So about a year ago Brenda bought me an "introductory lesson package" gift certificate from the soaring school at Boulder Municipal Airport. I finally got a chance to get on the schedule.
I have flown gliders exactly one other time before, back on the east coast. A friend of a friend offered me a chance to fly a Schewitzer 2-33 from Van Sant airport in Pennsylvania, and I had a ball despite the overcast day which meant no thermals, which meant we went up, and basically came right back down. Since moving to Boulder, I have pretty much stopped flying airplanes save for a few checkout flights, due to cost and time constraints. But apparently Boulder Colorado, in addition to being a veritable Mecca for cycling, rock climbing, hiking and trail running, is also somewhat of a worldwide destination for soaring. Boulder's location, tucked up against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, makes it a great spot to launch from. The summertime Colorado sun generates plenty of thermals and the wintertime wave action over the mountains creates conditions ripe for skilled pilots to take a motorless aircraft to altitudes above 20,000 feet. Naturally, I was intrigued. I guess Brenda got tired of hearing me say "I really need to go over there and try the gliders", because she got me this really great Christmas present last year that I finally got to cash in on this past Saturday.
Unfortunately, the weather was rapidly deteriorating (a huge front swept in Saturday night and dumped a bunch of snow on us, and it's 1 degree outside right now), so I only got to do one tow. My instructor was originally from Hawaii, and with me from New Jersey, we met in Boulder, towed to 2,000' AGL and proceeded to get the shit knocked out of us.
But what a view!
This is us approaching our release altitude, with Valmont Reservior to the left and the Flatirons filling the windscreen. The turbulence was fairly severe, and several times there was an uncomfortable amount of slack in the tow rope as towplane and glider each got smacked around in their own little shitstorms of air. After we released, we were able to easily hover in place if we pointed the ship directly into the prevailing west wind, which was fun, but my instructor sensed it was only going to get worse and so we cut the lesson short and headed back to the airport.
I still have two tows coming to me and hopefully I'll get those in sometime soon. I am in the enviable position of working a mere mile and a half from the airport these days, so a lunch hour launch is not out of the question.
Getting the glider pilot's license is merely an add-on rating for me, since I already possess a private pilot's certificate. Rental rates are cheaper, and since the gliders don't burn any gas, after the tow, it's a pretty sustainable activity. So, I'm certainly interested in pursuing the rating, but it's still an expensive hobby. We'll see. At the very least I can look forward to a couple more flights, and I'll be sure to document the fun right here.