Monday, August 6, 2012

NY: Gliding: Planes Without Engines ARE Safe!

      I will do many “adventurous” things.  That is, minus sky diving, bungee jumping and anything very similar to that.  Who knew my 66-year-old father could come up with something I almost added to that list.  

       About a year ago he mentioned he wanted to go gliding. I said hell no.  Later that year, as I searched for birthday and Christmas gifts for him, I almost gave in and took him. The thing is, glider planes don't have engines and that scares me.  I can barely keep a kite in the air, how is a half ton "plane" supposed to stay in the air?? (Side note: I took one Physics class and barely passed).  Finally after tons of mentions and lots of convincing I decided to take him gliding for fathers day. 

       As does everything begin with these days, I started with internet research.  I narrowed down our locations to New Jersey, Upstate NY, or Long Island.  You have to cross the GW bridge/and/or pay a toll/deal with jersey traffic, so Jersey was ruled out.  On Long Island, as my father reasoned, you would probably just glide over the ocean and flat land which would probably not be as interesting as the Catskill mountains, so upstate was decided on.

       I offered to drive, which also allowed me to not think about any hesitation I had to the activity. At the airport, even though we were late, it was very relaxed and they we very hospitable to us.  We signed all the prerequisite waivers and I opted for the newer, more expensive, (seemed safer) glider ride.  My father went first.  I held his hat as we taped his takeoff and tried to follow the plane into the sky.

Dad getting into the "safer" glider

       My dad loved it.  It was his idea in the first place, and he was never scared so I didn’t take much solace in this. Eventually it was my turn.  One guy pushed the glider down so I could get it.  The pilot explained what everything was: “This releases us from the tow plane, don’t touch this.” “This is the joystick, don’t touch this.”  I cut him off and assured him, I would not be touching anything except  my seat belt for dear life.  What? Planes are supposed to have engines!!

        Up we went, towed by an 86-year-old WW2 vet, cool guy.  I think I ran into more turbulence than usual.  For some reason it was less scary than airplane turbulence though.  The pilot pointed out different ranges to me, explained how they compete and some of the physics of it.  After about 20 minutes of catching air currents we headed back to the airport.  This was the best part, dramatic, but not terrifying and we went over an interesting looking bog.  Unfortunately this was also the point at which my iPhone overheated and shut down so I couldn’t tape it.

My sister ended up taking a ride on the older glider.  She survived and got to steer, so at  $15 cheaper I might recommend that one more.

All said and done it was not as scary as I thought.  Wurtsboro also offers longer tours and lessons.  

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