How I looped the loop

I have a lifelong interest in aviation sparked by my father being trained as a fighter pilot at the end of the Second World War (he was too young to see actual action). Like all pilots, I’ve kept a flight log and, in the course of my near 61 years, I have now made almost 500 flights totalling almost 900 hours.
Nine of my first 12 flights – made when I was 14 and in the Air Training Corps – were in a glider (the Slingsby T21B). That was 46 years ago and I never imagined that I’d be back in a glider but, for my 60th birthday, my good friends Andy & Georgeanne gave me a voucher for a flight in a glider from the Booker Gliding Centre at Wycombe Air Park and I only got round to using the voucher today 11 months later.
Now some of my friends have asked me if gliding is dangerous and Booker helpfully provides a risk assessment which notes the average accident rates in the UK:

  • Minor injury: one per 25,000 launches
  • Serious injury: one per 73,000 launches
  • Fatalities: one per 100,000 launches

In fact, all went very smoothly this morning. I flew in a Schleicher ASK 13 and we were towed to 2,200 feet by a Piper Super Cub aircraft. This is a two-seater glider and I sat in the front with the pilot Mike Collett in the rear. Visibility was good and the flight lasted almost 20 minutes.
Mike encouraged me to take the controls on several occasions and was kind enough to comment that I “flew very nicely”. I asked him if we had enough height to do a ‘loop the loop’ which I’ve never done. He said that we did and so I asked him if he would perform the manoeuvre for me which he was happy to do. This was thrilling and unlike anything I’ve done before.

Our Schleicher ASK 13 glider

Before donning parachute and climbing into front of cockpit

Our tow plane: a Pipe Super Cub

Wycombe Air Park as we come in to land

Thanks a million Andy and Georgeanne.

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