The gliding “gold” experience

Guest post by Nicola Little

When I got the call saying Craig Stobbs was looking for a passenger in ZK-GYJ a Schleicher ASH 25M (with a wingspan only a few metres less than a 737), it seemed like the right time to have my first glider experience.  The briefing was a bit sobering – parachute, hypoxia, oxygen – but then it was strap on, in, and go.

We self launched from Hood to 3,500 feet and in no time had passed 10,000 feet – so oxygen on – and from there on Craig asked Ohakea for 15, then 17 then 20,000 feet for an astonishingly smooth, silent flight up along the hills Tararuas and Ruahines to in line with Napier and Taihape and a view from one side of the island to the other and right up to Hamilton.  A 342 round trip travelling between 50 and 110 knots along the way.

It was astounding to think this was all without power, and a bit much for my head trying to understand at one point that we were pointing down and descending hard but on air moving up so fast we just stayed cruising along at our 20,000 feet. And when Craig said about level with Taihape “It’s got a 1:60 glide ratio, so if we turned round now and never got any more lift, we’d still arrive over Hood at 9,000 feet.”

But there was plenty of lift on the way back too so some determined descending by the pilot in the “sink” part of the wave.  On landing I heard from a few people (with just a tinge of envy) that I had got very lucky with a fantastic wave day and had had a true “gold” gliding experience.

And it was great.  So next time Masterton Soaring Club has a trial day, give it a go.

Nicola Little


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