Holy cow, this thing doesnt have an engine!

Jill Fowler
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DEBERT - Oh, how my stomach churned.
I like to consider myself a veteran when it comes to flying, after having logged countless miles on multiple international flights around the world.
Given that experience, I have always had complete confidence in air travel. At least, that is, until I learned I would be heading skyward with local air cadets participating in the summer Glider Pilot Scholarship Program at the Debert Airport.
"What do you mean, it doesn't have an engine?" I asked incredulously when my boss informed me where I was going. "How does it fly?"
And, that's just it - it doesn't fly - it glides, using invisible air currents to stay afloat in the same way that birds do when we see them soaring effortlessly through the sky.
The glider I got strapped into is known as a Schweizer 2-33A, the primary model used in the cadet training program.
It comes equipped with just two seats, one behind the other, with dual controls and an instrument panel located on the dashboard that includes an altimeter, airspeed indicator, radio, compass, vertical speed indicator and so on.
A major difference between a glider and an airplane (besides the lack of an engine) is the incredibly wide wings, which have a span of 51 feet. And gliders are light, with ours having a gross weight of about 1,040 lbs.
Just looking at the thing makes you wonder how this mass of aluminum, fabric and fiberglass could possibly remain in the sky without an engine to propel it forward.
After watching a couple of the gliders taking off and landing, it became my turn to buckle in and I was introduced to my instructor/pilot, Lt. Tanner Connell.
Having been assured by Capt. Doug Keirstead of the safeness of the program and that there had not been any accidents this summer, we set off across the runway behind our tow plane until reaching an altitude of 3,000 ft., at which point our tether was released and we were 'gliding' on our own.
"It's going to be a bit bumpy for the first part of the flight," my pilot laughed from
his seat behind me, "but after that it's smooth sailing."
And he was right. After a bit of initial turbulence, the flight smoothed out and we were soaring along unaided with the entire landscape spread out panoramically below us.
What was somewhat unexpected and weird at first was that there was absolutely no sound.
What followed was a roller-coaster-like ride of dips and dives as Connell took us through the maneuvers taught to the cadets during their training.
And in the absence of any vibration or sound from a throbbing engine, the view from on high seemed that much more spectacular as we sailed along looking down on long winding rivers streaming out below us, like so many tree branches spreading out to meet the Bay of Fundy; green fields stretching as far as the eye could see and forests that appeared as dark squares dotting the landscape.
With my initial fears behind me, I relaxed entirely and could have spent hours just simply looking around.
Too soon, though, it was time to land and as the ground came up to meet us I closed my eyes and braced for the thud of impact I expected to follow.
To my surprise, however, Connell lined the glider up perfectly on the field and we touched down as softly as could be.
I had survived and, happily, would be making it home for supper after all.

Organizations: Debert Airport

Geographic location: DEBERT, Bay of Fundy

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