Back in the Air

Remember when I said almost exactly a year ago that the best way to see the Outer Banks is by helicopter?

helicopter ride 009

Well, there’s a new sheriff in town, and his name is the trike.

flying 008

After Abby and I worked the early morning shift and got off at noon today, we finally made time to do something we’ve been planning as a joint birthday present to each other/ourselves for a couple months now.

One of our favorite morning regulars, Jonny, is a glider pilot and has been trying to get us up in the air for a while now.  Though conditions weren’t perfect today (a little cloudier and windier than is preferable for “beginner” flights), we decided to go for it since we all finally had the time.  Abby and I drove up to Currituck, signed away all liability for any broken bones, and suited up.


I didn’t trust myself not to drop my camera if I brought it up in the trike (there are NO doors, armrests, or side protection at all), but luckily Jonny has a GoPro mounted on the glider and took footage of our flight!

Seeing the place you live by air is an awesome experience.  As with the helicopter flight, it was fun trying to pick out familiar landmarks and realizing how different they looked from 3500 feet up!  Fun fact: we actually flew higher in the trike than we did in the helicopter – crazy!


The “less than perfect” conditions did make for some slight turbulence and cloud cover, but I actually enjoyed that – it made the whole thing more exciting!  We were flying around cloud level and a couple of times Jonny took us directly into the gigantic cloud banks, so we were totally surrounded by whiteness.


Eventually, Jonny decided to sit back and have himself a little rest, so he handed over the reigns for a while!


Moving the steering bar felt really heavy and sluggish at first, but after a few minutes I got the hang of how the trike moved and figured out how to use the glider’s momentum to steer with the air currents.  So cool!

At one point, we flew below the sun and looked down to see our own shadow zipping over the cloud bank, surrounded by a circular rainbow.  In reality it’s the physics of being between the sun and the cloud of water droplets (angle of refraction, Dad?), but Jonny said that in pilots’ terms it’s called a glory ring and means good luck!  We didn’t get it on film, but we decided that’s probably even better, like how your birthday wish will only come true if you don’t tell anyone what it is.

Towards the end of the flight, we dipped back below the clouds and got some amazing views of the coastline and barrier islands.  Again, I appreciated what a cool place the Outer Banks is!


Currituck is a little different than the beaches where we live, but Jonny said he’d bring the trike down to KDH in the fall to take us flying over the ocean.

The landing was a lot like I remember it being when I went hang gliding in New Zealand.  We dove straight toward the ground at lightening speed and somehow landed really softly with barely a bump on the grass!  Each flight was 20-25 minutes… I went first, then Abby went, and then Jonny actually took me up again because the camera hadn’t been working the first time and he wanted to make sure we got some video!  Abby and I owe Jonny for an amazing afternoon and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

In addition to having the fun of visiting Jonny at his work, since he visits us at ours every day, we were flying for Wiley, Jonny’s glider partner and best friend and another customer we were very fond of, who we lost unexpectedly last month.  We’ve all been very sad for a long time, so it felt wonderful to remember Wiley in a way he would’ve loved and that was very purely happy.  We even busted out his classic hang loose (although I am way less cool and look more like I’m trying to tell Jonny that he has a call on line one).


Helicopter: check.  Trike: check.  Suggestions are welcome for the forthcoming third installment on my flying machine bucket list!

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5 thoughts on “Back in the Air

  1. hot. air. balloon.

    I want to so badly! I’m sure I could handle a helicopter, but I don’t know about the trike! Maybe, someday…

    1. You’re brilliant! Hot air balloon it is. You actually don’t see those around here much… I guess that means there’s a market niche!

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