An RV-8 is a sports car of an airplane if there ever was one. And this one was set up for formation aerobatics. At the moment, however, I was in command as my boss was nose deep in the auto pilot computer. Not that I had to do much. In theory, the auto pilot should take us all the way almost to touch down without any effort. All I had to do was keep an eye on things and be able to react if something went wrong.
The plane turns a perfect final, lining up with the runway. I watch the manual controls and the outside as we make a beautiful descent. At the last minute, we pull up and go around the circle again, testing the process. Just your typical day working in high tech startup companies.
I got that particular job, I think, because I showed up for the interview with blue paint in my hair (just a little bit that wouldn’t wash out) and could flip on a dime from talking lean startup systems to boats and planes and other things. I was clearly happy to get my fingernails and hair dirty, or splattered with bottom paint, to accomplish a goal.
A typical day at the office was thus frequently a typical day in the hanger (not that any of the companies I was supposed to be working on were aeronautic!) and I somehow managed to stay current.
After our recent trip, Skye was asking how things fly and I was helping her understand using a car, an open window, and a hand. Get the shape just right and the hand lifts. Tilt the hand gently around, adjusting the angle and curve, and it lifts more or less. Thrust from the car, drag from the wind, gravity on the hand, and the magic of lift.
“One day you will learn to fly,” I told Skye. After all, I learned in high school, right along with learning to drive. I’d leave school and drive to the airport for a few touch-and-gos each week before heading on to homework. A leisurely flight around the state, up to visit my grandmother, to check out potential colleges, clicking off well over the minimum 40 hours required for a private pilot’s license just in small moments of gazing down from 3,000 feet.
Flying a glider is much like sailing, when you cut the engine or disconnect from the tow plane, suddenly the world is quiet. You’re seeing birds and paying close attention to the wind. There is much more power in the air than you would realize in traditional flight. With the mechanical exactitude of thrust gone, you are left with the peaceful possibilities of nature. Here is a plane that must truly be flown, no autopilot in sight. You feel the seat push and drop, shimmy and shake, and react accordingly, floating slowly down.