I love all sorts of flying and fell in love with glider flying during my yearly military reserve travels to Hawaii. I discovered that flying a glider has many positive habit transfers and applications to other types of flying, and sought to bring gliding to Casey Aviation. Landing a glider is exactly like flying a PA-46 with a dead engine, and I train pilots in the PA-46 for initial and recurrent training with an emphasis upon engine-out operations. My thought was to incorporate glider flying into the PA-46 training syllabus, effectively providing an interesting twist to a training regimen that can become quite mundane if taken year after year. What first was a dream soon became a plan and now has come reality, and the reality did not come about as I thought it would. Lots of good people got involved and the story must be told.
How to launch: My biggest challenge was to figure out how to launch the glider with no tow-plane (as is done in Hawaii). The cost and logistics of the towplane and towplane pilot was cost-prohibitive for me, so I began to consider other methods of launching. I looked into a winch launch (for I have done that before in Germany), but finally settled into using the auto-tow method of launching. I did a boat-load of research into the logistics and feasibility of launching a glider at KJSO, and discovered that it was quite possible and financially feasible.
Where to put it: Dr. Coats has a wonderful hangar that I use to hangar the Malibu that I manage and pilot. It is a wonderful hangar in that it is large, clean, white-floored, and has an office. Dr. Coats is a romantic aviator (just like me) and loves to fly just about anything with wings. When I talked to him about putting a glider in the hangar, Dr. Coats did not even hesitate to smile and give approval. So, I now had space for a long winged bird, but no long-winged bird. A BIG kudos goes out (yet again) to Dr. Coats!
Which glider?: Now, I needed to find a glider. I’ve flown several mid-wing gliders such as the Grob 103, Schwiezer 2-32, and a few others. But, when I discovered the Schweizer 2-33 in Hawaii, I really loved it. It has an “old feel” to it and is a fabulous trainer. I began to seek out 2-33’s in the US and found none close, and only a few that were for sale. All of the ones for sale were in the northeast US and were less than stellar examples. I waited about a month to see if the market changed, and it did not. So, I finally did that which I should have done in the first place and went to see Pete and Carol Walker at Big Q Aviation at the Midway Airport near Midlothian, TX.
Big “Q” to the rescue: Pete and Carol Walker think much like I do when it comes to flying. They both love many forms of aviation, and have a great glider flight school. I flew to Midway and sat down with Carol. In about 20 minutes of discussion we felt a definite kindred aviation spirit and I found a new friend in the glider world. Not only that, Carol has launched using the auto tow method of launching, and more importantly…she had a Schweizer 2-33!! With her business busting at the seams and doing very well with many higher performance gliders on the airport, the old Schweizer 2-33 was somewhat underutilized. So, we struck up a deal that was mutually beneficial and I found my new bird.
Missing information: Believe it or not, there’s not very many people doing auto-tows nowadays. I found a few that had done it before and a few that had seen it done, but very few that actually knew what they were doing. I had to start from scratch and figure out how to make this happen. I ordered 1500′ of rope, made my own release hitch for a square receiver on a truck, learned about “weak links”, and made a crude reeling mechanism to spool up the rope when not in use, and asked a LOT of questions. I got smarter and smarter as I probed and queried people. Fortunately, I called a few who really knew their stuff: Bob Wander (he’s written a fabulous series of books on gliders), Carol Walker (again), and a few others.
Partners galore at your glider store: As I began to talk about auto-towing gliders, a bunch of people began to get involved. Clint Goff (KJSO Airport Manager) thought it was a neat idea and helped to learn the auto-tow procedures, Jake Wise became the handy-man who was always willing to help with whatever needed to be done, and Robert Gatewood showed a lot of interest and a real knack for mechanical ingenuity. Additionally, lots of folks who hang around KJSO came to lend a hand and show support. Gliding requires lots of hands to make it work, and KJSO is really being supportive.
Disassembly, travel, and reassembly: Robert and Jake volunteered to drive to Midway to pick up the glider. Pete and Carol joined us and within about 4 hours we had the glider on the trailer and ready to drive to KJSO. The drive went well, with a few stops along the way to make sure everything was secured and padded. We drive slowly and were blessed with good weather along the way. When we arrived back to KJSO, it was already dark, so we waited until the next day to reassemble the glider. Thanks to a bunch of guys who showed up to share the spread out the work, reassembly went very well. I was amazed at how long the wings on the glider are when inside the hangar. I thought it would fit, but it does with little margin.
Forecast for KJSO – FUN!: I’m really excited about the glider. It is going to be a super addition to the business, and a super addition to the airport at KJSO. I’m hopeful that the glider ends up being a rallying force at the airport. Thanks again to all who have helped so far!