“It’s only when you’re flying above it that you realize how incredible the Earth really is.”Philippe Perrin
I honestly couldn’t agree more with this quote.
My first time on a plane was at the age of four when we did a family trip to Turkey. Ever since then, I’ve been truly fascinated and kind of addicted to the feeling of being high up in the air.
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Last week, I ticked something off that had been on my bucket list for a very long time. It had something to do with flying but not the typical kind we all know.
A couple of years ago, my Dad learned how to fly a glider and earned his own pilot license. Just a year later, he also tried motor gliding and got his license for this type of aircraft too.
Even though I’d been to the small airfield he was flying from a few times before, I never joined him for a flight.
Until two weeks ago, when I gathered all my courage and tried motor gliding for the first time ever!
What is Motor Gliding?
Before I start writing about my experience, I think it’s interesting to know more about motor gliding and the difference compared to normal gliding.
Gliders or sailplanes are basically unpowered aircraft which means they don’t have an engine.
To fly a glider, pilots need to use naturally occurring rising air to remain above the ground. They usually need another plane to carry them up in the air as gliders are not self-launching.
Besides standard gliding, there’s a discipline called glider aerobatics in which pilots fly specific maneuvers such as loops or barrel rolls.
It’s really fascinating to watch from the ground but I would never want to actually sit in one of the gliders during these maneuvers. 😀
In contrast to sailplanes, motor glides do have engines and can be flown with or without power. Motor gliders are also often used as tow planes for normal gliders.
The cabin of motor gliders is mostly wider with two seats side by side whereas normal gliders have seats behind each other.
Every time before a flight, it’s important to do certain pre-flight checks.
My Dad had done them many, many times before so he knew exactly what he needed to do.
First, he opened the tank opening to see if there was enough gasoline. In our case, there wasn’t so we had to pull the glider to the gas station.
This may sound like an extraordinary act of strength but the glider weighed “only” 600 kilos.
Next, he went around the glider to have a look if there was any visible damage. Luckily, he didn’t spot anything noticeable.
Another important thing on the list of pre-flight checks was controlling the tire pressure.
Even though tires are basically useless when up in the air, they’re still crucial for the start and landing of the motor glider. Thus it’s necessary to make sure everything’s correct so there won’t be any problems.
After everything was fine outside of the glider, it was time to take a look inside.
Hereby, my Dad told me, the most significant thing to consider is that there’s not a single unfixed object that could move around.
He told me that once there was an accident where someone lost a coin which then got into the engine and caused a crash.
I definitely didn’t want this to happen so I checked twice if all my belongings were safely stowed.
After we completed all these pre-flight checks, it was time to climb into the motor glider and roll to the runway from where we started.
Am I really going to do this?
At this point, I want to be completely honest with you and tell you that I was SO close to changing my mind.
My legs were shaking like hell and my heart was jumping out of my chest. I think the last time I was that nervous was when I had to write my college admission test.
Seriously, all I wanted to do at this moment was to turn around and just leave.
Well, I guess my passion for flying was too strong because I somehow overcame my extreme nervousness and hopped into the glider … or rather dragged my shaking body into it. 😀
Once at the starting point of the runway, my Dad had to check the oil temperature and the motor function before it was finally time for us to get up high in the air!
Up in The Air
It would be a lie if I told you that my nervousness disappeared as soon as the tires left the ground.
I was sitting in that small plane, my body completely tensed up and barely moving. It took quite a few minutes until I felt my muscles ease.
Then, finally, I could perceive the incredible feeling and freedom of motor gliding.
We left the airfield and headed in the direction of our home. On the way, we passed Sonntagberg Basilica – an important pilgrimage destination and the most famous sight of our region.
After my Dad flew two rounds above the basilica, we continued the journey to our place.
It didn’t take us that long anymore. What usually is a 20-minute car ride was less than a 10-minute flight.
Home, Sweet Home
I’ve never seen my home from a bird’s-eye view and everything looked completely different.
The surrounding hills, the road, and even the house itself seemed kind of unfamiliar and super tiny from so high above.
Of course, we couldn’t leave without flying over our village as well.
Along The Danube
The entire flight was scheduled to be an hour and we still had 30 minutes left. My Dad suggested flying in the direction of the Danube river and Melk Abbey – one of the most famous landmarks in Austria.
When he said that, I kind of doubted we would actually make it there and return to the airfield within only 30 minutes.
For clarification: A car ride from our place to Melk Abbey usually takes around an hour. With the motor glider, we got there within 15 minutes! I could hardly believe it.
While heading towards the abbey, I saw a lot of familiar cities from above like Ybbs and the most important pilgrimage site in Lower Austria, Maria Taferl.
Even from high above the abbey looks still very majestic and impressive as it’s sitting there overlooking the city of Melk.
Melk Abbey was our last stop before we had to return to the airfield. Luckily, my Dad took the “scenic route” and flew the glider along the Danube river.
Thank god, no crash landing!
The closer we came to the end of the flight, the more nervous I got again.
I was a bit scared of the landing and it didn’t calm my nerves when my Dad mentioned that it’s usually the most difficult part of motor gliding. It rather caused the opposite effect.
Yeah, definitely not helpful at all.
Anyway, the landing was actually not as bad as I imagined it to be – although my Dad mentioned it was not his best one haha.
I expected it to be more of a crazy up and down but luckily it was very smooth.
Back on the ground, I realized how exhausted I was. It almost felt like I was flying the glider.
The entire flight was such an intense but fun experience and I was so happy and a bit proud I actually did it!
After leaving the glider, my Dad told me that usually, it has to be cleaned.
However, on this day, someone rented it as a tow plane right after so we didn’t have to. Good for us, because the weather was really hot and cleaning the glider would have taken around an hour.
In the blazing sun …
Basically, our flight was over but my Dad had to do some after-flight duties.
Just like at any big airport, there’s a tower at the airfield.
We climbed it up to get the logbook in which my Dad had to enter information such as his name, the date, the starting place, the flight duration, and more.
From the tower, I enjoyed the view of the runway for the last time, before we headed for lunch.
It was only then that I realized how hungry I actually was. Due to all my nervousness and excitement, I barely ate something in the morning.
Final Words About Motor Gliding
Motor gliding is a lot of fun. It’s intense but it really gives you the feeling of endless freedom.
Seeing all these familiar places from a bird’s-eye view was simply awesome and a completely new experience.
Yes, it did cost me some willpower to actually hop in the glider because it’s definitely not comparable to sitting in a normal plane.
If you ever get the chance to try motor gliding as well, I highly recommend doing it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience you probably won’t have soon again!
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