Continued from Fledgling:
After breaking a down-tube on my first mountain launch, I have to figure out how to pick up my glider and carry it off the field. I make it across the field and a couple of instructors run over to help.
All-in-all, I am not sure I’m ready to launch again. But, back up to the top of the mountain we go. I spend the ride back to the top hoping the wind has shifted.
But, no. The wind is still good and there are plenty more gliders for me to break.
I set up the next glider with my hands shaking.
When it’s my turn, I am feeling nauseous. I contemplate backing out. But, I step up onto the launch ramp for the second time. I get set, the instructor tells me the wind is perfect, I call clear and start the approach without hesitation.
This time, the launch is good. However, when I look at the airspeed indicator, it tells me I’m flying too slow. I pull in for speed, but the glider starts oscillating like I’m flying too fast. I go back and forth trying to decide if the airspeed indicator is wrong or not. Then I hit a small bump in the air. My glider rises suddenly and then drops back down like a giant puppeteer has just jerked an invisible string. I experience a moment of panic. I start talking to myself out loud, trying to keep my wits about me. I keep it together through a few more small bumps and find myself safely over the landing zone.
I have a repeat problem with suddenly being out of altitude. As I start to make the final turn for the landing approach, I realize I’m too low and I square up the glider and roll it in instead. No broken down tube this landing.
However, I do end up far from the breakdown area. Gliders are really not meant to be taken for a walk.
The instructor who helped me after my first landing comes over and congratulates me. He compliments me for my decision making. It’s like a consolation prize–in spite of all my mistakes, I didn’t make a final, critical mistake. I appreciate the compliment none-the-less. Focusing on small achievements is, after all, how I ended up here one minuscule step at a time.
On the way back to the top, I experience a sense of disappointment. I remind myself that my learning process has often been one step forward and two steps back. I remind myself that I just launched from about 1500 feet higher than I ever imagined I would. I remind myself that I stepped off that launch ramp, focused on the horizon, knowing that I could. And I did. I did something I didn’t think was possible until two weeks ago. I launched, I flew, I landed, I survived. Twice. Maybe I’ll suggest a new T-shirt for the pro shop.