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Soaring over Lake Tahoe with Soaring NV

Lake Tahoe's South ShoreLake Tahoe’s South Shore: The beautiful scene is set with the Tahoe Keys at the edge of the water and the mountain range in the back. Photo by Ryan Jerz.I’m not a huge thrill seeker, but when the prospect of going up in a glider arose, I didn’t hesitate to go for it. Soaring NV, the newest glider company in Minden, wanted to show off what they can do. My only experience with gliding or soaring was seeing the photos that my uncle had taken a couple of years ago when he took a similar ride. It looked great, and I’m really interested in aerial shots, so I saw this as a great opportunity to get some good pictures and a little video from high above a gorgeous landscape—Lake Tahoe and the Carson Valley.


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I arrived at Soaring NV a little bit earlier than my appointment, but was greeted with enthusiasm. Laurie, one of the owners, took me out to the glider so we could watch the rider before me take off. I got a good look at the tow plane and the glider itself. They strapped themselves in and the tow plane hit the gas. This is where it got really cool. The glider leaves the ground at about 40 miles per hour. That happens real quickly. No long runway needed for this baby. It was of the ground, then a few seconds later, when the tow plan hit its takeoff speed it was away as well. They immediately started climbing by doing some circles around the area. Then they headed for Lake Tahoe.

At that point I went back to the hangar and filled out some paperwork. When we got back to the runway, we were just in time to see the glider come back toward the airport and land. Again, I was surprised that the glider landed and stopped in a total of about 10 seconds. The runway used couldn’t have been more than 500 feet.

Now it was my turn. I put on the parachute (used when the glider ride is going to be performing acrobatic maneuvers) and strapped myself in. I was able to take my still camera and a small handheld video camera with me. The staff took a few pictures of me in the glider and I got a few instructions from Laurie and the pilot, Jeffrey. The tow plane got into position, and we were away.

Pulling toward Lake TahoePulling toward Lake Tahoe: The first glimpse of Lake Tahoe is magnificent. The tow plane is still chugging along. Kingsbury Grade is seen on the side of the mountain. Photo by Ryan Jerz.Heading toward Lake Tahoe was pretty exciting. I knew the view of the lake would be spectacular, and it slowly reveals itself as we got nearer to the low point at the top of Kingsbury Grade. Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort is on your left as you cross over, and the snow that had recently blanketed the mountains made it look great.

The tow plane got us to the shores of the lake, made another loop, and we released. As soon as you release, everything becomes much calmer. The speed drops from about 70 miles per hour to around 45 and the noise dies down. The tow plane went back into the Carson Valley and we cruised around the south shore of Lake Tahoe. The views are magnificent. I saw the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, the casino buildings that dot Stateline, the Tahoe Keys, Fallen Leaf Lake, and many other easily picked out landmarks.

Lake TahoeLake Tahoe: Looking to the north we can see almost the entire lake. Photo by Ryan Jerz.Jeffrey made me put the camera down after a few minutes so I could take control of the glider. He briefly showed me how the controls worked and then talked me through what we should be doing as I controlled the aircraft. That was pretty tense, but I got the hang of it. After a bit, he told me to point us back toward Kingsbury Grade so we could go home.

As we crossed over the summit, he told me what wed be doing for acrobatics. We started with what he called “wing overs.” This is where you point downward to gain speed, then pull up and turn to the side. You go over one wing or the other, hence the name. We did two on each side, then came the big one. We pointed downward to get up to about 120 miles per hour, then pulled straight back and went into a full loop. In doing this we hit about 3Gs. The glider is built to withstand 6G, so we weren’t even close to its capabilities. The loop made for some fun video.

Genoa, NevadaGenoa, Nevada: A quick glance out the right side of the glider shows the Carson River and Genoa. Genoa Lakes Golf Course is also seen. Photo by Ryan Jerz.After the loops, we went straight for the airport. We had to fly in using a pattern, which is standard procedure. As we circled toward our runway, Jeffrey took us into another wing over to give us the correct speed and altitude necessary to control the landing. He told me then that you fly quickly until about five feet from the ground. There you slow down and land the glider. He seemed to execute it perfectly and within a few seconds we were stopped.

This might have been the most “thrilling” experience I have had. We were in the air for around 45 minutes, but it went by real quickly. They had told me they like to get before and after pictures of their riders. That’s because people smile before, but they really smile after. I was one of those people. The crew was amazing and the ride was spectacular. I would recommend this ride to anyone who asked. Minden is one of the world’s finest airports for glider activity. The conditions are world class. Soaring NV was also world class. Overall it was an amazing trip.

Watch the video for the highlights of the ride:

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  • Posted by Ryan Jerz on November 14th, 2008