It was not the kind of ship I had been used to. It was not one of these sleek, g-to-the-devil demons that flowed through chunks of blue with never a tremble. It was what is known as a primary glider. I had never flown one of them before. It was a leftover from the craze which hit this country from Germany about 1927. None of these ships, I discovered later, could fly, and yet men bought them and said, One thing about gliding, you dont have to have any instruction. Oh, well, maybe they like pushing daisies, some of those guys.
It got about the countryside, that afternoon, that a young feller was going to take that there contraption off and go skittering around in it without no motor. As that was quite impossible, the Sunday joy riders all came out to the clodded field to watch. Some five hundred people were there, and as I was never known for modesty, I got me a boy with a Model A Ford and told him how to tow gliders.
He took off in his car, but the glider stayed down. The wind was blowing about thirty miles and the next try he tried it at forty-five in spite of screaming springs.
Fine, I got off that time. Straight flight, although the controls were soggy, and all was well. The next flight I got up to about two hundred feet and landed straight on into the wind again. Fine. Now Id see what the lousy piece of junk would do. Id try a full turn, downwind, at four hundred feet.
Now I must explain that this primary didnt have a cockpit. You sat out on a thin board and you could see earth between your knees. Your feet were strapped to the rudders and a safety belt held you against the frame. You were all out in the open, completely unprotected, with wires running out in every direction from you.I got away with the next several turns and all was well. The thing had a flying speed of wind plus car, of about seventy-five miles an hourthree times too fast exactly.
Then came the last flight that sky surfboard would ever make. I got the full stretch of the rope and cut loose. The ship bounced up, free and bucking like a bronc. I whipped the nose down and it came up again. Four hundred feet above the earth, I heard a sound something like BBs hitting a bell.
I went over to a forty-five degree list instantly. The controls sagged and wouldnt take. Four hundred cold hard feet below was the earthalmost four-fifths of the way up the Washington Monument.
And me with no control over this crazy steed. The wings were folded up, the flying wires, already rusty, could not have stood the strain of that last lurch. No wings, and almost an angel.
The nose, because I was the weight there, went suddenly down. The ship changed into an aerial bomb, using me for the fragmentation. I was about to be exploded over several acres of Michigan cow pasture. Id hit, strapped there as I was, unable even to withdraw my feet, and then the plane would be a mallet to drive me into the ground. Ugh!
Gathering speed, the plane and I began to whistle. The earth was still a long, long ways away. I became impatient. Here I was falling at it, accelerating according to Newtons law at 32.2 feet per second, and I wasnt going anywhere at sixty miles or better per, straight down.
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