The Taste of Flight

Story by Glenn Roberts// Photos by Glenn Roberts
April 1 2014

A morning motorcycle ride resulted in one of the most exciting afternoon ride destinations I have ever experienced.

You probably got into motorcycling in the first place for the thrill and the excitement of speed. Maybe you entered the sport for the camaraderie, and to spend some quality time with your family or friends. So, to satisfy those needs, you pick a destination, maybe a scenic drive to a remote town for lunch. Then turn around and head back home. Or heaven forbid, you end up at a coffee shop for hours on end. That can get old pretty quick, so I thought I’d try something a little different.

I received an invitation from Eddy Carolan, a 25-year member of the York Soaring Association (, to go up in a glider. While I was riding to the soaring club’s airfield, I wondered why I accepted the invitation to leave the safety of terra firma and be hauled a few thousand feet up in the air in a plane that doesn’t even have an engine. I could think of a thousand reasons to have an engine. For instance, what happens if you have to abort a landing? It’s not like you can power up and try again.

I know you are asking yourself, what does soaring have to do with motorcycles? Well, nothing really, except that it’s exhilarating, and that’s probably why you got into biking in the first place. And having an exciting destination makes for a good excuse to go for a motorcycle ride. A burger and fries just isn’t that enticing.

GliderI met up with Eddy just south of the Forks of the Credit area, and we proceeded to ride to the airfield together. From Toronto’s downtown core it’s about an hour and a half out, and the Forks of the Credit, one of southern Ontario’s motorcycling hotspots, is on the way. Located on a short stretch of gravel road just south of County Road 109, a few kilometres east of Arthur, we turn into the York Soaring Association’s airfield. The soaring club has existed since 1961, and over the years has grown to a membership of 150 members. It spans 200 acres with five runways.

I met up with my pilot, Charles Peterson, in the clubhouse, and he proceeded with the required orientation. I was scheduled for an all-out acrobatic tour that would begin when I pulled the release handle to separate us from the tow plane at 4000 feet. There is also a basic, scenic flight for which no orientation is needed – you go up and enjoy the flight back to earth. But I was looking for something a bit more adventurous.

Just before takeoff, I met Manfred Radius. After he exchanged a few words with Charles, I was informed of a change of plans. Manfred would now be my pilot.

CockpitThe York Soaring Club has a handful of pilots authorized to perform acrobatic glider flights, and I gathered from the initial introduction that Manfred ( is one of the best. With over 50 years’ experience and more that 5000 flights, he performs hair-raising stunts at air shows across North America, and sometimes travels the world to amaze crowds. I was assured that I was in very good hands.

After I commented to Manfred that I liked adventure and could handle anything he threw at me, he explained in more detail the manoeuvres he would perform. The runway was a little choppy as one of the club’s three tow planes pulled us along it, but I felt the immediate smoothness once we left the ground. I felt completely at ease with Manfred at the controls, and once we reached 4000 feet I didn’t need to be told twice to pull the release lever to disconnect us from the plane.

With the exception of some wind noise passing over the fuselage of the jet-like plane, it was eerily quiet and so serene. And with my passenger seat at the very front of the plane, there were no obstructions in my view – I could see Toronto from 4000 feet.

In total, Manfred performed six acrobatic acts that consisted of the lazy 8, a vertical loop, a hammerhead stall turn, a humpty bump, an aileron roll and a quarter cloverleaf. I had no idea that a glider could do such things, and it was only during the hammerhead stall turn that I thought I saw the grim reaper hovering below us. At one point after the roll, we had climbed to 5000 feet, and the accelerometer measured four gees on a couple of the manoeuvres. After I was allowed to fly the glider for a few minutes, Manfred took us back to earth with a perfect landing.

While a flight will cost you more than lunch or a dozen coffees, it does offer way more excitement. A basic flight will set you back $140 and an acrobatic flight will run $250, with discounts if you arrive with five or more flyers. Inexpensive flight lessons are also available at the club.

Leonardo da Vinci said, “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

Start saving up a few lunches, and you will be able to get the taste of flight; it’s way more gratifying than a burger and fries.


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