“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” – Leonardo Da Vinci
I moved to Pune in late July 2013 and at that time I used to live in Magarpatta City as a paying guest. While searching for options to stay I met a few guys who happened to be Gujaratis from Mumbai. Instantly a connection was made and I made new friends. One of them was senior of us and he had lived in Pune before. During one of our hangouts, he mentioned about a gliding center in Hadapsar, which was pretty close. It fueled my curiosity and piqued my interest. I had come to know about glider planes after watching The Thomas Crown Affair and once I had known about it, I was quite fascinated about the idea. We decided we’d go there sometime.
Fast forward to 2015 and all of us had moved to another place. By 2015, I changed room two times! Well, I had to. We never went to the gliding center together. I had not forgotten about it, it was just that I got occupied with other things or something like that 😉 I did some traveling & blogging in 2014. It was a great time. I had a lot of fun. Came 2015 and my quench to travel and have new experiences amplified. I decided it was about time I crossed off the glider plane ride from my bucket list.
The gliding center is operated by government and rides are offered to public only on Sundays. Sometime in late January 2015, I considered visiting the gliding center with a buddy of mine. I called him up and he was quite excited about the idea. Full of zeal, we visited the gliding center on a Sunday afternoon. The sight of a glider plane taking off and landing was mind-blowing! We just wanted to jump on the plane and take off to embrace the sky. Little did we know that it wasn’t going to be that simple. We inquired and came to know that a prior booking was required and the line for booking would start on Sunday morning somewhere around 7 or 7.30 am! Our hopes to taste the sky were grounded. We should’ve done our research beforehand. Lesson learned. Laughing our wits off, we returned determined to take that ride some day.
Came Feb 2015 and I couldn’t wait more. On 7th Feb (Saturday), I made up my mind that no matter what I’d be on that plane the next morning. I thought of catching some sleep as I’d have to wake up quite early. The winter was not over and it was a weekend. This combination increases the difficulty level for waking up early 😉 If that was not enough, I hardly slept that night! For some reason (may be the excitement), I couldn’t have a shut-eye till 3 or 4 am! The alarm went off at 7 and I was out of the bed in minutes.
It was a chilly morning, but thankfully the bike ride was short as the place was nearby. I reached the center and parked my bike inside. I arrived at the place where the booking was made. I noticed there was a guy who was sitting there. So, the queue had started to form and I was the second person. Wonderful! The thing is, booking starts @ 9.30 a.m., but people start arriving early. We started chatting and the guy told me that he was there on the Sunday a week before and made the booking. But, unfortunately he couldn’t enjoy the ride as there was no wind that day. Only two people got to have that experience a week before. Wait. What did he just say? Allow me to explain.
Glider planes do not have engines. I am not kidding. Then how do they fly? You might ask. Well, the thing is they float in the air. You read that right. The next thing you might wonder is that if they don’t have engines and they float in the air, then how do they take off, right? That’s why they need proper winds. Glider planes are tugged by a rope by a machine with a lot of force and once the plane achieves required speed, the pilot handles take off. Glider plane is designed in a way that it floats in the air and the pilot can control it. Awesome, isn’t it? It sure is.
So, the guy and I chatted quite a bit and more people arrived. The queue was getting bigger. Around 9.30 am the booking window opened and I got my token. Yeah! Flying would start from 11 am, so I returned to my room to have some breakfast and freshen up. I was back at the center around 11.15 am. The planes were still in the hangar. The guy I met in the morning was there and we waited for our turns. Soon enough, one of the plane was taxied out to the runway. Take a look.
It took some time for the process and when everything was ready, the guy was seated in the plane. Then, they waited for the winds. It took some more time, but after a while he was airborne. When he landed, his expressions could tell how much he was thrilled. Then, it was my turn to get that feeling. I was seated inside the plane. Boy, it was an amazing feeling just sitting inside! The rope was attached to the plane. The pilot asked my name and he introduced himself. My pilot for that day was Mr. Nayak Lele. He was an interesting fellow. He asked me a few questions about me while we were waiting for the winds. The excitement was rising by each passing second. I couldn’t wait to touch the sky.
Luckily, I didn’t have to wait much. There was enough wind and we were given the green signal to take off. The plane was tugged with force and pretty soon the plane was floating in the air. I couldn’t help but smile ear to ear. I watched Magarpatta city from above. It was awesome! There was a window through which wind kept passing and I could feel the wind. I was cherishing those moments. It was quite a different feeling altogether. The ride lasted for 6 to 7 minutes. We circled around the gliding center and landed. Although it was a short one, I enjoyed it to the fullest. I can’t put into words how exhilarating the ride was. Here are some pics and videos.
After landing my mind was still wandering in sky 😉 The experience was not over yet. Yes, we did land, but that was not it. After landing I pushed the plane back to the runway! Why? Well, as the plane doesn’t have any engine and after landing somewhere on the runway it needs to go back to the place from where it can fly again, right? So, the pilot held the wing and I pushed it back to the runway. I have to admit, the plane doesn’t weigh much.
On our way back, I got some interesting information from the pilot. He told me that just like me he worked in IT domain and he learned to fly the glider plane in his spare time. In that gliding center, the record for longest continuous flight was 8 hours! He himself had flown continuously for 2.5 to 3 hours. It was interesting chatting with him. Once we reached back to the runway, I bid him goodbye and returned back to my place satisfying my quench for an amazing experience and crossed it off my list 🙂