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June 24, 2012


My first glider flight was over the Fens in 2001, and what a thrilling experience it was!  Released from the tug-plane at 2000 feet…Riding the thermals to an even dizzier height with a view of The Wash in the distance…Then, under the instructor’s expert direction, banking the glider in a steep turn before putting the nose down in a dive…

It was something I knew I’d have to do again one day, and in 2008 I was delighted to be given two tickets as a birthday present.  This time the terrain would be different, hilly Derbyshire rather than the flat Fens.  My son Chris, who’d recently turned 21, came with me.  I recorded the occasion in my diary.


Tuesday 02/09/08

Took Chris gliding at Great Hucklow in Derbyshire this afternoon.

The day started sunny and bright but clouded over later and it started to pour heavily as I drove through the Peaks.  Wonderful scenery viewed through swishing windscreen wipers with my headlights on.  Visibility became so poor I expected flying to be cancelled.  Fortunately, though, as we had lunch at the Wanted Inn in the gritstone hamlet of Sparrowpit, the sky began to clear.  The sun was out again by the time we reached the minibus at the launch point, though it was pretty chilly up there.

A fluffy grey dog called Milly scampered around the launch point.  I went up first, Chris second, both with the same instructor in the same red and white two-seater glider.  It was a tight squeeze in the cockpit with my parachute on. 

The launch with a powered winch was unbelievable, the wild hiss of wind through the cockpit, the very steep, very fast ascent, up into the clouds in a matter of seconds, pressure on temples, the clunk as the hawser disconnected and fell away.  Then silence, nosing through wispy cloud with the Peaks and Dales spread far below.

My flight didn’t last very long, unfortunately, only ten minutes or so, because try as we might we couldn’t find any lift.  Chris was luckier, corkscrewing up on a thermal to 1400 feet and airborne for maybe twenty-five minutes.

Fantastic experience – strange having to think in 3D when taking control, banking the craft with wingtip down, anxious not to stall; all that pitch and roll…

A comical moment when Chris levelled out from the launch.  I couldn’t believe my eyes – there was a parachute coming down!  Everyone at the launch point burst out laughing at my horrified exclamation.  It wasn’t Chris, of course, just the hawser!

Quite a few birds of prey around – peregrines, buzzards, kestrels – and of course they’ll find the thermals for you if there are any to be found.  Gliding is the nearest thing to flying like a bird – man’s old dream.

Chris enjoyed it too, and it was great to be out with him.




Copyright © Paul Beech 2012


From → Diary

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