I have told about how highly I esteem aeroplanes, those flying machines of the air, that offer us earthbound humans a chance to taste something better than slavery to the gravity. I'll elaborate in this and a couple following posts.
A little personal history:
In the 1990s I joined a hang-gliding club, and for a couple of years I practised flying suspended under a glider and towing others to the air by means of a snowmobile. With Agur Fuga, LaMouette Atlas 16, and Airwave Magic 4 gliders I collected an hour and 47 minutes of airtime, on 52 tows. This tells something about the procedures of training back then: in the beginning, the student pilot was towed with a short length of rope at the height of about ten meters, for thirty seconds to two minutes at a time. My instructors, Hannu Laitinen and Eero Loponen taught in a way that even the thickest student pilot could learn. I remember those lessons with gratitude. Working freelance being uncertain, and the economic recession getting ever deeper, I sold my second-hand glider and harness, not being able to afford even a tankful of gasoline for the drive to the flying sites.
At the turn of the millennium, a married man, I hopefully tried to return to aviation, when the Mäntsälä Aviation Club was inviting the curious to learn to fly ultralight aircraft. Jorma Mäntyharju taught me on a Comco Ikarus C42 for four flights, 2h 25min altogether, from the Hyvinkää airfield in 2001. Then another blow came, freelance gigs drying up and the iron grip of the economic reality squeezing the less successful (i.e., poor little me) out of the game. I also had to accept the fact that a grown-up 90 kilogram pilot is not really ideally sized for an ultralight.
I had already abandoned all hope, when Torbjörn Bengtström, an instructor at the club, called me up one summer day, telling about a student having cancelled a lesson at the last minute. "Can you get yourself over here at the Malmi airport sometime soon?" I was standing at the bus stop for the local gen-av airport in less time than it takes to read these lines. I got to sit on the student seat for those thirty-plus minutes we circled above Helsinki area, trying to memorize that feeling, the sun, the seagulls over the waves. I thanked Benkku for his kindness and returned home, not booking any more lessons, not continuing with a hobby that I so painfully clearly couldn't afford.
On this May 1st, we drove out to see my lovely wife's childhood summer vacation surroundings around the town of Lohja. After lunch, we drove to have a look at nearby Nummela airfield, because... well, because it was there. A multicolored PIK-15 Hinu was towing white sailplanes up to the sky, and I was craning my neck upwards watching those wonderful flying machines. The Hinu stopped by the hangar after the last of the gliders was up, and the towpilot Jari Siltala came to introduce himself. "A fine day, a real flying weather! You familiar with sailplanes?" Well, no, but do tell us more...
At home, having thought about the matter overnight and casting claculatedly suppliant looks at my lovely wife, I went and signed up for a one-day introductory course of sailplane gliding. I said "It's only 160 Euros, and some people we know would blow that much on a single night out!" Of course, we knew the logic behind such introductory offers: like drug dealers, the people at the flyingf club were confident that after a day at the airfield I'd dig deep in my pockets for a full SPL course. But I had flown already years ago, so some degree of immunity already existed. Anyway, after getting a taste for flying, no other pastime will offer quite such enjoyment.
(End of part 1, more in near future...)