By Tammy Sue Struble
Since I can remember, I’ve had that reoccurring dream that I can fly, like an eagle or Superman – soaring over treetops and up into the blue.
This sounds a little corny, but, really … a few weeks ago, my dreams came true at Tampa Bay Soaring Society in Zephyrhills.
I am from Zephyrhills and often see the tow plane pulling the glider up into the clear, blue sky overhead. Like many, I often watch until the plane is freed and splits off on its own. I had often wished I was the one in the glider.
I got my chance when doing the Tampa Bay Soaring Society story. After asking questions and watching the process; I became a “member for a day” with a glider ride. I actually got a two-for-one takeoff and landing.
I was in the front seat and Don Thomasson, field operations officer, was in the back driver’s seat of the two-seater aircraft. After getting hooked up to the tow plane and lined up on the runway, we took off headed north on the Zephyrhills’ airport runway. Very quickly we were in the air headed up over Zephyrhills. Now, someone else was watching me from below.
Thomasson asked, “Are you nervous? Are you comfortable?”
Are you kidding! I was beaming ear to ear! I was loving it! Strangely enough, I have a little fear of heights, but no fear of flying. He told me to pull the release and with a clunk, the cable disengaged from the tow plane. We were free.
I had imagined that it would be completely silent with no engine on-board. However, the air currents passing over the wings created a blowing wind sound.
Quickly Don said, “Hey, how much do you weigh?” I answered 125 pounds. Not enough. The plane was not balanced quite right and my pilot was not comfortable continuing without an adjustment. We circled around in a tight turn and headed down to land. Don was at all times communicating his flight with the airport below.
We landed, added some weight to balance the glider, hooked the cable back up to the tow plane and took off for my second takeoff. Better safe than sorry they explained; I had to agree. Shortly, we were back up over the skies of downtown Zephyrhills. My second round, but we got to stay up longer.
It was wonderful. As Thomasson explained mechanics of the trip and fed me information, I took in the experience. It was like being in a small airplane without an engine … ok, that’s what it was. I can see why glider pilots enjoy soaring for hours.
Too soon it seemed, it was time to land. It was getting later in the afternoon and Thomasson preferred to get back to St. Petersburg in his plane before dark.
We headed back. He explained we had one chance to get the landing right, picked a point on the ground, looked over the nose of the aircraft, picked an angle for landing and worked his controls, gliding to the runway on the small wheels with an ending slide onto the grass off the runway back at the glider club.
They asked me to come back again. Oh, yeah! Thanks, Tampa Bay Soaring Society. You know, I’ve dreamed of being a pilot. Hmm?