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Dec 02, 2020, 02:29 PM
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Private Pilot

The private pilot glider is the easiest license to get but the glider is the hardest plane to fly really well. The skill level is open ended. Anyone should be able to handle the aero tow and the landings are easy. You literally fly the glider onto the ground and remember not to let your spoilers go until you are well below flying speed. A full stall flair and landing will lead to the tail wheel (if there is one) hitting first causing the wing to lose its angle of attack and allowing the glider to to BANG down onto its wheel or skid. Most people never make that mistake twice. In contest flying the spread between the best and the worst can be very large.

No, by hardest plane to fly really well I mean flying cross country. Anyone should be able to thermal well after their first dozen or so thermal flights. On my first real thermal flight George Moffat outclimbed me in his HP-8, AKA the lead sled but he won the nationals in that ship. I was in a Schweitzer 2-22 which had a reputation for being a good climbing ship but it was my first real thermal and my first one hour plus flight. In competition the speed of completion of the given task determines the winner.

I never got a chance to fly cross country. You had to be a stockholder in Sailflights, our local club and Tony, the FBO would not rent me a glider for a cross country flight. I donít think he doubted my ability but it meant either borrowing a trailer and disassembling the glider or aero towing me back and he didnít want to do either.

On a good day just about any competent pilot should be able to do the fifty kilometer flight needed for a silver C badge but you needed a glider and not being a club stockholder I was out of luck. My spend thrift ways are still with me. Iíve always done what I want and spent my money on sailboats, musical instruments, art supplies, skis, etc. never really broke but never with a great abundance of spare cash.

When I got my glider rating (June 14, 1964) I had to take the written test. The test used to be a ten question oral exam but someone decided that the oral exam should only be given to already licensed pilots going for the rating, a written test was created for those of us who were unlicensed in any other type of aircraft. Being brand new there was no study guide so I studied the book for the power plane written test. One nightís study and I took the test the next day. It was surprisingly hard but I passed after one night studying for a different test. I never asked my score. Pass was good enough for me. Iíve often wanted to discus the test with Bill Placek, who wrote it. He was the FAA safety director for the area and he was restoring a Bellanca Cruisaire at the field. His son was a new pilot with a Luscombe Silvaire and I think the family owned a sailplane.

Wurtsboro was a great place to fly in those days. Home builders, restorers, national glider champs and lots and lots of airline pilots doing all of the above. Also, the president of a major airline. I was the first RCíer there and I was told by Dick Paggett that they still flew RC on Thursday evenings on the perpendicular runway where I started out with my Tri-Squire almost sixty years earlier. Thereís barely a hint of Wurtsboro airportís former glory left. I want to go there and check out in the ASK-21 but COVID put a hold on a lot of things including that.

George Moffat wrote a book on glider racing but he also commented in a movie (The Sunship Game??) that Gleb Derujinski was able to fly in competition at a very high skill level while seemingly ignoring the details and enjoying the scenery as he flew. A few years ago Glebís glider, one of the eleven Sisuís built, was for sale in California. Gleb and his wife died in an auto accident a few years before. I had enough money to buy it but the logistics seemed impossible. I wanted to bring it home to Wurtsboro. While I hemmed and hawed trying to figure out if the trip was possible, nature decided for me. A freak windstorm destroyed the Sisu which was tied down outside. Had I decided to buy it the first thing I would have asked is for them to put it in its trailer. I could fly to California in a day, buy the glider and see if U-Haul could rent me something for the trip back. Woulda, coulda and definitely shoulda. A fantastic piece of soaring history is mgone. Al Parkerís Sisu which was the first sailplane in the world to fly more than 1,000 kilometers is in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian. Five others are registered with the FAA and one is registered in Denmark. This is an antique sailplane that can fly on par with todayís glass slippers.

Thatís about it. Of all the things Iíve done glider flying crowds the top of the list along with building a sailboat and building a pretty good violin. I was not bad flying a power plane but it felt a lot like going in circles in a pond with a small outboard. Sailing was just plain more interesting and glider flying is sailing in three dimensions.
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