After spinal cord injury many feel compelled to fly. Gliding is one of the easiest ways for disabled folks to experience flght . On this quadriplegic gliding adventure, my friends lifted me from wheelchair to front seat of glider, ready to fly like a bird. We strapped my legs together, and after a flight brief, to the sky and beyond we went. Turbulence rocking the glider behind a powerful P75 tow plane skyward to a height of 3000 feet.
The pilot behind me happened to be my sisters family doctor, handy if we crash I thought. With a loud bang, the kind nobody wants to hear in any type of aircraft, the towline was released from the nose of our glider. I had to ask if we were moving. For a few seconds we actually seem to be hanging in mid air. It felt like we were about to drop right out of the sky. The eerie silence was replaced by bustle as the glider sliced through the air building speed. Increasing pressure rushing over the clear perspex canopy.
With a 360 degree view of the landscape (if you don’t have quadriplegia with titanium metal plates and screws holding your neck together) we were gliding along peacefully admiring the scenery when we found a thermal updraft — a column of hot air rising from the ground — that occour over rocky ground or dry burnt out patches of ground. It’s amazing how much lift these thermals can generate.
At 2000 feet we spiraled upward returning to 3000 feet in a matter of minutes. “Now we can have some fun.” He says. “You know these things can do loop the loops, barrel rolls, and shandels?” I just had to ask…”What’s a shandel?” Tipping the nose cone downward we dove reaching 45 knots, air turbulence now rushing so fast over the canopy it was hard to hear the pilot. Pulling back hard on the stick we flew skyward again and just before stalling Doc spun he glider on tip of one wing repeating the maneuver several times over. “Okay, forget the barrel rolls,” I murmured.
Aerobatics can displace flaccid limbs. As the operators ask be sure to secure any personal items, cameras, jewellery, not forgetting your legs and urinary drainage devices, any special devices your disability requires. Most adventurous wheelchair users carry a roll of tape, velcro or some sort of strapping when heading out for a big weekend. I also suggest emptying any urinary collection devices prior to boarding.
If we go gliding again I’ll book flights for our carers. Serene or thrill-seeking it’s your call on this wheelchair gliding adventure. A really cool way for people with a spinal cord injury to leave their worries behind. Experience what it’s like to fly like an eagle soaring across the sky. Give your local gliding club a call. Get out there and spread your wings wheelchair thrillseekers.
Where: The Caboolture Glider Club, Caboolture Aerodrome, QLD. Australia.
Cost: $65 from 2000 ft 10 min, $95 from 3000 ft 20 min, $115 over 3000 ft 30-40 min.
Rating: Heaps of fun, are weather dependent.