2- place Sailplane
I have commercial, multiengine and instrument ratings for airplanes as well as a
commercial glider license. Although I've never owned a plane, I have been
lucky enough to rent some great ones. Below is my aviation "scrap book"
and links to other sites where you can learn more about
Many people are attracted to flying to get away from their
lives, to escape from their daily circumstances. Flying IS a great escape
but if you also want to "fly" in your
career and personal life without leaving the ground, I invite you to check
out my life coaching services.
And if you'd like to try an
inexpensive intro flying lesson, check out the "be
a pilot" website.
This is a 1946 Piper J3 Cub. After I got my commercial
and instrument ratings, I got my taildragger endorsement in this airplane.
Taildraggers have a small castering tailwheel and no nose wheel. A taildraggerís main
wheels are also further forward, so that the tail of the plane drags on the ground.
Most newer planes (and commercial jets) have whatís called tricycle landing gear,
which means they have a nose wheel and main wheels further back so that the nose wheel
stays on the ground after you land.
Taildraggers require more skill to land in cross winds
but they generally land at slower speeds and can land in very short fields. They are
also generally great on grass and rough terrain. I love the Piper Cub; itís a docile
and forgiving plane you can land and stop in a very small area. You can fly it with
the windows open as I have it configured here. In fact, this is what the pilot looks
like flying solo; with one person, the cub is flown from the back seat.
It is a fabric-covered airplane with a tiny 65
horsepower engine and a top speed of about 80 knots. It has no battery and no starter
motor so you have to have someone flip the prop to start it.
This is the slowest aircraft Iíve ever flown, an
American Blimp Corporation A 60+ blimp. Top speed is about 35 MPH. Itís also the
longest, 128 feet.
For my Essay about piloting a blimp, and more blimp
pictures, click here:
Also, for more on blimps: http://www.lightships.com
This is not my Halloween costume! In this picture, I am flying a single seat motor-less
sailplane at an altitude of 27,000 feet, to earn a Diamond altitude badge. Few pilots
in the world hold this award.
Gliders have no heaters. The temperature in the cockpit
pictured above was well below zero. Gliders are not pressurized either, so you have to
use supplemental oxygen above 12,500 feet. Most glider flights in the Northeast happen
below 8,000 feet. That's about as high as thermals (warm rising currents of air) will
take you on a really good soaring day. To get higher, you need to fly in wave lift,
which is readily available in Minden, Nevada, not far from Lake Tahoe. Here, wave lift
can carry a glider to world record heights (currently about 50,000 feet for a glider).
Winds coming across the pacific hit the mountains of California and are deflected
upward in a wave-like flow. After a 10-minute tow upward behind a powered tow plane to
a release altitude of about 9,000 feet (about 4000 feet above the airport), I rode
this flow up to 27,000 feet. The flight was three hours long.
I got my first pilot's license in sailplanes, which are
sleek, fiberglass airplanes with fantastic glide ratios. I learned in Central
Pennsylvania, where we had immediate access to the Appalachian Ridge. The ridge is
about 1000 feet high. Prevailing northwesterly winds blow into the ridge and are
deflected upwards to create ridge lift. Ridge lift happens at much lower altitudes
than wave lift. Ridge, thermal and wave lift are the three natural forces that will
keep a glider aloft.
On a good day you can ride ridge lift for hours. Thus,
we could fly great distances in powerless flight with only a short tow from a
motorized plane. If you've seen "The Thomas Crowne Affair," the ridge
gliding footage was shot in Elmira, NY and Central PA, in a glider from my home
My longest glider flight was about 250 miles. It took
all day. I always found it invigorating to be a long way from home in an airplane
without an engine and to know (hopefully) that natural forces would guide me home.
The biggest ridge running challenge is jumping gaps in
the ridge; you have to ride a thermal upward before you attempt to fly across the area
where there is no ridge deflecting wind upward. If the thermals are weak, you do your
best to milk the lift for every foot of altitude and then you make a leap of faith
that you are high enough to fly across the gap. If you are wrong, you land in a
farmer's field in the middle of the gap. Glider pilots call this ďlanding out.Ē
Then you call your friends and ask them to drive down with a glider trailer and pick
If you land out, glider wings come off for easy
transport. I was fortunate to never have to ask my peers to make a long drive to
retrieve me. However, I did once land out at an airport about 30 miles from home. The
wind died and so did the ridge lift, so the smart thing to do was casually glide to a
nearby airport rather than risk landing in a field on the way home. A tow plane flew
over and aero-towed the glider and me home.
Gliding is much safer than people think. They land at
very slow speeds, there is never any risk of fire, and the glide performance is
exceptional. If you are at all interested in flying, I recommend you start with
gliders. I think Glider pilots make the best pilots.
For more information about soaring, visit The Soaring
Society of America at: http://www.ssa.org
If you would like to keep your feet on the ground and
try remote control gliders, visit: http://www.nesail.com/
If you are interested in learning how to fly powered
airplanes, visit http://www.beapilot.com/indexfl.html
This is the exceptional website for a flying club in
Bridgeport, CT full of links to weather data and all kinds of flying resources: http://www.carneyaviation.com/linktop.htm
This is the view from the back seat of a Grob103
fiberglass glider. The plane has two seats, fore and aft, and dual controls. This is
the glider in which I learned to fly. Grob also makes a single seat version of this
plane called a 102 which is the glider I flew to 27,000 feet for my diamond badge. If
you ever go for a glider ride, request a fiberglass high performance two-seater.
Riding in one of these is a lot like riding in a racecar or fighter jet, with a narrow
reclined cockpit and center control stick.
In this picture, we were maneuvering to locate the area
of strongest wave lift so that the rising air will help us climb up above the clouds,
through a large blue hole in the sky.
More on the Grob G103:
And the Grob 102:
This is the first
powered plane I soloed (the blue and white one, not the brown one). I got my
commercial license in gliders and later got my commercial license in powered
airplanes. Many people who end up flying large jets like the UPS 727 pictured here
start out in a little two-seat Cessna 152, like I did. The 152 will travel at a top
speed of about 105 knots and itís a really fun little airplane to fly.
This is a Grumman tiger, a four seat 180 HP plane that
will go about 125 knots. This is the plane in which I got my instrument rating, which
is what you need if you want to fly in the clouds. Instrument flying requires a high
degree of proficiency so the rating also helps make pilots safer.
One nice feature of a Tiger is the sliding canopy over
the pilotís head. You can fly with it cracked open, sort of like a sliding sunroof.
There are no doors so getting in and out in the rain is a bit of a problem, since the
cockpit can get pretty wet.
The following photographs were taken in Central
Pennsylvania on an instrument flight in a Tiger. My friend and pilot mentor, Pepi
Sayre, who flies professionally, took the pictures of me taking off, bound for
Connecticut; I took the remaining pictures from inside the cockpit as I disappeared
into the clouds.
To read a story of my first instrument flight,
The 152 is one of the smallest Cessnas and the Caravan
is the biggest, at least in the single engine arena. This plane can hold up to 14
passengers and a whole lot of gear. This particular plane was configured as an air
ambulance, which I flew as copilot. With my commercial, instrument and later
multi-engine ratings, there are many opportunities to fly this sort of great airplane.
The caravan is also the first plane I flew with a turbine engine. Most small planes
use piston engines, which work like car engines. But a turbine engine is more like a
jet engine with a propeller on it. It burns jet fuel, is more reliable and is
extremely powerful. The engine on the Caravan puts out 675 horsepower.
For more info on this plane: http://caravan.cessna.com/
And, to see the instrument panel: http://caravan.cessna.com/avionics.chtml