (a parachute) then headed out to the runways.
Thanks to my enthusiasm, I was the first to go up! Got in and buckled myself down in the front of the two seater, with pilot Colin behind me, and we hooked up to the winch. Perhaps 20meters of bumps later we were off the ground and starting to climb steeper than a rollercoaster – which was a bit freaky and stomach churn-y, until I remembered to look out the window instead. The ground was falling away very quickly, 950feet was reached in about 10 seconds.
And oh, it was wonderful! The rush of the air over the canopy, the gentle passage of the glider through the sky – more magical than ballooning, and much much better than powered flight! Took some super shots as we banked and dove, and one that truly looks like it’s been photoshopped! About 7 mins later we were down, gentle bumps over the grass runway and an amazing experience.
With 25 of us flying there were 3 gliders operating, and 3 gliders to be manouvered into position again after each landing. The club had a golf cart, which I offered to drive about and tow the gliders back to the winches. Spent most of the rest of the afternoon doing this, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Asked if I could pay off my club membership driving the cart about, unfortunately no go… But £450 is a lot of money for a hobby, and I’m thinking whether I want to sign up or not…
At the end of the day, about 8:30pm, everyone from the group had their flight and most had headed off to eat the BBQ that had been put on, but there was still time before the sun went down to do a 2nd flight for anyone who wanted one. ME! ME! ME please! Went up again into the setting sun, stunningly beautiful vista but I didn’t have any batteries left in the camera. Pilot George let me fly, gentle banking left and right, incredibly sensitive controls, then took me into a tight right hand turn that got to 1.5G. Never G-d before that I know of, except perhaps on a rollercoaster, and my stomach really didn’t like it. Really. Struggled through with much moaning and ‘no,no,no,no,no,no,no,’ and we landed safely soon after. But I was told that if you are in control of the glider and manouvering the turn yourself the g-force is much less because you are prepared for it, and because you’re concentrating on something other than your stomach.
Finally got to the BBQ and dinner at about 9:30, after a beautiful sunset.. Plenty of food left though – so much that we offered the pilots and ground crews a share.
Arrived home about 11pm, after an amazing afternoon. Can’t wait to do it again!