Soaring

Over Horseshoe Bend in a Sailplane

By Peter D. McQuade

The man standing on the front-porch steps of the saloon pointed toward a dirt road that snaked along a creek bed before rising out of sight behind a towering sagebrush hill. “Up there, a mile or so. That’s where them glider guys have their setup.”

Dad and Mom thanked him and the four of us piled into the family car and backed out of the parking lot bordering Idaho Highway 55. My brother Will smiled eagerly. I knew his heart was pounding as hard as mine was. In June of 1968, he was thirteen, I’d just turned fourteen, and we were about to take our second glider-flying lesson. The first had been six months earlier at Bradley Field, a private-plane airport in Garden City. It had been an “orientation” flight, each of us getting his own fifteen-minute, up-and-down flight in the front seat of a two-seat Schweizer SGU 22-2E utility/training glider with Dean Wilson, a seasoned instructor pilot, crop-duster, airplane builder, and restoration expert of antique aircraft [see, “When Dreams Take Wing,” by Kitty Fleischman, IDAHO magazine, June 2002].

That brief experience had fired our imaginations and made us crave more. We imagined soaring high among the clouds for hours, riding the powerful updrafts called thermals to great heights, just like in the magazines. So after graduating from eighth grade at the end of May, I called Mr. Wilson.

“How about this Saturday, around noon?” he said, in an easy-going Northwestern drawl.

“That would be great, thanks.” I could hardly contain my excitement.

“It’ll be in Horseshoe Bend. I’ll be giving lessons there that day. You’ll see the airstrip from the highway.”

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