Bill's Story - "...I will always remember my first solo ride, the solitude, the feeling of true freedom, and the celebration on the ground after I landed. It wasn't long after my solo that I took my FAA check ride, received my Glider License, and could take my friends and family for a glider ride! Learning to fly gliders first was a major advantage when I decided to fly power planes. All of the skills that I learned with gliders tranferred to flying power and saved me hours and hours of power instruction..."
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Alain's Story - "...Perhaps, like me, you have reached a 'well-balanced' point in your life; successful in your business, happy in your family, but your inner voice is telling you to search for a something unique where you could be YOU and just you? Your youthful dream of flight is waiting for you to rediscover it. If you are the curious type who loves to learn and seeks both adventure and excellence, then the sport of flying sailplanes may be made for you..."
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Dave G.'s Story - ..."The flying has been great, but no less important has been the chance to establish friendships with a great group of people. I will always be grateful to PGC and the flight instructors and friends who have enabled me to realize my dream of flight. There is really nothing like it..."
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Dave J.'s Story - ..."Wanting to find a more economical approach I looked into soaring. I did a web search and found The Philadelphia Glider Council. Annual dues seemed reasonable, but with the bonus that instruction was free! Aircraft rental was free! This looked like a deal that was too good to be true..."
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Backgound: I am a married 57 year old with two sons, ages 17 and 22. My education is in Civil and Electronic Engineering, and I work for the State of New Jersey managing Capitol Improvement construction contracts. I hold a private pilot glider and private pilot single engine land and own a Piper Cherokee.
My PGC Story: Ever since I was a kid, airplanes have fascinated me, and I started building models when I was 7 or 8 years old. My first one was a control line plane with a Cox .049 gas engine that I flew many times. From there I moved into radio controlled models, both power and gliders, and eventually a helicopter. When I was 15 years old, my friend's Dad took me for my first flight in a glider; which happened to be the first time I ever flew. I'll never forget the experience of leaving the ground for the first time! Years later in 1984, when I was 24, my neighbor who chanced to be a PGC member asked if I wanted to go for a flight. Of course I did and was so excited by the experience that I filled out an application to join PGC before I left the field that day. Being newly married, just buying a house, holding down a full time job, and attending college, I found I did not have the time to fly and unfortunately left the club.
Fast forward twenty years to 2004, I rejoined and was dedicated to learning to fly. I received all of my training materials, met a great group of people and immediately felt welcome in the club. I usually met with my primary instructor, Joel, on Sunday mornings to take 2 or 3 flights and talk about them afterwards. At first I would fly the plane only after he did the tow to altitude and then he would talk me through the landing process. It wasn't long before I got the hang of the tow and was at the controls from take off through landing. I started going to the field as much as I could, and if Joel couldn't meet me there it was very easy to fly with other instructors.
Although learning to fly was the main goal, learning and participating in the field operations was just as much fun. During my first year I was an assistant field manager for my three field duty days, launching and retrieving gliders, and helping with all the tasks needed to run operations. After the first year I was "promoted" to field manager and was running operations with a crew of my own. The transition was very smooth, and there's nothing like being a field manager on a perfect day for soaring! (Editor's note: All PGC members are required to sign up for 3 days of field operations duty per year. The Field Manager and the Assistant Manager are responsible for maintaining a smooth and safe flow of aircraft, pilots, launches, retrievals of landed gliders, assigning those waiting to fly to help with operations, recording flights, coordinating with tow pilots and instructors, being sure that the gliders are thoroughly checked out before starting operations, working "commercial" guest flights into the schedule, and being sure that everything is put away safely at the end of the day.) Eventually, when flying with Joel, we talked less about my flying skills and more about other topics and one day before I knew it he said, "Ready to go by yourself?" I will always remember my first solo, the solitude, the feeling of true freedom, and the celebration on the ground after I landed. It wasn't long after my solo that I took my FAA check ride, received my Glider License, and could take my friends and family for a glider ride! Learning to fly gliders first was a major advantage when I decided to fly power planes. All of the skills that I learned with gliders transferred to flying power and saved me hours and hours of power instruction. After five hours training I soloed in a Cessna 152 and after 41 flight hours passed my FAA Checkride and got the Single Engine Land rating .
