5000 feet in the air: Views from a Glider


My husband Aron was given a ride in a glider—a motor-less flight—out of Williams, California, for his birthday… two years ago. He finally went up last fall, and I asked him if he’d write about it. 

As a child driving to San Francisco, I would often see gliders along the way and imagined someday that I would fly in one—listening only to the sound of the wind as I flew over the ground. But when I was given a ride as a birthday gift, I was nervous. I have a family, we were about to have a baby, and there’s no thrill in unnecessary risk right now. But I did some research, and learned that soaring is regarded as being just as safe as most other adventure sports; I shouldn’t let anxiety guide me. With my right brain doing the talking, I booked a date and, having done so, felt surprisingly more relaxed.



I was committed and that was probably a good thing: it was a little bit crazy to see the gliders along the “runway” at the glide center. They look so unsubstantial. More so when you see that the glider is simply towed behind a propeller plane via an ordinary looking rope attached to hook, before its release a few thousand feet in the air. I expected something more high-tech: a steel cable wrapped in a bionic coating or something.  I couldn’t decide if it was refreshingly simple, or nerve-wrackingly so. I tried not to think about it too much, and before I knew it our glider was lifting off the ground. In an instant, my nerves were calmed.



The next thrill happened when we released the the rope at 5000 feet. The plane banked left, we banked right, and were on our own. It turns out that “nothing but the sound of wind” is actually quite loud; but it was amazing to bank and turn in such a small plane. After slowly banking left and right, I told the pilot that I was ready for some more aggressive maneuvers. My favorites were stalling after a climb and then entering a steep dive—steep enough that I floated up off my seat, as did all of the dirt on the floor, and my camera on my lap. It reminded me of those free falls you do on drop rollercoasters, only the pulling up lasted much longer!

At around 2000 feet, we tried to come close to a vulture—but he buzzed off. Apparently eagles and hawks—having no natural predators, will let you get quite close, and sometimes will even try to attack the glider for coming into their air space!



It was an amazing thing to get to do, and I would happily do it again. But it also felt pretty great returning to my family who were waiting on the ground.



They had been burning rice fields nearby on the day Aron went up, so visibility was less than it can be, but the folks at Williams Soaring Center said that on clear days you can see Mount Shasta in the distance. Has anyone else been up in a glider? My stomach did a little flip just driving up, but I can imagine some amazing landscapes one could enjoy from this perspective. Thank you, Aron! 

P.S. My own (mild) phobia

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