Just something to fill the gap while SOH and I are travelling down through France, by the time you read this we should be travelling towards Chalon Sur Saone from our overnight stop at Amiens :
I am lucky in that a couple of years ago, and before SOH entered my life, the University that I work for set up a student group interested in gliding and that staff were also eligible to participate. The only catch was that we had to travel 40 miles to Bicester where the airfield was situated; No problem, that's what the motorbikes were for.
So every Saturday or Sunday would find me heading down to the airfield, ready for a day's work with some flying if the weather was being kind. We had to pay 3.50 for a launch and 20p per minute flying but the instruction was free. In return we had to help out retrieving the cable, the glider if it landed at the far end of the field or helping in the catering truck dishing out teas/coffees etc.
Over the period of the Summer, and as my bank balance fell, I managed to do the take off and landing a couple of times as well as fly the circuit with the instructor just providing guidance. It was exhilarating to launch as it was so fast and then you were hundreds of feet up in the air with just the noise of the wind outside. There was never long enough to look at the scenery as you were too busy watching for other air traffic as well as controlling the glider movements and aiming towards the airfield thermals (if they were around).
The landing seemed to last forever, the glider would hang on feet above the ground before gravity grabbed onto it and pulled in onto the ground. Then the debriefing, what you did right/wrong, how to do it and then you went up again; usually 3 flights in a row before you got a break to let another pupil up.
I never did go solo, mainly the cost and also it was just that little bit more terrifying that I was comfortable with. I was happy on the motorbike, I didn't need to have another expensive hobby and by the end of the Summer I found excuses not to go and let my membership lapse.
I don't regret the money I spent, I had a good time, but all good things sometimes have their day.