But I Digress… Glider Season Begins in the North

A glider under tow reaches flying speed long before the tow plane is capable of leaving the ground

Casselton, ND

It’s time for another digression from our usual travel posts. Today’s departure from the norm involves my second true love (behind my lovely wife, of course), aviation. Occasionally I have written about random experiences in my life as a Civil Air Patrol (CAP) aviator. Civil Air Patrol members are all unpaid volunteers working for CAP in a wide variety of technical positions. One of the triad of purposes of CAP is aerospace education; aviation awareness and exposure for the cadets (members under 18 years of age) in the local squadrons. To that end, cadets are provided with a series of powered and non-powered flights, each with a special focus on aviation skills. I submit for your flight of fancy a gallery of photos featuring pilot training for gliders with the Civil Air Patrol.

A camera set up in the rear window of the tow plane for this sequence of shots captures the ground crew assisting the glider pilot in preparation for departure

The majority of CAP pilots fly powered airplanes; most are typically not rated to operate as pilot-in-command of a glider. To further the aerospace education component of CAPs mission, adult members are allowed to take instruction in gliders so that they are qualified to provide glider experiences for cadets. Expenses for the training are covered by the volunteers themselves in most cases. Cadets may also receive glider and power airplane instruction. All flight instruction is completed under the direct supervision of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rated Certified Flying Instructors who are also CAP members.

In only a short distance the glider is ready for flight and the glider pilot must keep the glider close to the ground so as not to lift the tail of the tow plane

On glider training flights an FAA certified instructor accompanies the student pilot. The instructor is seated in the rear seat of the tandem two-passenger glider. Once the instructor is confident that the trainee is competent to act as pilot in command, the trainee is signed off for solo flight. Glider pilots also have a ground school component where they learn in great detail how the atmosphere works at different flight levels. Powered pilots can “muscle” their way through the sky. Glider pilots must “go with the flow,” always keeping a safe landing site in close proximity.

For those who think that glider flying is a high risk venture, the statistics don’t support that. Indeed, the FAA allows pilots as young as 14 to solo a glider. Pilots must be at least 16 years of age to solo a single engine powered plane.

Depending upon weather conditions, gliders can remain airborne for very long periods of time. The typical glider training flight is 30 minutes or less because other trainees are awaiting their turn. It’s not uncommon for a glider to remain aloft for hours at a time when the conditions are right.

Click on any of the images below to view an enlarged image and scroll through the gallery.


John Steiner


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