Thursday, September 14, 2006

Thinking about my first XC flight

I know it wasn't a very long flight, as cross-country flights go: about 62 miles round trip. And I know many glider pilots start XC much earlier in their flying careers. And I know it was a really easy day to fly, because of the excellent conditions. But in some ways that first flight away from the airport - farther than I could glide back - was just as exciting as my first solo flight, my first 10,000' flight, and getting my private certificate.

Right now I'm flying in an MD80 from Montreal to Chicago, and reading a little book about using imagination to shoot for far-reaching goals. Below us is an unbroken flat deck of clouds as far as I can see in all directions. Such a flight is obviously completely dependent on navigational instruments: GPS, VOR, compass, who knows what else. It somehow made me think of my flight northward from Cache Peak toward Walker Pass, over terrain I'd never seen before, partly guided by the "task" line on my GPS... but also guided by the planning and thinking I had done before the flight.... unable to see the airport from which I had come. A cross-country flight, knowing I need to use all my skills to find lift to get me home, is a big step and an exciting one. 

I'd been planning for it, training for it, and I finally did it. I know I'll go on to more distant and more difficult flights, but I'll remember this one for a long time.

I think every glider pilot should be proud of what they've learned. I did the math once, and I estimate that only about 1 in 10,000 people in the U.S. can do what we do!

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