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Fri, Jul 27, 2007

Why You Should Consider Becoming A Glider Pilot

Soaring Continues To Bring Pilots Closer To Aviation Roots

by ANN Correspondent Dave Ziegler

With the recent buzz about Very Light Jets and new Light Sport Aircraft debuting one after another in rapid succession, it's easy to miss a more quiet, more understated -- and much lighter -- form of flight: Soaring. Whether you are brand new to flying or a current pilot looking for a new experience, becoming a glider pilot might be just the challenge you are looking for.

Soaring offers the recreational pilot a far more economical way to get their flying fix, especially with today's high fuel prices, but that's just one of the benefits gliders have to offer. As Anne Mongiovi of the Soaring Society of America (SSA) explained, glider pilots are saving more than money. "It's more economical and it's more environmentally friendly, because obviously most of the sailplanes don't use fuel, the self-launchers use very little, and the motor gliders can shut their engines off and are also much more fuel efficient [than other powered aircraft]."

It's not just about being kind to nature, it's also about being closer. "You gain a sense of the micrometeorology," explained Stan Roeske, a glider instructor visiting Oshkosh from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Those skills of understanding weather and wind more completely and deeply will benefit any type of pilot. It's worth noting that obtaining another certificate satisfies the requirement of a flight review, offering even more incentive.

The transition, however, isn't always easy as it may seem. Even pilots certified in other categories of aircraft will find there is a lot to learn, and plenty of healthy challenges ahead. "I don't think there's anything that prepares a power pilot for the amount of rudder that they have to use to counteract the adverse yaw effects," explained Roeske. "Anytime you're moving the stick left and right, you're putting in a lot of rudder to compensate for the adverse yaw."

According to Roeske, it's not just about refining current skills when a pilot of powered aircraft is transitioning to gliders; there are addition skills that must be learned. "The challenges for the transition pilot are learning to fly in formation behind the tow pilot and getting used to the mindset that you can't go around."

Bill Haddock of Belleville, IL was a hang glider pilot before the responsibilities of a family and home made him decide to hang up his hobby. After a visit to the Soaring Society of America booth last year at Oshkosh, and with his children out of college, he decided to pursue his certificate. After 25 flights, including 5 solo flights, Haddock is continuing to enjoy his return to aviation.

Haddock explained that it's not just about the challenge and exhilaration that comes from flying gliders, it's also about the closeness of the soaring community. The support and guidance he first found at AirVenture last year continues as he enjoys the club atmosphere that surrounds the sport.

The Soaring Society of America web site is a great first step in learning about the sport of soaring, and those interested in pursuing glider training are encouraged to consult the on-line directory of clubs and training facilities to find a local resource.

FMI: www.ssa.org

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