To me, PGC is more than a place to go and fly for a couple of hours. When each of my sons turned 12 years old they joined PGC as well. It was wonderful family time going out for breakfast and spending the day up at the field with them as they both learned to fly. My entire family would spend the day flying, picnicking and camping overnight with other members and their families. I feel a tremendous sense of community at PGC with a very diverse group of people with a common interest. There is always something going on whether it's a spot landing contest, a group of guests from the MG or Astronomy club, Woman's Day, Neighbors Day, Camping overnight, or just a PGC picnic there is always activity. In fact, while still a passionate glider pilot, there are times I go to the field not to fly but just to hang out for a few hours with other members and guests. I always feel welcome and at home when I'm at the field!
Do you have what it takes to become a glider pilot?
Perhaps you have always been interested in aviation and curious to learn more about it. Did your dad give you a balsa glider kit when you were a child? Did you start to build model airplanes or join the local Radio Control Flying Club as you were getting older? Maybe you went to a local airshow and were intoxicated by the sights and sounds of engines, propellers, and wings executing their maneuvers in the skies above. That's how my dream of flight was born, but as life moved on other opportunities and pressing demands emerged; education, career, marriage, family, and community responsibilities among them. Perhaps like me you have now reached a "well-balanced" point in your life; successful in your business, happy in your family, but your inner voice is telling you to search for something unique where you could be YOU and just you? Your youthful dream of flight is waiting for you to rediscover it. If you are the curious type who loves to learn and seeks both adventure and excellence, then the sport of flying sailplanes may be made for you. Soaring, also known as glider flying, is uniquely fulfilling and rewarding not only because of its inherent beauty but because it is demands the best of you and offers new opportunities for discovery on every flight. Beyond pure stick and rudder skills the soaring pilot aspires to master a detailed understanding of the atmosphere, navigation, decision making, aerodynamics, aero-medical factors and ultimately honesty and humility.
As a 17 year old in my native France I took my first glider ride in a Grob Twin Astir. An air show was scheduled at an airport near our radio controlled model club, and a pilot showed up at our field asking if someone was interested in getting a free glider ride at the show. Well, he did not tell the full story, he was looking for someone to be front seat ballast for a full aerobatic performance! Many rolls, loops and spins later I was washed out, but I swallowed the sailplane bait; hook, line, and sinker. My early dream of flight was fed well enough to stay alive and well while I took the next 17 years to meet my wife, kick off a career, and welcome our two daughters.
In my mid 30's, I felt the need to develop my aviation dreams. I joined a renowned glider club located west of Paris and started training. At the club my gliding experience was a blend of both fruitful learning and frustration; lots of long days waiting with no guarantee of getting a flight. However, after 15 hours of instruction I soloed... and felt reborn. The feeling that I could independently fly the fiberglass 15 meter white bird was brilliant and fulfilled the months of practice. The next rewarding element came with my first flight in which I was able to stay aloft for a full hour using only my knowledge atmospheric circulation. I can now stay airborne 2, 3, 5 hours as long as convective conditions persist; all with no engine.
By 2008 I had made enough progress to start cross country instruction. My training culminated in a 300 kilometer XC flight in the Alps in a high performance Duo Discus sailplane. The flight also included my first mountain wave flying experience ascending up to 4300 meters (14,000 Feet). I had always been a big fan of extreme sports, but this surpassed by a factor 10 any experience I ever had before.
In 2010 I relocated with my family to New Jersey and decided to experience soaring in the USA. I joined PGC and went through their curriculum and re-soloed to get my US glider license. Since then I have bought a glider, in partnership with another club member, and completed the Silver Badge tasks in 2014. I have 240 hours to date in gliders and I'm now an active and avid cross country pilot working to complete my Gold badge. (Editor's note: The badges symbolize completion of soaring tasks of increasing difficulty requiring more expertise.)
The amount of time needed to build your knowledge, experience and skills to become a safe glider pilot is considerable and should not be undertaken lightly. It can be a way of life... But just roll a thermal, wing in wing with a bald eagle, and all the beauty of the world is there, just waiting for you.
(Stop by the Philadelphia Glider Club's beautiful grass gliderport in Hilltown, Bucks County, PA any nice weekend to get acquainted and see if soaring might fulfill your dream of flight.)
Dave's Profile: 67 year old married retired neuropsychologist with Private Pilot Glider and Self-launch endorsement. Cross country soaring experience and current motor glider owner. Hobbies include flying, road biking, skiing, white water sports PGC member 16 years. No prior aviation experience.
Dave's Story: I was one of the kids who ran outside to see the DC-3's roaring overhead in the summer skies of my home town. I was fascinated by kites, paper airplanes, balsa wood gliders, Estes model rockets, and building .049 gas engine powered planes. There wasn't much support for aviation-related activity within my family, and the dream of flight more or less went to sleep in my teen years not to be re-awakened until a chance encounter at age 47. A long-retired SAC bomber crew member came to my office for help with a minor insomnia problem. During the course of conducting the exam we began to chat about his military experience. He had been stationed for a time in Alaska and was one of the flyers tasked with manning the nuclear armed B-52 bombers during the cold war.
