UP IN THE AIR

Cadet helps re­porter soar dur­ing Sum­mer­side’s 53 Squadron Air Cadets’ glider demon­stra­tion at Sum­mer­side air­port

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - ALI­SON JENK­INS Ali­son.jenk­[email protected]­nal­pi­oneer.com

Cadet helps re­porter soar dur­ing Sum­mer­side’s 53 Squadron Air Cadets’ glider demon­stra­tion at Sum­mer- side air­port

SUM­MER­SIDE, P.E.I. – A gasp es­caped my lungs as the mo­tor­less glider dipped sud­denly over Malpeque Bay. High above the wa­ter, I was fly­ing in a glider, be­hind a cadet pi­lot.

I wouldn’t nor­mally climb into a small, mo­tor­less air­craft to be towed 1,800 feet in the air and re­leased to fall back to Earth with a 16-year old in charge, but on Satur­day, May 25, that’s just what I did.

The glider, a Sch­weizer 2-33, was at the Sum­mer­side Air­port for the week­end, tak­ing Is­land air cadets on demon­stra­tion flights.

Lit­tle more than two seats and a pair of wings, glid­ers are built to float gen­tly through the air.

There is no mo­tor, no pro­pel­ler, just a rud­der and ailerons to steer with and spoil­ers to slow the air­craft as it comes in to land.

I didn’t mean to be so scared to fly, I re­ally didn’t think I would be. I have a pri­vate pi­lot’s li­cence. I’ve even flown into the Sum­mer­side air­port my­self, al­beit 20 years ago.

War­rant Of­fi­cer First Class Ben Dy­ment was seated at the con­trols of the large, yel­low glider as I en­deav­oured to fold my nearly six-foot self into the seat be­hind the pi­lot. I car­ried my cam­era for pho­tos, my phone for video and my note­book and pen be­cause I’m com­pul­sive like that.

At first, I felt like I was in­dulging some­one else’s chil­dren in some play­ground game. We were two decades apart in age and ex­pe­ri­ence – years that in­cluded TikTok, so­cial me­dia in­flu­encers and Snapchat.

Not hav­ing any kids in my im­me­di­ate circle, I see to­day’s youth as al­ter­nately scary and en­ter­tain­ing but al­ways sep­a­rate.

En­ter­tain­ing be­cause the en­ergy ex­uded by a group of mid­dleschool­ers is in­fec­tious.

Scary be­cause grow­ing up, anx­i­ety kept me aloof from most kids my own age. Any ef­forts I did make to “join in” were painfully awk­ward.

But in the glider, any of my awk­ward bag­gage was taken in stride.

Sgt. Connor Costain leaned in and ad­justed the five-point har­ness that would keep me se­cure through­out the flight.

“How much do you weigh?” he asked. “We need to know for later.”

I grum­bled the num­ber and some ridicu­lous ex­cuse, the way adult women do.

“It’s noth­ing per­sonal,” he said. I knew it wasn’t, it had to do with the weight and bal­ance of the air­craft.

In­te­rior checks com­plete, Costain closed the door and the canopy.

Com­mu­ni­cat­ing with his team out­side the glider, Dy­ment sig­nalled with his left hand for the tow plane to “take up slack” in the tow rope. A sec­ond ges­ture in­di­cated the rope was “all out” and we be­gan to roll slowly down the run­way.

As we gained speed, Dy­ment kept the wings level as the glider started to bob along be­hind the tow plane, a Cessna L-19 Bird Dog

I had let my­self trust these kids, the way I couldn’t trust my peers when I was young. They didn’t let me down. Ali­son Jenk­ins

flown by Capt. James Harper.

The run­way, the grass, the Earth all fell away be­neath us as the yel­low rope at­tached to the Bird Dog pulled us higher.

The sun-warmed Earth sent up pock­ets of hot, thin air which the glider dropped into, only to climb mag­i­cally out again as the large wings did their job to lift us up­ward.

Dy­ment an­nounced there would be a dip as the tow plane sig­nalled a re­lease, but I was not pre­pared for the sud­den weight­less­ness as the glider nosed over.

The tow plane an­gled sharply away from the glider and the en­gine noise fell away. It was just me and the 16-year-old cadet in the sky.

The air rushed past the clear plas­tic canopy as Dy­ment pi­loted the lit­tle craft in cir­cles over Malpeque Bay and St. Eleanors with ease.

“This is my favourite run­way to use be­cause you can see the whole city,” he said.

The Is­land was laid out like a patch­work quilt.

After a few more cir­cles, Dy­ment straight­ened out to par­al­lel run­way 05. He called down­wind on the ra­dio.

At the tip of the run­way, he turned in for a land­ing. The rush­ing wind in­creased as he side-slipped in past the num­bers for a per­fect one-point land­ing.

The glider only has one tire, the nose, tail and wings have small wheels to keep the glider from scrap­ing and we fell onto these as the glider came to a stop. Si­lence fell for a brief mo­ment.

I think I may have yelled “That was awe­some!” to my pi­lot, grate­ful and im­pressed in equal mea­sures.

Be­fore long, a team of cadets ran onto the run­way, the glider was lifted level by two cadets, some­one held the nose and tail steady and yet another helped me un­fold my­self out of the tiny door.

I can’t re­mem­ber much of the next few min­utes. I may have snapped a selfie with my pi­lot. I know I did a lot of smil­ing.

I had let my­self trust these kids, the way I couldn’t trust my peers when I was young.

They didn’t let me down. Be­fore I could re­cover my­self, and thank them all some­how, another cadet was loaded into the seat I’d just oc­cu­pied and Costain was ad­just­ing his seat­belt.

ALI­SON JENK­INS/JOUR­NAL PI­O­NEER

War­rant Of­fi­cer First Class Ben Dy­ment pi­lots a glider over Malpeque Bay on May 25.

CON­TRIBUTED

Capt. James Harper, who pi­loted the tow plane, a Cessna L-19 Bird Dog, is shown with re­porter Ali­son Jenk­ins.

ALI­SON JENK­INS/JOUR­NAL PI­O­NEER

The Cessna L-19 Bird Dog re­leases the glider high above Prince Ed­ward Is­land.

ALI­SON JENK­INS/ JOUR­NAL PI­O­NEER

The glider is shown on fi­nal ap­proach to land at Sum­mer­side Air­port on May 25.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.