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TOUCHED BY THE SKY

I began my fascination with the wonders of soaring all the way back in 1985 when I lived near Roanoke, Virginia. On the way to and from work I used to drive by what must have been a glider field, and occasionally a plane would swoop over me as I passed. The aircraft looked so clean and sleek, and were so delightfully silent. What little knowledge I could draw on about soaring (movies) suggested that it was a very expensive luxury, so I tucked the thought of flying away, but promised myself that someday, somehow, I would find a way to take lessons.

Fast forward 20 years. I was living in Minnesota and spotted a newspaper ad for sailplane lessons. When I realized I did not have to own an aircraft, I had to check it out. Although it was a 40-mile drive from St. Paul to the glider port in Faribault, I knew it was the eagles calling me to fulfill my pledge, so I signed up for a trial lesson and ground school training. Then on a beautiful cloud-filled May day, my instructor strapped me into his Grob 103 for my first flight and we were off. Within minutes I was thoroughly hooked. The experience was everything I had hoped it would be. My strongest recollection is how graceful and free I felt. Maneuvering was not nearly as complicated as I had imagined. It seemed that I was actually part of the sky. It was unlike any flying I had done; I was “one” with the air.

I spent the next four years intermittently seeking to solo, yet never being unhappy being a student. I simply wanted to take my time. Of course my skills sharpened as I learned towing, thermaling, and aerodynamic realities. A new thrill was added to my experience in 2007 when winch launching became a choice. Happy as I was, however, I made a life-changing decision in 2009 when it became time to move East where I had roots and where I could better assist in the care of my mother. Thus it was that I put my logbook into my file, but I knew that I was not done with soaring.

Life changed dramatically for me in the ensuing years. I began a relationship with my now wife in 2011. We both had our hands full: I in Connecticut, she in Massachusetts, each helping to care for our mothers. But after my mother’s passing, we decided to unite our homes in Waterbury in 2015.

During 2015- 2016 I found time for flights at both Wurtsboro New York and North Adams Massachusetts, but found both locations simply too far away. I was none-the-less determined to find a glider port/airfield where I could pick up where I left off. To my delight, I found that Danielson Airport and CSA were not only within reasonable driving distance, but the cost for glider, towing, and most importantly, instruction were very reasonable. I really knew nothing about soaring clubs, having always simply paid for instruction. (Editor’s Note: CSA glider usage and instruction, but not tows, are paid for by a member’s annual dues.) It was a new and intriguing new concept for me, and I was eager to find out how it worked. In May, after sampling the operation, I decided to join CSA.

Now – the best part: the people I have met. When I paid for lessons, I rarely interacted with other students or licensed pilots. Being in a club has offered a new pleasure. I have been very impressed with the entire membership of CSA. Everyone is dedicated to the sport of soaring through quality safety standards, equipment maintenance, education, and hands-on training. Rarely have I been around more selfless people. Week after week, weather permitting, I see members as well as prospective students show up with a willingness to “pitch in” where-ever needed. Little by little I have become personally acquainted with a group who, to me, represent the best of what flying is about: knowledge, character, friendliness, and a passion to be aloft. There have been days when I learned more about flying by listening to the experienced folks around me as I could if I were in the air. I always return home feeling inspired, and I look forward to the coming 2018 soaring season, and more challenges, conversations, and competency.

ALAN MATHEWSON

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