Up and Away with Honolulu Soaring
One thing I hadn't done and was a tad leery about doing was taking a glider ride. Something about being in a plane thousands of feet in the air with no engine worried me.
My fears were totally unjustified as I had the time of my life flying with Honolulu Soaring, dba The Original Glider Rides from Dillingham Airfield on O'ahu's North Shore.
I had been scheduled to fly with them a couple of years ago, but my ride was cancelled for technical reasons. When I arrived at Dillingham last September for my rescheduled ride, I was concerned because the weather was less than ideal. Due to the volcanic activity at Kilauea on Hawaii's Big Island, heavy vog (volcanic smog) had enveloped O'ahu. It was very hazy. As time went on the vog somewhat dissipated.
The folks at Honolulu Soaring offered to reschedule my flight, but my schedule was already filled for the week, so I decided to go - recognizing that the views might not be optimal.
After a short safety briefing with Kim, their sales manager, it was time for my flight. My pilot, Joe, immediately put my mind at ease. I squeezed in behind the pilot's seat and within seconds the Cessna towplane began to pull us down the runway.
Amazing Views of O'ahu's North Shore and Wai'anae Moungain Range
After reaching a height where the proper wind currents were ideal, Joe released the towline and we were off, soaring above and beside the Wai'anae Moungain Range that stretches from O'ahu's North Shore down its leeward coast.
I finally was able to get a great view of Kaena Point, the extreme northwest point of Oahu. I looked down upon old goat trails the wander along the cliff face from which local hunters search after wild boar.
I got an aerial view of TMCA Camp Erdman which has become somewhat of a tourist attraction since it serves at the village of the Others in ABC's Lost. In fact, I felt like I was flying over the mysterious island featured in the TV series.
I had great views of O'ahu's North Shore along Mokuleia Beach down past Haleiwa. I wondered how great the views must be when the winter swells bring the world's highest waves to Oahu.
My flight lasted just about 30-minutes. I asked Joe what was the longest he had ever stayed up. He shocked me by telling me over four hours! He only landed because he had to go to the bathroom. Needless to say the glider has no facilities. Apparently as long as you keep catching the updrafts, you can stay airborne almost indefinitely.
My strongest memory of my flight, now five months later is the quiet. Without engine noise all you hear is the wind rushing over and under the glider. I hadn't heard such quiet since I went parasailing on Maui a few years ago.
All too quickly we landed. As I climbed out of the glider, a couple was already walking out for their ride. I told them that they'd have the time of their lives.
About The Original Glider Rides
The Original Glider Rides is the longest running civilian operation at historic Dillingham Airfield. They've been in business nearly 40 years and have grown from humble beginnings, 2 gliders (sailplanes) and one tow plane to their current fleet of aircraft; 8 gliders, 3 tow planes and a Varga (an engine aircraft used for scenic tours over Pearl Harbor).
Safety is their priority, which is key for any activity you may choose on your trip. All of their pilots have Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Commercial Ratings, all of their aircraft undergo 100 hour and Annual Inspections by FAA certified mechanics. They are fully insured. The Original Glider Rides have had no fatalities or serious injuries in their nearly 40 years of flying.
When you arrive at The Original Glider Rides there will be no complicated waiver to read and fill out. Instead you will be escorted to your sailplane by your pilot, who will answer any questions you may have. There are no age limits either; they have had children as young as 3 and 4 fly with them many older guests in their seventies.
The Original Glider Rides has a large friendly staff of pilots and ground crew all keen to ensure you have a wonderful experience when you fly with them. Their extensive flying facilities allow them to be totally adaptable to any group size; whether they are flying with an individual enjoying a "Hands On" Mini lesson, a family of four flying 2 people to a glider and sharing the airspace and fun together or a group of friends or work colleagues (large and small groups) wanting to experience the freedom of flight.
The Original Glider Rides offers scenic flights for one and two passengers that offer panoramic views of the Wai'anae Mountains and Mount Ka'ala. You'll see cattle trails and horse trails and may even see wild pigs. If you fly between December and April you will most likely be able to view the humpback whales that make Hawaii their winter home.
They also offer single passenger mini lessons which is an introductory flying lesson in conjunction with your scenic tour. It gives you the opportunity to find out what it feels like to fly in a sailplane (glider) yourself.
For those much more daring than me, they offer aerobatic rides. Strap on a parachute, climb into their aerobatic glider with an experienced aerobatic pilot, and hold on tight for the ride of your life. "Pull G's. Float in zero gravity. Loop-d-loop. Roll wing-tip to wing-tip. Draw clover leafs in the sky. Pull straight up vertically into a hammer-head stall, and then fall off into a vertical dive -- straight down. At 2 positive G's, wing-overs are the most mellow maneuver on your aerobatic ride."
For More InformationYou can find out more details on their offerings including pricing at their website honolulusoaring.com.
You can view some of the photos of my glider ride in my Original Glider Ride Photo Gallery.