You took off a few minutes ago—maybe from a paved runway or a grass field. You’ve climbed leisurely, with only 80 or 90 hp, in a
good-sized two-place ship—and now you’re leveled off at 3,000 feet.
You’re cruising at 100 knots and enjoying fabulous visibility.
What’s this? Some turbulence—probably from those fair-weather
cumulus clouds above. The ship surges in an updraft. You pull the power
to idle and roll into a tight 360. Even at idle, you’re still climbing.
Okay, if that’s how it’s going to be…you turn off the key, and the
propeller shudders to a stop. A tug on a handle, and the blades feather,
turning edgewise to knife through the air with minimum resistance.
All you hear now is the whisper of air over the canopy as you continue to
circle, still climbing. The world below turns steadily past the tip of your
long, slender wing.
Nearing the cloud base, you roll out on course, push the nose down a
bit, and head for where you hope you’ll find the next updraft. You might
be able to soar like this for hundreds of miles–but if you can’t, efficient
powered flight is just the twist of an ignition key away.
This is what it’s like to fly a motorglider.
BY PETER LERT