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Flying High with Eagles

Jim: I have done it now, and what a thrill!! Yearning to leave the bonds of terra firma after watching you auto-launch on the Millenium New Year weekend at Keystone Air Park, I acquired permission for full weekend at Seminole-Lake Soaring Center at Clermont, near Orlando Florida, Knut and Ingrid Kjenslie's fine soaring place. Saturday 8 Jan 2000 was fair day with nothing happening til after 2pm. Me and Knut's rental Mosquito launched at 2:30 and returned at 4:45. Nothing great, 1 to 3kt. Had to scratch a lot, but fun. Sunday AM was clear instead of overcast like Saturday. So things heated up by 1:00. At 1:30 the Mosquito and I launched with great expectations. Off at 2500ft I was on my way. Up to 3000, run to Groveland; catch a small, tight thermal, full flaps and up to 3400ft. Back to Seminole with -2 flaps and 90 knots. Got down to 1500ft after about 1 hr and thought day was over when I saw a big bird NE of airport. Headed to him since near IP and lo and behold, MEGA-LIFT. Up to 4000 cloud base. On way, I caught up with my friendly winged thermal detector; and guess what? It was a BIG bald eagle. Got within approx 20 to 30 feet of him or her and it seemed content to share airspace with me. Do you know how BIG those things are!!! Had to be 6 ft wingspan or more. It was awesome!! What a beautiful sight!! I truly felt free from the confines of gravity for a moment. As John Gillespie Magee said in High Flight, "I put out my hand, and touched the face of God." Soared with eagle for probably 1 1/2 minutes. Then cloud base said time to go forward instead of up. Finally decided that it was time to call an end to a great day!! Total time of flight 3hrs. 18 minutes. I am now convinced that I can do that FAI Silver C duration. Just need to be going somewhere instead of circles over the airport to make time go by faster. I flew 10 to 15 mile radius around airport and saw many new things and lost all sense of time. The string to home airport is getting stretched a little more each flight. And Spring is just around the corner!! I may end up buying 1/2 or all of Mosquito at Seminole, as it will be up for sale shortly, and Knut has me and another guy who are both interested and he does not want to favor either one of us, thus I may just buy 1/2, if partnership works out for both of us. I am still looking, but I would be content with Mosquito for a long time I think. Have a great day and see you soon. -Dave Dave, Wow. What an exciting thing. I will share this with others. It is more than special 'to rise up on wings as eagles, to run and not grow weary' as we are promised. It takes dedication and pursuit and it is worth it. I enjoyed your report so much that I want to share it with Nancy Malm, "outside looper" who is self-imposedly stranded over there on that little jungle isle of Abaco Bahamas. She has been wondering how things are at Seminole-Lake Soaring now, from a caveat statement on their website saying things are not so good in the winter. Well, you and I know that we can hit days and times of soaring brilliance in the "winter" (a real misnomer) of Florida. Winter here just means shorter sun hours and more days of stable air with low haze layer holding thermals down by the temp inversion, but we know that tomorrow can be perfectly good but days just quit providing their lift early, 4: 45 and the candle can be out. What a treat to soar with the bald eagle. Yes, your ship of the day, the Glasflugel Mosquito, will take you quite far and get you back. Get high and stay high, and use concept of good useful crosscounty operating band in the upper third or fourth altitude band of the lift to cloud base. Now with plenty of altitude and easy to be back, you just have to loop it and immellman turn off the top and then roll it again . You will fly like an eagle. Gotta do it carefully tho, your wings may not have the cartilaginous elasticity quite to equal an eagle's. Do you know that I saw two bald eagles come flapping across the airfield at Keystone Air Park several months ago? The CAP Cadets were watching too and we were on the ground pushing the old SGU 2-22 back to position for another take off. Me, enjoying the ride back in the cockpit while getting another cadet strapped in and doing the preflight checklist while being wheeled along by our cadet coolie crew. I saw the eagles and told the cadets to watch them. One eagle was gaining on the other and was just above and behind the one just ahead; the one from behind dove on the white tail of the leader and the leader looked back and dove and did a perfect roll as evasive maneuver and the follower did the same roll and they kept on flapping till they went out of sight over the treeline. Dang, there is so much we can learn from them , the true natural soaring fliers. We can only barely savor the gifts they possess so naturally. What a place to be in though to see the gift of flight and share it on occasion. Dancing on clouds, Keep it up! Jim

Posted: 1/11/2000 By: James Culp


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