Picture from the hanger here.
Picture from the flight here.
I took the opportunity to go flying with Freedoms Wings International. What a great experience! As I pulled up the drive way along side on the air strip I saw the Grob G13 sitting there with my name on it. I met up with Heintz and Bill, two veteran pilots that volunteer to help Freedoms Wings International. We headed over to the aircraft and my pilot Ray Temchus joined us around 12:30 PM. Ray explained how the flight would go and gave me some history about the Freedoms Wings. I was quite impressed with Ray's knowledge of flying and he explained the steps I would need to take if I wanted to learn to pilot. After our talk it was time to get in the aircraft. I took the front seat. Transferring into the cockpit was not a problem, it was kind of like getting into a bathtub. The seat was very comfortable, with a five point harness belt system. The leg room was a little tight but not a problem. Once I was in, it was Rays turn to get in. Heintz and Bill helped us get strapped in and moved the wheelchairs out of the way. Two empty chairs, that is a beautiful site. My pilot Ray is a quadriplegic with good hand function, and I was putting my life in his hands. We went through the pre flight check of all the controls and got ready to take off. Now I am no pilot, and I might not use the correct terms of what these controls are called and exactly what they do. But for my first time up this is how I put it together in my head. There is a stick between your legs for speed control and keeping the wings level. On the left is another stick to control the rudder. This will keep the plane flying straight. Also on the left was another control with a blue handle, I will just call that one the breaks. The instrument panel in front of me was pretty simple. A few gages for altitude, air speed and some other things. One thing is for sure, I did not feel like I was in a video game. This is the real deal. I'll be honest, I was a bit nervous. I don't get air sick, but I never flew in a glider. I don't like heights, but I like flying, so I was unsure how I like it. With the canopy closed and locked and the tow plane in place it was time to fly. Taped on the outside of the canopy was the most sophisticated flight instrument I ever saw, a piece of red yarn.
Ray explained the introduction of this idea by the Wright brothers, to help them see if they were flying straight, he then pointed out the barf bag to my right and gave the thumbs up. With that the tow plane hit the throttle and my shoulders hit the seat and we were moving. The glider is very close to the ground and we were taking off from a grass runway. It was a little bumpy but quick. Before I knew it the glider was air born. Soon after the tow plane took to the air and we headed for three thousand feet. The take off was thrilling, right away I was thinking to my self, I LIKE THIS. The turbulence behind the tow plane was a bit bumpy, and we bounced around a bit. I thought it was pretty cool. Ray warned me before we took off that the weather was not as good as it could be for soaring. There was quite a bit of cloud cover and that could result in a short flight. But the sun was peaking through and the ground was warming up. That is a good thing if you are looking for a hot air thermal to lift you higher. The view was beautiful, and I was snapping pictures like a tourist at the Grand Canyon. All of a sudden BLAM! I heard this loud bang noise. I thought something hit us, but it was just the release of the tow rope, we had reached three thousand feet. The tow plane took a steep dive and headed back to airport. It was now very quite and peaceful, just the sound of the wind. I began to take more pictures as we circled around looking for some more lift. The a voice from behind me breaks the silence. Ray asks me to set one of the instruments to alarm when we would gain altitude. I did so, then he asked me to put my camera down and take the rudder stick on the left.
I was a little apprehensive. I was fine just site seeing, but I am a bit of a control freak and the idea of controlling an aircraft was very cool. I took hold of the rudder and followed Ray's lead. He told me to keep the string centered on the canopy. As the string moved I used the rudder to turn the plain straight again. It was cool, very slight movements on the control caused the place to respond. Ray took over the controls and looked for more lift. When we came to a thermal lift the alarm would sound. Ray would quickly respond and turn the glider into the thermal. Round and around we would cork screw up, gaining altitude little by little. The weather was not giving us a lot of lift but it was enough to keep us going. As we were turning in a tight turn it felt as if I was perpendicular to the ground. By just turning my head I was looking down at the ground, plus the G-force was kicking in. It felt weird, but I liked it. After getting back up arounf two thousand feet we flew off toward the horizon. Ray then told me to take the stick, the one in the middle. He coached me to keep the wings level and try to maintain the same air speed. I did the best I could but it was a little confusing. The plain was a bit shaky, but I did feel the controls respond to my slight and abrupt movements. After I lost control of the glider and caused it to plummet to earth in an out of control spin, Ray thought it was time to take over. No, just kidding. Actually the plane is quite stable, I think it would take a lot to cause it to lose control, but I don't want to find out. Ray took over and he circled around again to find another thermal. The closer to the ground you are, the tighter the circle you fly as you cork screw back up. The tighter the circle the more G's you pull. This was starting to get to me a little. Not sick, just light headed and a bit queasy. We leveled off at around twenty five hundred feet.
Ray then asked me to take the controls again. This time is was both stick and rudder. He told me to pick a spot out on the horizon and fly to it keeping the plane straight and level and maintaining the same air speed. Just in front of me out on the horizon was a green and brown striped field. As soon as he took his hands off the controls I felt the plain start to turn side ways. The string started pointing left. With a little correction on the rudder the string was centered but now the field was not in front of me, it was off to one side. I move the stick and rudder together slightly and got in line with the field. I made some correction to our air speed and kept the string centered. All this in about two minutes. I was relieved when Ray told me to take a break and he would take over. He pointed out that I did a good job and I made good recovery and correction. I was still feeling light headed and getting hungry. We picked up some speed as Ray pointed the nose down to give me the feel of some speed in a glider. It is hard to judge speed at two thousand feet with out rushing past trees. But the sound of the wind increased a great deal. We circled around and headed back to Van Sant air field.
As we passed the air port I thought we are way to high to come around and land. Then I felt the breaks kick in. It was like a parachute opened or something. The blue lever causes a spoiler to pop up out of the wing. This causes a lot of drag on the wing. The plane slows down and starts to lose altitude. As we circled around to line up with the runway I could see we still had some altitude to lose. Ray was calm as can be and explained how we should touch down just over the white tire markers. At the height we were at and the speed coming in, I thought that would be a good trick. Sure enough, Ray nailed it right on the mark. As you come in for the landing things seem to move faster. You now have all your visual references around you and your speed is quite apparent. In seconds we touched down and rolled right to the place we started from. I could not believe how short of a distance we stopped in. What a rush! What a great adventure! After we came to a stop Heintz and Bill came over with our wheelchairs to help us out, and take care of the glider. Ray and I headed over to the hanger area to see some other air craft. Wow, I actually flew a plane. I am starting to realize, all the things I ever wanted to do as a kid I am doing, and it doesn't even matter that I'm in a wheelchair. Good things come to those who wait. I think it is a great experience, everyone should at least try it. Life is good, and too short to put off the fun stuff. I will try it again, and again. As far as going all the way and becoming a glider pilot, well that to be seen. I will take it one day at a time. I want to thank Ray, Heintz, Bill, Freedom's Wings and Sport Aviation for a great day. And most of all I thank the Lord Jesus for giving us new life.
Be Blessed, See you on the next adventure.