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I learned some other surprising things about
Dick VanGrunsven during my time with him, as
well. I learned he’s a longtime glider pilot. And
when I asked him whether he considered soaring
more fun than powered flight, he didn’t even hesi-
tate. “Definitely!” he exclaimed.
I learned that he’s disappointed in how the light-
sport aircraft movement has evolved. I also learned
that, despite the success of his “touring” airplane
designs, Dick actually sees a need for more creative
approaches to airplane ownership, and a greater
emphasis on “fun” versus “cross-country” flying, in
the years to come.
“I’ve come to the realization that a personal air-
plane as a transportation vehicle is not that
realistic,” he says. “I’m not writing off the transpor-
tation aspect, but just stating that in my own mind,
with the higher price of fuel, etc., we need more
emphasis on ‘pure,’ fun flying. We also need to look
at more of a flying club concept, to better utilize the
hardware and get more people involved more
affordably.” He pauses.
“I know,” he adds with an almost weary tone, as
if already hearing the cries of protest, “everyone
wants their own, and I’m the same way. And some
airplanes are better candidates for [sharing] than
others. But the pilot community has to take a differ-
ent view of it. If it’s my own airplane, I can fly it
when I want, but it’s expensive. And it may not be as
much fun as if you shared it.”
Dick points to the soaring community as a good,
“Soaring is a community sport. And the glider
field is kind of a destination in and of itself. You can
go out there and spend all day, even if it’s not good
conditions, and you’ve had an enjoyable afternoon.
You may not go anywhere to speak of, but you’re
really enjoying what you’re doing and relishing it
along the way.”
Dick VanGrunsven has more than 12,000 flight
hours, and ratings up through an ATP. Many pilots
I’ve met with those kinds of facts on their resumes
are, if they were to be completely honest about it,
kind of bored with flying. Or jaded, at the very least.
Dick, very clearly, is neither. And as I walk away, it
occurs to me that passion may be not only a formida-
ble life force, but also the closest thing to the fountain
of youth that anyone has ever found.
Lane Wallace, EAA 650945, has been an aviation columnist, editor,
and author for more than 20 years. More of her writing can be found
at www.Lane Wallace.com and at www.TheAtlantic.com/Lane-Wallace.