Thursday, March 5, 2009

Nearly Steve McQueen

No, I never jumped border fences on my motorbike, nor roared irresponsibly through San Francisco in a Ford Mustang.
Or even wanted to, though close inspection of the green Sunbeam Tourer here overlooking the London Gliding Club at Dunstable Downs reveals the thin chrome strip which is the only clue that it is not a 1.8 L4 Alpine, but a 4.2 V8 Tiger.

The closest I got was to the "Windmills of your Mind" bit in "The Thomas Crown Affair" where Steve McQueen does some lazy, graceful glider aerobatics.

The entry in my log book says "Cleared for solo aerobatics on K8 & K13; stalls, spins, chandelles & loops ONLY" with "only" heavily underlined.
Nothing violent, low, fast, negative or dangerous.

That was still enough to allow me the greatest pleasure I ever found in flying or in any of the "sports de glisse".

OK, fully-developed spins can be viciously impressive by my standards (I don't like roller-coasters…) but every glider pilot has to master them anyway.
The real aesthetic pleasure is in the languorous loops & chandelles.
Carried out, hopefully, with the smooth grace of a lazy dolphin.

Everybody knows loops, you put the nose down (after a good look all round of course) & at 170km/h you pull smoothly up at 3G & watch the world turn round you.
If you do it right you still have slight positive G at the top so nothing drops out of your pockets & you try to make your 'O' nice & round & round & round (it's addictive...).

A chandelle starts like a loop, but instead of making an 'O' you make a 'U' - the glider pulls up vertically, then, just before it stops, yaws 180° to point straight down & accelerate back down the way it came, then pulls up vertically into another 'U' & so on, as long as you have safe height left.

I find something very appealing in this silent slow swooping, a world away from competition aerobatics which is all straight lines, square corners, sleight-of-hand flicks & unreasonable heights, speeds & attitudes.

Like I enjoyed watching ice skating when it was smooth & graceful, before it became boring bouts of speeding backwards punctuated by staccato spins you can only appreciate in a slow-motion replay.
Surely athletic.
Not aesthetic.
Is this progress?

Parting thot: "Do something new every day."

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