This can't be legal," said Don Ingraham, after his first ride as a passenger in a glider.
Ingraham was touched by the excitement of flying through the air in a plane without a motor and became a glider pilot and instructor. After living in St. Paul for a time, he and his wife, Kathy, took a chance. They moved to Faribault, Minn., and opened their own business, Cross County Soaring.
"Minnesota is not flat," Ingraham said. "It looks like a rumpled bed sheet."
Jim Hard, Grey Cloud Island Township resident, is a glider pilot and former instructor. He frequently flies out of the Faribault Airport and has set numerous glider world distance records.
"You're part of the aircraft," Hard said. "When I hear fixed-wing pilots tell me they have flown 50,000 hours, I am not impressed. How many of those hours were on automatic pilot? You fly a glider every second."
After the rope from the tow plane is released and veers off to return to the airport, a glider can stay in the air for 30 minutes or longer, depending on atmospheric conditions. Then the pilot needs to find a "thermal," a column of heat rising from the earth. Riding the thermal in a series of wide sweeping loops, the glider climbs into the sky. The pilot abandons the thermal, glides for a time and looks for another thermal.
"When I can't find a thermal, I fly over the Wal-Mart parking lot," Ingraham said.
"Done that," Hard said, adding that the black surface nearly always has a rising column of heat. "Newly plowed fields also work," he said.
"There are thermals to be had any time of the year," Hard said. "If the high temperature for a day is lower than it usually is for that time of year, it's a good day for soaring. If it's hot, glider pilots stay home because you need unstable air."
Hard said there is another indication it might not be a good day to fly a glider. "If cattle are lying down, it's not a good soaring day," he said. "It's something about the barometer."