Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sustainable Saturday - The Airshow and the Glider

Today, we had an airshow in the Binghamton area of upstate New York.   Sounds so simple.

It was our first one since 2009.  So many reasons.  Cancelled due to airport construction.  One cancelled because our area was still recovering from a massive flood.  Cancelled due to extensive road construction.  Last year, it almost happened, but then it was cancelled. One reason given was te budget cuts and its effects on military airshow participants.  This one was nearly cancelled, too.  A local casino stepped up and sponsored the show, along with several other businesses.

We had the usual kinds of performers - acrobatic airplanes, a couple of vintage airplanes that had been restored (one from 1931), the Golden Knights parachute team from the United States Army.  Lots of noise, of course. 

You can barely see two Golden Knights under the plume of pink smoke
The louder the plane, the more children seem to like it.  And, it was pretty nice watching expert parachutists.  My son has parachuting on his bucket list. I don't.

But it was one act that seemed to make the people around me really take notice, including the children, and it surprised me a little.  I've been to several air shows in my life, and this was a new act for me.

The pilot spoke as he was being lifted to the starting point of his act.  The name of the act was the Manfred Radius Sailplane. A sailplane (which I call a glider)????

His glider was lifted into the air by an airplane and brought to attitude.  Then, it separated from the airplane and started to glide down - totally under the power of the atmospheric air, heated by the sun.

Classical music played as the glider turned smoke on and made shapes high up in the sky.  Sun gleamed off its wings as it started down in the almost cloudless sky..  It made a shape like a heart and children whispered "it's a heart!  It's making a wish!"  It may have been doing acrobatics - it was hard to tell.

I wish I knew what the piece was.  I'm not knowledgeable about many of the performing arts.  I could imagine this music being played at a ballet.  Soft, slow, it was perfect music for gliding.

Glider Acrobatics
I've thought on and off about riding in a (non-acrobatic) glider one day.  My spouse and I live only an hour or so from one of the premier soaring areas in the United States - Harris Hill.

This is what a flight from Harris Hill looks like.  What I love about gliding is the silence.  I was in a single engine aircraft many years ago and the loud drone literally put me to sleep.  I missed the entire experience.

Perhaps you can't call a glider truly sustainable - it needs a powered airplane to tow it. But, it depends on forces of nature to fly, once up. You must know where you can catch thermals - a column of rising air.  You must think like a bird.

Have you ever ridden in a glider?


  1. Yes, I have ridden in one actually twice in my life when I was an air cadet many moons ago! The first time was somewhat dizzying as the pilot went twirling about higher and higher in elevation, the second most delightful.

    I would love, if you can, to hear the music...are you able to download it as a video? :)

  2. Awesome clicks..sounds like a fun Saturday :)

  3. Nope. I think I'd be scared!
    That first photo is fantastic!

  4. We use to live by the air-port in Bonners Ferry and someone with an air plane from about WWI use to do practice and we had a free show

  5. Think like a bird--I like that. Maybe I'll write a piece from the bird's point of view. It must be a wonderful experience to float in the air. But I'd find a hot air balloon less terrifying. I'd much rather say on the ground and look into the cloudless sky.

  6. Hey Alana, I love your photographs!
    I agree with Francene- I envy birds and I'd really love to have a trip in a hot air balloon. It's a shame it's so expensive!

  7. Yes, I've been gliding--two years ago when my family visited my niece in Germany. She and her boyfriend belong to a gliding club at their university, and we spent a very lovely Saturday afternoon at the glider field, each of us having a turn as a passenger. Our gliders were launched by a huge cable rather than by an airplane tow line. It was all very fascinating. They used old Mercedes to tow the planes back from the end of the landing strip back to the start--my husband said it was like a retirement home for the Mercedes!


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