Alberta soaring enthusiasts converge twice a year -- the week that spans July and August and then again the week before Canadian Thanksgiving -- on the old grass airstrip at Cowley to ride “The Wave”--an undulating swell of of air rolling over the Rockies and out across the foothills. If you look longingly enough, you may even be invited up for the ride.
About 20 sailplanes and twice as many pilots gather at the airstrip and campground for this mid-summer week of gliding and socializing. For all the activity, the pace is serene and, but for the intermittent grumble of the tow planes, the silence is broken only by the soft swishing of air over the wings of landing gliders.
The big attraction this year is the new, two-seat soar plane of Calgary’s Cunim Gliding Club. The sleek, $200,000 engine-less aircraft is equipped with hand-operated rudder controls, instead of the usual pedals. The club purchased the European-made glider to open the skies to paraplegic flight students.
More than 30 flights are the daily norm at the summer soaring camp. The airfield itself is a legacy of Canadian aviation history. In the early days of commercial flight, unpressurized aircraft could not climb over the Rockies and relied upon clear, calm weather to navigate their way through the mountain passes and valleys. When conditions were not right, westbound passenger planes waited out the weather at Cowley, where the thick steel cables used to tie down their wings remain in use by glider owners.
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