Shep took to the air again flying a solo glider after 35 years. Here’s his story… I started flying gliders in 1981 when I was an A-7 IP with the Tucson Guard. I did it for the hell of it and because my son was approaching 14 and expressed an interest in flying. I had lots of military jet time, lots of light aircraft time and some airline time with TWA as an FE (when not furloughed, but that’s another story).
I was certified with a glider rating at Estrella Sailport, near Maricopa, south of Phoenix. I flew dual in the Schweitzer SGS 2-33, then soloed in the SGS 1-26 and later in the 1-36. Meanwhile, my son soloed in 1982, at age 14. In 1984, I joined the Tucson Soaring Club and flew out of El Tiro gliderport near Marana, north of Tucson. I stopped flying gliders in 1985 when we moved from Tucson to Cape Cod.
A word to the wise – glider flying looks like flying powered aircraft – it isn’t. The principles are the same, up-down, left-right, lift-drag, stall-spin, and money; however, there’s lots to know and you’ll need some good dual instruction from an FAA certified glider instructor. For an experienced pilot, flying gliders isn’t difficult but it’s different. Some good news – it’s cheaper than powered flight and you don’t have to maintain an FAA medical.
I just started flying again at Estrella Sailport and was cleared for solo – at 81 years old, it is good to be alone in a cockpit once more. I’m going to rejoin the Tucson Soaring Club and hope soon to fly the Grob 103 and PW6 and single place, PW5, Std. Cirrus and ASW-19 higher performance gliders. I have a smile on my face and when my wife asks me why I am doing this, I give her my best Clint Eastwood answer – “Don’t let the old man in” – Don Shepperd, SSS Charter Member