Saturday, October 10, 2009

Last Plane Out

All the other gliders are gone from Hemet-Ryan Airport. All the T-hangars on the glider side have been sold, dismantled, and removed. The word "GLIDERS" on Runway 22 has been painted over with black, and a big yellow X has been painted over it. The outhouses are gone, and the shade structure outside the Sailplane Enterprises office is in pieces on the ground.

It's quiet.

There's one glider still tied down - one of our club's Blanik L13's. The one I soloed in. The one I first reached 10,000 feet in.

We've come to tow it away to its new temporary home at an airport not far away. But knowing I won't be coming back to this field for a while, the other airport feels very far away.

A towplane will come from the other airport, and a pilot and instructor will take off from the bigger Runway 22. The pilot hasn't done a cross-country aerotow before, and hasn't landed at the other airport. So in keeping with our club's purpose, the last flight from here will be an instructional flight!

I'm here to help push and to run the wing. So we prep the plane, untie it, and put the tie-downs inside the glider instead of leaving them on the ground... we'll be needing them elsewhere after the glider's one-way flight. Technically there's no reason they could not take off from 23 - it's not damaged - but the County has spoken. We push it all the way to the taxiway on the other side of 22.

Due to a mix-up and some technical problems, the towplane takes a long time to arrive. We have time to hang out and talk. A couple of vehicles drive out and the drivers chat with us while we wait. It's pretty rare to see a glider on this side of the field. A few planes and a helicopter come and go... pilots taxiing by wave to us... it's late in the afternoon, so it's pretty dead.

Finally, about 5:30 the towplane arrives and we hook up and launch. The first and only time I've seen a glider take off from 22 (well, there's a motorglider or two who use it). They climb, circle the field once, and head west into the lowering sun.

I get in the car we came in and drive out the gate. There's no one on this side of the airport to say good-bye to.

But... we may be back. Next week we will file a formal complaint with the FAA in Washington, D.C., with the support of AOPA and Cal Pilots. If that works, and gliders get to return, it could turn out better than ever. Some of our leaders have developed the concept of a "Glider Park", and have presented some conceptual drawings to some of the community leaders of Hemet. So... we'll see. While the complaint makes its way through the FAA, we'll keep flying our silent ships over other fields.

1 comment:

Cynthia Jordan said...

Wow! I'm sorry that i can't be more helpful. Good luck with working this issue out...