A few weeks later he came in for a follow up visit and was excited to tell me about a glider ride his grandkids had bought for him at the Kutztown airport (now closed). He gave me the flight school's business card, and I made an appointment for a lesson early on a June evening. I went up with the instructor in a Krosno glider and released from the tow plane at about 4,000 feet above ground level. For a moment I had the illusion that it was the tow rope that held us up in the air, but at once found that the wings did a fine job of keeping us aloft. My instructor introduced me to the controls, and I was completely hooked. After a few lessons, one of the instructors took me aside and let me know that there was a great soaring club, PGC in Bucks County, much nearer to my home than Kutztown. ("I really shouldn't tell you this, but..."). I visited PGC, was well greeted by enthusiastic glider pilots, and in a short time was a member. I had always believed that aviation was out of my financial reach; what with kids to raise and impending tuition bills. However, I discovered that flying at PGC was remarkably inexpensive relative to some other hobbies, and I began lessons.
I fit into the training schedule and started to learn basic stick and rudder skills. In those days we were still flying the already obsolete Schweizer 2-33 trainers, but it was an absolute hoot to get up into the sky. The learning process is not always a smooth ascent, and I hit a frustrating plateau when it came time to learn how to follow the tow plane up at the end of the tow line. I was all over the sky. Eventually, my instructor took me aside and gave me the magic clue, "Dave, you're trying too hard, and it's making you over-control. Loosen up, do less, and just match the tow plane's bank angle." Bingo! Among the most wonderful moments of my flying life was the day I actually learned how to thermal and gained altitude just by circling in lift. At about that time the club made the bold transition to modern fiberglass (Grob) sailplanes, and I had to unlearn some of the Schweizer habits. The Grobs were a real revelation. They could glide about 35 feet forward for every foot of altitude loss, and they were fast and quiet with precise controls. Bank a Grob into a good thermal, center your circle on its hot core, maintain optimum speed, and baby the world below you really spreads out. Before I knew it I was ready to solo. As I sat alone for the first time in an aircraft ready to launch I had a brief moment of self-doubt, but then the routine kicked in and a few minutes later I was in the sky ready to release from the tow plane. The flight itself was fully routine, as it should have been, but there was nothing routine about how I felt. In due time, I bought my own used single seat glider and embarked on increasingly long excursions from our home field. I've now flown several different types of gliders and participated in cross-country soaring, ridge and wave flying, and in my retirement now fly my 2 seat touring motor glider. The flying has been great, but no less important has been the chance to establish friendships with a great group of people. I will always be grateful to PGC and the flight instructors and friends who have enabled me to realize my dream of flight. There is really nothing like it.
When I was eight years old I had a book "Ann can fly" about a young girl who's father flys her to summer camp. And he lets her fly part of the way, giving her a great story to tell at camp. I wanted to fly, but time and money made that a distant dream.
Many years later a layoff with generous severance gave me both time and money to get my private pilot certificate. Of course once the money ran out I had to stop flying and put all my efforts into my consulting business.
The world of business is a strange place, a few years went by and I got a call from my old employer, would I come back? I agreed for what I thought would be at most six months. Just enough to fill the coffers and get a fresh start on the consulting business. It soon became apparent this gig would last more then six months and they were willing to pay me at least what I could get consulting. So my thoughts returned to flying.
Wanting to find a more economical approach I looked into soaring. My power instructor had suggested that a glider rating would improve my flying over all. I did a web search and found The Philadelphia Glider Council. Annual dues seemed reasonable, but with the bonus that instruction was free! Aircraft rental was free. This looked like a deal that was too good to be true. I did a little more research and drove out to visit the field. It was a week day and the only soul around was their chief tow pilot, Joe, who was more than happy to show me around. I signed up. It was a thrill to get in the air again. I had only really expected to stay long enough to get my certificate, but I got sucked in to being on the board, setting up web cams, helping on the web page. I found a real bunch of misfits, not unlike myself, who loved to fly.
Shortly after getting my glider rating, while hanging out at the club, Jim asked; "anyone want a share of a Skylane?" I though, what the hell, why not? And I found my self part owner of a Cessna 182 and working on my Instrument rating. At one point half of the Skylane owners were also PGC members.
I've finished the Instrument and am now working on my commercial, glider rating again at PGC. No rush, just good safe flying.