02 October 2009
switching back to CTAF
I wouldn't be far from the mark if I admitted that I took this photo with a lump in my throat. Burketown was growing smaller behind us, and I knew it would only grow smaller in my memory, too. We listened on 122.9 in silence as the other gliders' calls became more muddled and broken 10 miles out, 20 miles out, 50 miles out, and finally heard them one by one switch back to CTAF.
It's strange to live a year like this, building up a community over days or weeks and then one day turning away from it all without a backward glance simply because it's time to move on. It's tough to leave a piece of yourself behind and not know if you'll ever return to reclaim it. At Burketown, the pilots and friends, even the salt flats and the hot sea breezes, made the farewell difficult.
The day before I left, a fellow pilot, Nigel, gave me a thermalling lesson in this Dimona (VH-GYT). It was a beauty to fly, and I managed to keep it aloft for about an hour in the invisible afternoon thermals. When we landed, we ambled curiously among the parked aircraft to a helicopter being disected by a couple men and a forklift. Dangling from the forklift's giant pincers was a 100 kilogram, 500 horsepower engine. The one in the Dimona weighs 80 kilos and is 80 horsepower. Nigel fell silent. He was ogling the motor like a...well, like a glider pilot before a very lightweight 500 horsepower engine. We had just spent an hour soaring with our engine off, and here we were, awestruck by a gently swinging gas-swilling beast. Some things don't make too much sense. I guess it's kind of like saying good-bye. Eventually, we just had to turn and walk away.