Soaring is a challenging sport, but it is also extremely fun and beautiful. It is flying using the natural thermals and winds that occur everyday. You start out just gliding a short distance, and build your skills and confidence to be able to fly hundreds of miles and many hours in a single flight.
I flew hang gliders from 1984 until 2006. Hang Gliding is a pure form of soaring with mother nature, feeling the air changing temperatures on your face, that includes freezing too. You fly slower and closer to the terrain and can land in a much smaller field. Your legs are your landing gear.
I have been flying gliders (sailplanes) since late 2003, ever since a good friend of mine that also flew hang gliders earned his glider pilots license and told me that I really have to try sailplanes. I took flying lessons at Crazy Creek Air Adventures and really got hooked on the performance of a sailplane. I continued at Crazy Creek where I earned my private glider pilot license in November 2003. I flew both hang gliders and sailplanes for about 3 years (2003 to 2006), but I finally realized that I preferred the performance of a sailplane to that of a hang glider. Both forms of flight let me experience the beauty and challenge of using Mother Nature’s powerful wind currents to stay in the air.
In early 2004 I purchased a used ASW-24 single seat glider that I loved to fly.
I flew that until late in 2006 when I sold it in to get the money to pay for my my brand new glider. My ASG-29 was ordered from Germany, and took almost 2 years from date of my order until I flew it for the first time on Feb. 3, 2007. Initially I planned to to fly 2 or 3 weekends per month, starting at Crazy Creek Air Adventures. After a couple of years I started flying at Williams Soaring Center in Williams, CA. When I can, I also tow my glider to other sites and fly there, such as Truckee, CA; Avenal, CA; Minden, NV; Air Sailing, NV; Montague, CA, and many times back to Crazy Creek.
My Schleicher ASG-29 glider was manufactured in Germany, by Alexander Schleicher . The ASG-29 is a single seat high performance glider with a 52:1 glide ratio. The wing span is 59 feet (18 meters). It is a great glider and although it is a sold as a racing glider, it is pretty easy to handle.
What does ‘glide ratio mean’?
A glide ratio of 52 to 1 means that the glider will glide 52 feet forward for every 1 foot it descends. So if this glider is towed 1 mile high, it will be able glide 52 miles forward. Of course, that is the perfect situation, and ‘your mileage may vary’.
Solar Panels – this glider is equipped with optional solar panels to recharge my battery on the ground, and help keep it charged when I fly. The panels are small, so they will not fully recharge the battery while I have all my equipment turned on, but it helps extend the battery life so I can fly for 5 to 7 hours on one battery before I have to switch to my backup battery.
Here is a picture of a contest at Avenal, CA, near Coalinga (central California). We are pushing our gliders onto the field, set in in a Grid pattern which is the order we are launched. In a contest we are only towed 2,000 feet off the ground and have to stay aloft until the start gate is open, then fly the course.
My glider does not have an engine. Sometimes mother nature shuts down and does not provide enough lift to keep me in the air. This means that there are times when I end up landing away from my intended airport.
The last picture is of my landing in a field 9 miles short of the airport. The field on the right was large enough to land in, but the large dirt clods caused some minor cosmetic damage.
Next time I will pick an airport. A smooth airport is better than a rough field. I only had to wait about 3 hours to get picked up, so that was pretty good, considering that several other gliders also landed out on this day.