We're coming in over the numbers a little high with no engine. Dead-sticking as they say.
Pulled the lever for the spoilers and we do a nice carrier-landing just past the numbers on the grass beside the runway.
Nope, wasn't my first time with a non-op fan on the front of a plane, it was my introduction to the world of
"silent flight," my first sailplane ride.
About a year ago Denise wanted to help me get back into flying. Things had been going on in my life and for the
previous year I had not flown at all. (kinda depressing isn't it) Anyways... she went online and found a place that you could purchase a flight on any number of vehicles; balloons, biplanes, hang gliders, and sailplanes. She got a ride for two, thinking that I could fly the plane myself. She was disappointed when I told her that I needed a glider lic. before being PIC (pilot in command.) We were going back-and-forth with Denise insiting that the
person taking her order said that I, Jerry, could fly the both of us without another pilot. I, Jerry, told Denise,
that there was no way in hell I was going to take the two of us up in a sailplane, aka a plane without an engine
even if what she was being told was true (which it wasn't.) I, Jerry, wouldn't have a problem taking it up by
myself, but not with another until I got some training.
Well, that was almost a year ago. Last year's Summer and Fall came and went and then it was the cold dark days of
winter. Spring of this year came and this Flight Coupon I had kept starring me in the face. I called and spoke to
a rep from the outfit she purchased the coupon from. I was told to contact the airport to make arrangements for
the flight. I was given the Kuntztown Airport as the closest airport that they dealt with.
Made the call to Kutztown Airport, spoke to Stella, (as in A Streetcar Named Desire, Stella) and made arrangements to go flying. That was in June.
Because of all the "socail events" we had the first date that I could make, and it needed to be before August 25th (the day the coupon expired), was August 18th.
Kutztown Airport :: N31
Fast forward to August 18th, 2007.
Azure blue skies with cotton ball clouds. It's just unbelieveable weather were having today. A beautiful Fall
day in the middle of August. Almost unheard of in Jersey, the land of high humidity and mosquitos.
Couldn't have ordered it any better than this. Up at 7:30 this morning. Today is the day Denise and I are heading over to Kutztown, PA for a little bit of sailplane flying.
To get to the middle of nowhere you need to go through a load of somehwere and that somewhere was full of traffic.
Estimated time to get there from here was close to two hours. Figured we'd get on the road by 10:30 giving us plenty of time to get there for our scheduled 1PM flights.
Crossed the bridge into PA, from Jersey, and we're doing alright. Traveled down I-95 approx 5 miles and hit traffice, we're dead-stopped. Another two or three miles before our exit for Rte 476. Four lanes and the only one empty was the far right, which I thought was an exit I didn't want. Mentioned it out loud to Denise and sure enough it was a lane all the way to
the split for 476. Pulled the F-150 out of the god awful traffic and zipped along right to 476. Route 476 to the Northeast Extentsion of the PA Turnpike was uneventful.
The two-lane Northeast Extentsion, which should be three or four lanes, had traffic in several spots that slowed
us enough for Denise to call and push back our 1 o'clock departure to 1:30. The person answering the phone acutally
said it'd be more like two because of getting a little backed-up with the flights. Traffic lightened up and we actually
made it to Kutztown Airport just after 1PM. Checked with the girl at the desk and we were still on for 2.
About an hour to look around. Big ol' radial engined Waco sitting in the hangar along with a Harley and an ultralight.
Nice seeing the Waco up close. Haven't been around a biplane of that size in a while now.
Across the ramp I spotted a Pitts S2. Nobody around so we walked on over. Upon a closer look it was an S2-AE. A nice little touch was a signature by Curtiss Pitts on the front cowling. Didn't get the pilot's name when
he walked up. I began to ask him about the Pitts. Looks like it's an experimental version, thus the S2B-AE with a 230 hp engine. Had a small three-blade prop on the front. The pilot got the signature when he was down in
Florida helping to celebrate Curtiss' 75th birthday. I think he said in 1979. Talked for awhile telling him about the Skybolt I was building and that I'll be hanging a radial on the front of it. blah blah blah
The wind was blowing from the south, which was at the far end of the 2500' runway. We were driven down to the sailplanes in style; a Sebring convertible. We were stylin'.
They were just pulling one of the plane back up the hill from the last flight. We were originally suppose to go up in one sailplane together. I was told there was a weight limit, duh, well yeah, but it was pretty close to what I
thought we would be. Not that we're big heavy people but... anyways... so instead of going up in a single sailplane I scheduled us for two separate flights. Flights that would be flown one after the other. I knew I had to wait until we were at the airport
to tell Denise that we weren't going up together. She'd be thinking about it since the day I scheduled the flight, unhappy with how her original plans turned out. I was right. I didn't tell her that we'd be flying in separate sailplanes until we were at the airport.
It didn't give her much time to think about it. We'd be up and flying within the hour.
As it turned out, her "bad luck" turned out to be something special. When we got talking to Mike and Joe, the pilots, Mike made the suggestion that he take off first and loiter around waiting for Joe to launch and then maybe we could fly "formation" for awhile. Sounded
GREAT to me. We couldn't have planned it any better. We both brought our cameras and we could get some GREAT air-to-air shots.
Denise stood and waited beside the Schweizer that she would be flying in as I climbed over the side of the PZL-Krosno sailplane that Mike and I were to go up in. Almost didn't make it into the air. As Mike was climbing into the cockpit behind me, we saw Denise, off in the distance, waving her hands, jumping up and down. (I thought she was just
excited about going up. hehe) We then saw her pointing at the grass infront of our sailplane. Mike got out... turns out, Mike didn't connect the tow line to the front. THANK YOU DENISE !
With the tow line connect, and the canopy shut, the straight-tail 172 began his take-off roll. It was a matter of a few feet before the sailplane was off the ground waiting for that beast of a plane in front of us to lift off.
A new experience sitting here, up in the air, without the sound of an engine in front of you, trailing in tow by a plane 100 feet in front of you. There was a little chop to the air and I could see that Mike was playing the rudders and stick for everything it was worth to
dance behind the Cessna, making it look like it was childs play. Nice job, Mike.
It wasn't until we cut loose from the Cessna that I noticed the greenhouse that surround us. Nothing but blue sky and green mountains filling my eyes. On the sailplane, the glass comes down to your waist. The site triggered memories of when I was
a youngster climbing to the top of a tree and looking out in all directions. Unobstructed view no matter where you looked.