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Summer 1963 - Boy meets Sky (1 Viewer)


Autobiographical Essay - Any Comments?

I slowly hobbled over the field like an old man, away from Mum and Dad as the tight straps over my shoulders and between my legs bent me over. There was a heavy smell of damp earth and crushed grass and I could see every blade of grass as the butterflies fluttered in my stomach. It seemed unbelievable I was doing this; the browbeaten kid who would always go for the safe option.

The glider was long, grey and elegant, lying tipped over with one wing resting on the grass. As I climbed in gingerly into the narrow cockpit with a bulky parachute strapped to my back, I was painfully aware of my instructor Kevin's caution.

"Only step on the reinforced sections or your foot will go straight through the plywood."

Kevin climbed in the seat behind me and we ran through the safety checklist. Then he pulled over the plastic canopy and all the noise around us; the people chatting, aircraft taking off, land rovers towing gliders to and from the landing field, was suddenly cut off. Swallowing the lump in my throat, I started to relax slightly; I had come to an animal resignation of my fate.

There was a red glider on my right being prepared for take off. The pilot signalled to the man operating the winch which started to tow the plane aloft. As the glider picked up speed and started to leave the ground, I watched, fascinated.

Suddenly Kevin said to himself, "He's climbing too fast."

About a hundred feet up in the air, the glider suddenly tipped up and cartwheeled end over end before crashing into the ground. It lay broken on the grass with pieces of red painted plywood scattered around the grass. A young boy ran up the wreckage screaming. Kevin let out his breath behind me as the pilot was helped out of the remains of the glider and walked slowly over to the buildings on the edge of the airfield, followed by his son.

I watched this demonstration of what could happen unconcerned. I knew it couldn't happen to me. The younger we are (and the more we have to lose) the more careless we seem to be of our own lives. It's only when mortality touches us that we learn how vulnerable we all are...

Our glider was attached to a light aeroplane and we set off down the field. As the glider bounced along the grass, I could hear the wheels on the undercarriage rumbling as we gathered speed. The noise suddenly stopped as we were airborne; all I coul hear the only was the faint whistling of the wind. As I looked out of the canopy I saw the ground dropping away below us. There was a sudden jerk as Kevin released the cable and the towing aircraft turned off to the right and dropped away. Freed from the towing rope, the glider responded to every current in the air like a living thing.

I remembered how thin the walls of the glider were as I saw the ground waiting for me two thousand feet below.
For a hellish moment, I was frozen with animal fear before I realized I might survive this. I started to enjoy it; the fear was still there but it added an edge to the experience, like a black background makes all the other colours stand out.

The countryside was laid out below me; the fields and lakes, the villages and woods, the roads and rivers and far away the silver shimmer of the sea. My eyes feasted on the patterns of light and shade lying over the colours and textures below me, carelessly tossed from a never-ending basket of treasures.

Kevin said "We're going to turn now" and put the glider into a steep turn. As the glider tilted steeply I found myself looking straight down on my right hand side; there was a wonderful exposed feeling of nothing beneath me but thousands of feet of empty air.

We flew towards massive banks of clouds that hurt my eyes with dazzling white walls of fluffy cotton wool. As we soared between them I could see glimpses of the ground far below, then it disappeared and we were alone in another, cloud world. I saw a rainbow, at this height a giant circle; as we flew through the centre, I half expected to appear in another planet.

Then it was time to go back; we slowly lost height as we circled the airfield and the details of buildings and people started to emerge. I was startled by a sudden roaring noise; the air brakes on the wings had emerged, panels that stick straight up from the wings to create turbulence to slow the glider down. The trees and buildings were suddenly taller then us as the ground rushed up. Then we were bouncing on the grass; the glider slowly tipped to one side as we came to a stop. It was over.

My hands shook and there was this idiot grin on my face as I climbed out on jelly legs. Looking back at the glider on the grass, I saw she was beautiful but slightly ungainly; like a seal on land, she was out of her element now.
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