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Wild Rides: An airplane with no engine

10:12 AM, Mar 19, 2008   |    comments
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On 9News 6 a.m., Pilots Dave Campbell and Sean Mackinder from Mile High Gliding sat down with Gregg Moss. They said gliding is an incredibly rewarding way to fly and also challenges the pilot in ways conventional flying can't.

Sailplanes are towed into the air by another, usually single engine, airplane. Once they get high enough in the sky, the towplane detaches and the sailplane is on its own. Before taking flight, pilots check a government issued "soaring forecast", which details the current and expected conditions of thermals. Thermals are the columns of air created when hot air generated at the earth's surface rises. Those rising air masses create lift for sailplanes and aid in control. Glider pilots learn to judge the thermals during flight and then land the same way as a conventional aircraft.

Many pilots who fly sailplanes say the most unique part of the flight is the silence. With no engine noise, pilots hear the wind whooshing by and little else.

Mile High Gliding offers several different packages for people to ride sailplanes for fun or to get licensed to fly one their own. According to the Mile High Gliding website, the training process that leads to getting a sailplane license consists of five steps:

1. Basic Flying Phase
Here you will learn about the effects of the controls, and how to perform straight glides, turns, slips, slow flight and stalls, how to interpret flight instruments and maintain vigilance for air traffic, and how to take off and follow the towplane. Tow altitudes for these flights are 2,000 to 3,000 feet above ground level (AGL).

2. Landing Phase
After your basic flying abilities have developed, a number of shorter flights are used to refine your judgment and skill in patterns and landings. In these lessons, you will take several tows to 1,200 feet AGL.

3. Review and Emergencies
In this phase, your instructor will teach you how to cope safely with abnormal occurrences such as incipient spins, towrope breaks, and returns to the airport at low altitude. You will also review maneuvers covered in the first two phases and take a short pre-solo written test before making your first solo flight!

4. Solo Flying Phase
During this period you will be flying mostly by yourself, with periodic instruction flights to monitor your improvement and ensure good flying habits. To earn a private pilot certificate, student pilots need a minimum of 20 training flights totaling at least 10 hours in the air, including a minimum of 10 solo flights totaling at least 2 hours in the air, and also must study for and pass the FAA knowledge examination. Airplane pilots adding a glider rating need a minimum of 10 training flights totaling at least 3 hours in the air, including a minimum of 10 solo flights of any duration (no knowledge exam required).

5. Preparation for Practical Test
In this final stage, your instructor will work closely with you on both flight and ground lessons to make sure you are knowledgeable and proficient in all areas before signing you off to take the FAA practical test (an oral test and a flight test). After passing the practical test, you will be issued your private pilot certificate with glider rating.

For more information on soaring, contact Mile High Gliding at 303-527-1122 or log on to www.milehighgliding.com.  The company is based out of the Boulder Municipal Airport.

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