Readers of this blog will know that I took up gliding in May this year and I have notched up over 40 flights on my way to being allowed to fly solo.

It is fair to say that I may have been a bit optimistic in thinking that I would have mastered all the skills by the end of the summer, but I have improved greatly (according to my instructor).

One particular high point occurred last Friday when I made a perfect landing. On returning to the launch point two of my fellow pilots said “that was a really good landing”, praise indeed. I was keen to do it again to prove that it wasn’t a fluke and my next landing, although not as good, was acceptable.

I freely admit that landing has been the most difficult of all the tasks and one that I have had to work really hard, and continue to do so to get right. I am still hoping to go solo but before the year end.

Flying a glider is a bit like carrying out a risk assessment:

  • Is the wind in the right direction and is it gusting?
  • Do I feel fit to fly?
  • Has the glider been inspected before flight?
  • Have I carried out the proper pre-flight checks?
  • Are there any hazards?
  • Have I been briefed by my instructor for the flight?

If any of these are negative then I will not fly. My usual instructor is also the Safety Officer for the Club and he has taught me to be very safety aware.

If I kill myself while flying, it is highly likely that he will be killed as well, as he is sitting behind me. (Something he tells me he is keen to avoid). Even an accident means lots of paperwork and the psychological impact both of us could be severe.

I remember that in my Royal Air Force days one fighter squadron had a chipmunk trainer for fun. Some pilots used to think of it as a toy plane. In the cockpit there was a sign that said “All aeroplanes bite fools. There are old pilots and bold pilots but very, very few old bold pilots”.

I will remember that.

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