Outdoor Report: Flying gliders above the Alberta Foothills

Every week this summer, CBC's Paul Karchut highlights a different outdoor adventure suggested by a Calgary Eyeopener listener. This week, he goes up in the air.

Paul Karchut met up with a few birds on this up-in-the air adventure

Glider landing

6 years ago
Duration 1:40
Outdoor Report host Paul Karchut takes to the skies in a glider

He's tackled snowy steep mountains, treacherous trails, and winding rivers.

Now, Paul Karchut has conquered Alberta's great big sky.

For this week's Outdoor Report, he hopped into a glider to get a different view of the Foothills.

Paul Karchut took a flight on a glider — a motorless aircraft that gets its lift from its near 30-metre wingspan. (CBC/Shulamit Kuttner)

Glider, not hang glider

You have to run off a hill or the side of a mountain to launch a hang glider.

A glider depends on a tow plane or a tow vehicle to drive it along a runway and launch it into the air, releasing the tow line when the aircraft gets about 1,200 metres off the ground.

No motor? No problem

A glider is a motorless aircraft that gets its lift from its near 30-metre wingspan.

Everyone who goes for a flight has to wear a parachute, but Karchut was assured that no one from the glider club he visited has ever had to make an emergency leap.

He took flight with Shulamit Kuttner, who has been flying gliders since 2009 through the Cu Nim Gliding Club, near Black Diamond, Alta.

"It's so wonderful," said Kuttner. "Being up in the sky and flying — you have such great visibility when you're up there and it's quiet."

Flying with the birds

In order to stay up in the sky, glider pilots have to aim their aircraft at invisible, rising columns of air.

Kuttner hunts down those pockets of lift using instrumentation, which is fairly similar to what you'd see in a conventional plane, and by keeping an eye on what's happening around her.

"The birds are one of the cues that we use. We also use clouds… They're white and they're fluffy and they're starting to develop. Those would be the type of clouds that we'd be aiming for."

Can you see him? For this week's Outdoor Report, the CBC's Paul Karchut got to be a passenger in a glider. (Shulamit Kuttner)

Kuttner and Karchut met up with a pair of hawks on their flight, who led them to a rising column of air that sent them spiraling upwards.

"I'm not going to lie, spinning around and around did start to make me feel pretty queasy," said Karchut.

There are a number of glider clubs in southern Alberta that offer introductory flights. The Cu Nim Club, for example, charges $175.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener