A trip over WestJet

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
A memoir of a flight in a Schweitzer SGS 2-33A with a strong crosswind. Shows that no matter the weather, the sky is always calling.

Submitted: February 24, 2009

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Submitted: February 24, 2009



A Trip Over WestJet

It was my third solo flight, and I was screaming at the top of my lungs.

There’s a freedom in flight that nothing can compare; a release from responsibility and obligations, which opens into a liberating ocean of immunity. Bathed in sun-split clouds, all your burdens dissipate, your mind being vanquished by the mere tranquility of the world, yourself being nothing more than another zephyr amidst a colourful vista. In the air, the world may be grasped and formed with the tips of your fingers, or crushed between your palms. However, at times like these, the earth pools into hot liquid, and you find it seeping from between cupped fingers. At times like these, things could turn to hell.

It’s better to be down here, wishing you were up there… my instructor’s voice echoed through my skull. Than to be up there, wishing you were down here. Was he ever right! The wind was pounding gusts into me at well beyond fifteen knots, and my small glider was handling like a ship in a storm.

As the turbulence shifted from mild to severe, my prodding conscience insisted that I join the circuit and land, else be blown out of the practice area. I banked my aircraft, turning towards where I was to join my circuit, and I kept one wing low to counteract the rivaling crosswind. I quickly ran over my downwind check, ensuring that all of the aircraft controls were functional.

Slowly, I approached the entrance point, constantly being forced to swing the controls about as each encroaching wave assaulted and then trifled away. However, I found myself five hundred feet higher than ideal. I pitched the nose forward, picking up airspeed, and applied full right rudder while keeping my wings banked to the left.

The tremors of the aircraft, my plunging altitude, and the fact that my aircraft began moving forty degrees off the angle it faced assured me of my successful forward slip. I watched as my altimeter lagged, then began dropping at an alarming rate. Once the altimeter read twelve-hundred feet, I carefully released both aileron and rudder gracefully; returning my aircraft to relatively gentle flight. Another gust drove into the glider; I had to hastily react in order to keep the glider upright.

Judging my position relative to the landing strip, I performed a one-eighty degree medium turn. Slowly the assailing wind was backing off as I approached ground level.

Relieved, I ensured that I flew parallel to the landing strip by envisioning an endless line that extended to be horizon in front of both my aircraft and the grass strip. I set my aircraft to keep a nose-low attitude, staying at fifty miles per hour, and then I double-checked my altitude. I reached for the radio, pausing to be sure that there were no on-going transmissions, and so that I could rehearse my message within my head.

“Comox Tower. This is glider seven, downwind right for grass one-eight.” I announced monotonously, squeezing the input button with my left hand, as I controlled the glider with my right.

“Glider seven, wind is two-seven-zero at fifteen, gusting twenty. Mind that West Jet is on runway two-seven; keep final tight.” The Tower replied.

“Glider seven.” I answered. Though movies say otherwise, roger and wilco aren’t always used during radio communications.

I placed the radio back in its holster and rechecked my position, airspeed and altitude; I was abeam to the landing strip, still parallel, but I had to open my spoilers to reduce my altitude. It’s always important to maintain a steady downwind. A good downwind brings a good base, a good base – a good final, a good final – a perfect landing.

After constantly rechecking my position, airspeed and altitude, I banked right, while controlling my altitude by use of spoilers. I noticed that the wind seemed to have completely dissipated. What a relief!

Directly in front of me, West Jet sat at the end of the runway, its massive empennage portraying turquoise triangles, with a large blue tail-shaped design extending from the fuselage. The standardized WestJet logo was printed along the outside of the cabin.

Adjusting my airspeed to sixty-five, I anxiously estimated my final turn. Nearing the crossroad between bearing and secant, I banked my wings right. Little did I expect of what ensued consequently. A final confrontation of glider versus wind - man versus nature - occurred ruthlessly.

The wind came charging, plowing my glider in an unexpected current of malevolence. Panicking, I threw the controls against the wind. Checking my altimeter, I was only three hundred feet above the ground. Quickly glancing about, I couldn’t see West Jet anywhere, than a sudden awareness punched me in the gut - I was directly above West Jet, only one hundred feet away of impacting its rudder.

I went into a steep turn, dangerous at such low altitudes. The wind exhausted its last resources, and stifled itself into a nothing more than a breeze. Sweating, I returned back to the landing strip, flared, and skirted it until my main wheel gently impacted the hard surface. Rolling to a stop, I leaned my head back, sighed, and looked out the dusty canopy.

High cirrus clouds watched back from high in sunlit silence, floating about in an unearthly grace. An eagle soared about with uncommon glee, turning and wheeling amidst spiraling columns of blue. The west winds cut through peaked mountains, forging the world beneath its cool touch. The earth around the glider was alien and barren, yet the heavens contained infinite horizons, each casting its own visage of the ideal; each encompassing its own sunset. In such a scene, there could be only one thing sure…

I wanted back up.

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