Last saturday was one of those marvellous days where I managed to cross something off my “must-do-before-I’m-30” list. This list has existed for a long time and has had several different names through it’s life. Most recently it was called the “must-do-before-I’m-25-list”, but I changed it after I turned 25 and realised I’d crossed nothing off it.
For most people, this sort of thing is a bit of a cliche. The notion of a list is theoretical, a figure of speech. I have an actual list. And I got to cross something off it. That thing was this.
I don’t mean just sitting in a random plane as it went through the sky, I’ve done that lots before. And I don’t mean some sort of miraculous elongated jumping / upwards falling where contact with the ground is lost for an unnecessary period of time having previously required an elaborate deal with the Universe that gravity looks the other way for a bit.
No. This was sitting at the controls of a plane and MAKING IT DO WHAT I WANTED!!!!!!
Specifically, it was sitting at the controls of (G-BUFR), which is (apparently) a Slingsby T61 Venture T2. The more eagle-eyed amongst you will notice, instantly, that this isn’t actually a plane, but a motorised glider.
This is where it gets interesting. A motorised glider is, depending on your perspective, a plane with wings that are a bit unsociably long, or a glider that someone’s cleverly rigged up an old crap engine to.
Either way, it offers two key advantages over both traditional planes and more traditional gliders. Firstly, it can take off without the aid of a winch or a tug plane. As we bounced merrily down a lumpy field in Sussex, it looked, felt, sounded like a creaky old plane. Secondly, you can reach a point during the flight where the Man In Charge says something like: “Now, if we just turn the engine off, we can go gliding”.
I’m told all planes will glide. Some glide better than others. No matter how much reassurance you’ve been given about a particular glider’s abilities,, nothing quite prepares you for a friendly chap flying something that, up until that point, had given every indication that it was a plane, suddenly saying “Lets turn the engines off, shall we?”. It’s a little scary.
Once you get of the ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH moment, you realise you were being a bit silly and nothing much has changed. It still feels exactly the same, some of the noises are a bit different and you’re heading towards the ground a bit more than you were before. But it feels rather pleasant. I can certainly see why a lot of people do this rather regularly, even if it does mean you need about a million pounds a day before you can really start to enjoy yourself.
I can see myself doing this sort of thing some day. Maybe after I’ve mastered sailing. Sailing, I shall talk about soon.