Years ago, Jon went to Maui for glider training, where updrafts on the cliffs make for perfect thermals. When he was done, he bought a Stemme, which is a motorized glider (also called a sailplane), and shipped it back to Guam. But that South Pacific sun cooked him under the glass cockpit and, in a whimsy of irritation, he shipped it back to Missouri and promptly forgot about it and never flew it again and let it fall behind on maintenance and it sat in a corner of the hangar and collected cobwebs.
In April, he got it up to speed, did a couple hours of re-training, and has been gliding silently overhead every since.
I remember hearing about gliders when I was doing my flight training back in Oregon while in college, and the idea of them seemed so frightening and weird that I automatically dismissed them. They operate on thermals — the same invisible updrafts that birds use when they circle overhead — and have incredible glide ratios that let them fly for miles, sometimes hundreds of miles, without compromising on much altitude.
This Stemme has a glide ratio of 50:1, meaning that it will move forward 50 feet for every one foot that it drops in altitude. I don’t have the brain to do the math off the top of my head, but go ahead and compare that to a mile and you’ll be impressed. Some people have flown gliders across the country, across towering mountains, and I think (but am too lazy to Google) have even done a few ocean crossings.
Our corner of country is nowhere near as challenging, but with the ground cloaked in Spring green, it makes for pretty flying no matter how you spin it.