ouve probably heard that soaring is not a sport to be lightly taken. Anybody foolish enough to look at a motorless plane cancels his insurance immediately. Ask Dick Du Pont or Jack OMeara.
Or read the rest of this.
I had been doing quite a little flitting about on silent wings, using auto towgaining altitude by means of a rope from the back of a car to the nose of your glider and cutting loose when you get two, five, six hundred feet upstairs. Its all very silent and very spooky, sitting up in the clouds with never a sound but the whisper of wind in your struts and maybe the slap, slap, slap of a helmet strap whipping back up over the leading edge. Id gotten a first class ratingDepartment of Commerce Motorless Aircraft License 385 if you want a verificationand Id been used to utility gliders which look like a power ship without a motor, having an enclosed cockpit.
Once I had me a neat little thrill when an updraft which roared like ten thousand tigers hit one wing, bopped up the nose when I was almost stalling and threw me over for a full turn from four hundred feet. Coming down I could look straight ahead and count every blade of grass. The whole world went in a wide circle like looking straight down on a humming top, rushing up at me hundreds of feet at a bite. I couldnt get the controls to take until I was about thirty feet off. Then I straightened her through some luck which is still a back debt, and I shot level at about ninety miles an hourand a soaring plane goes at about twenty in regular flight.
Outside of a couple of minor scrapes, this was all that had happened to me out of a couple hundred flights, some of them rather long, upwards to two hours without a motor or an oar, just floating along with the breeze.
And so I thought I was the guy Old Lady Luck had always wanted to favor, and I thought I could get away with most anything.
Being young and foolish, I borrowed me some more time off the old gentleman with the whiskers, and took a trip up to Michigan. Port Huron, to be exact.
Up there some lads had organized, eighteen months before my arrival, a glider club. They had a ship but they had made one mistake. Like almost any power pilot will try to tell you, they believed anybody could fly one of those box kites and come out whole. But after two attempts to get off, their nerves failed them and they put the crate in a barn and decided that they were valuable to their wives and children.
And there the crate lay, all covered with dust and hay, with the piano wire rusted half through and the dope cracking on the ancient muslin.
Anybody with half his wits about him would have recognized that it was a flying wooden kimono. But I believed, praising Allah, that my luck was forever good.
I told these lads that I would teach them how to fly this thing for so much per flight and they all said that was fine, but I better see if the thing would fly first as it had never been off the ground.
Nothing daunted, we promptly hauled the withered, battered wreck from its comfortable warm hay and assembled it.
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