It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! No… it’s a Glider?

To explore the vast skies and mountains of clouds requires an engine. But there are other means of flying; one way is to glide. A glider is a plane-like vehicle without a motor, resembling a man-carrying bird, which says it all about flight. They provide an elevated perspective from which to admire beautiful views.

The average teenager would not know what to do should someone hand them the controls to such an aircraft, unlike myself. I am a licensed glider pilot, but my license happens to be French. And here’s why: every summer since birth, I have visited my French family in southern France, where the sky-scraping Alps overlap ruggedly. Just south of the chain of mountains, northeast of Marseille is Fayence airfield, a gliding camp where I first began to fly at 14 years old.

The first time I took to the skies, I was immediately sucked in by the breath-taking views; Instantly, everything fractioned in size, yet I saw it all as a whole. Though I had nervously taken to the skies a frightful student, I came back a humble bird.

The sport of gliding is accomplished by aero-tow (towed by plane) or winch (towed by machine) to gain starting altitude. Given the starting altitude of just 1000 meters, pilots must hurry to find altitude gain or face an early landing. Gliders are able to stay in the air for extended periods of time through thermal or convective flight. Thermal flight regards spiraling gently in large rising bubbles of hot air, in which the glider can evolve to vast altitudes and distances. Convective flight comes in relation to geography. When a strong wind perpendicularly crosses a mountain or cliff, a glider can climb it with the rising current like a bird.

Toward the end of my first two weeks at gliding camp, I was authorized to fly my first solo. Two years later (this summer) I turned 16, the minimum age required to get a glider pilot’s license. When I wasn’t flying, I was passing tedious tests in order to get my license qualifications. With just 1000 meters starting altitude, I glided upon a chain of cliffs and mountains and achieved a record solo flight of 2 hours, 44 minutes. The long instructional flights and endless complaints by my instructor had formed me into quite the pilot myself. Free like a bird, I’m now able to fly on my own without permission or surveillance by an instructor.

So here’s the real question: why should you fly? The second you take to the skies, find a strong ascendance of hot air, decide where you’ll go, evolve to great distances from the airfield, discover the unexplored, you’ll find freedom unaltered by rails, roads, stop lights, pedestrians, or the stormy waves of the sea. Given the limitless freedom of a bird, you can now explore the up and down like left and right. Somewhere high up you’ll find yourself lighter, calmer, further away from any problems or struggles you might be dealing with.