by FIFI GORSKA
You can't drive a car until you're 16, but at 14 you can
get up in the sky and glide like a big bird.
Officially, it's a sport called soaring. Unofficially
it's called "feeling you're free, not depending on
That's the description Steve Galinaitis of Herndon High
gives when you're thousands of feet above the ground in a
motorless craft. You're at the control stick feeling out
the winds that will push you and
your sailplane higher in the air.
"The only sound you hear is the wind on the wings," says
Steve. "It sort of rumbles. And when you push the stick
forward and you dive, it whistles."
Steve is one of about 35 teen-agers from the washington
area who soar at Godfrey Field in Leesburg on weekends,
Wednesdays or holidays at the Capital Area Soaring School,
Anybody can go there with about $10 and soar, like buying
a ticket on a ride at an
amusement park, but these teen-agers, who make up 20
percent of the 12 to 60ish types who soar seriously, are
making their off-time major.
They are after their glider
Continued on page 10
A bright sun makes the sky look dark by contrast as a
soaring motorless craft reflects its rays over Godfrey Field
in Leesburg, Va.
continued from page 7
pilot certificates that means they can solo in a
sailplane over the countryside without an instructor behind
them. They mow lawns, wash cars, do any kind of odd jobs
available to get the money to go to the soaring school that
Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Bogora and Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Tuttle
Teen-agers make good soarers because they catch on fast
to instruction, especially meterology, says Mrs. Bogora.
The teens also catch on fast to what it means to go
flying around in the clouds.
Mike Pohlig of Falls Church High says he's gone 90 in a
car, but it doesn't compare to the thrill of going 40 in a
"It's much more fun than driving. You watch out for
birds as you hunt and probe for a thermal (hot air) that
will push you up and give you a longer ride." There's no
motor to make a noise, just the air whispering and rushing
by, like wind in the trees." The teen-agers are careful to
stay within a 3 to 5-mile radius of Godfrey Field because if
they land in someone's cornfield they have to pay a 50-cent
a mile to be carted back.
Mike who is 14, began soaring in June and soloed in July
after 23 lessons. At 16 he can try for his license that
will enable him to take up a passenger.
Some of the boys have gone
on from soaring to trying for real pilot's licenses in
motored planes. Others have been "grounded" temporarily due
to college enrollments. Take Eric Moe, a Churchill grad who
is a student at Gettysburg College.
Eric saved his money to take soaring lessons all last
summer. The time came when he thought he should inform his
parents that "he had done something he was proud of but
please don't be angry."
He shifted from foot to foot, his mother recalls, as he
announced he had soloed in a sailplane.
"His father thinks flying is for the birds," Says Mrs.
Moe, "but he grinned (undoubtedly happy with the thought
that Eric's sophomore year at college would take him out of
the sky for a while.)"
The teens who like soaring, don't give up easily,
however, even when they have to wait hours and hours for the
tow plane to come by and the others in line ahead of them
take off in the sailplanes.
"We just sit under a tent at the field and listen to more
experienced glider pilots tell stories," says Steve
Then it's Steve's turn, and he becomes a surfer of the
air waves, a sailor of the sky, a rider in the sky and any
other term you can give to feeling like a bird.
They have found freedom. They can taste it.
The glider's canopy is locked and Mike prepares for a tow plane
to pull him up into the sky where he'll soar at 3,000 feet.