Thursday, June 15, 2006

Member Profile - Neil Wilson

Neil has long been seen at the SOSA airfield, I am told since he was in diapers. He is now likely the best groomed and enthusiastic ground handling member at SOSA. He knows all the SOSA procedures and is a veritable font of gliding knowledge. This year Neil turned 14 and father Chris has encouraged Neil to emerge as a chrysalis to take flight with fellow instructor Tom Coulson on a course to become a pilot. This prompted my chat with Neil one evening to gather some notes for a SOSA blog.

Neil is now a 9th grader at high school in Woodstock and he has fond memories of SOSA especially summer weekends “camping out” at the family trailer home. At the field Neil has taken a keen interest in all of the ground operations under the watchful eye of his father Chris and enjoys everything from retrieving and launching gliders, driving the bus (and his Dad’s car I have noted), cleaning the gliders, time keeping, running ropes etc. His enthusiasm for this volunteer activity puts most of us to shame. Many, including your editor have learnt from Neil’s expert ground handling example. Notwithstanding his considerable experience Neil carries himself in a cautious, polite and understated manner; a real gentleman around the field.

Flight instruction started at the end of April and at the time of my chat with Neil a couple of weeks ago he had completed 8 flights in the Blanik L23 with Tom, tackling the initial control of flight, some gentle stalls, slow flying and turns, He was also starting to learn the tow and take off. Last weekend I noticed Neil landing just behind me. I’m sure like a duck to water Neil will handle glider flight as well as his ground handling. It is amazing how the younger people take to the idea of flying much more quickly.

Neil had some challenges in overcoming his diminutive stature in order to reach the controls. To assist, Chris and Tom got together and constructed some clever extensions to the rudder peddles and seat, including some weight to counter that of Tom in the back. The challenges with flying, Neil explains, are trying not to over control since he has been familiar with radio controlled gliders which require a soft deftness. The much larger and bulky gliders surprisingly also require a gentle squeeze on the controls rather than a large movement. Neil is really enjoying the instruction although he does not now have time to enjoy the view. His goal is to go solo this year and get his licence by the time he is 16 when he looks forward to taking his friends flying.

This is not the first time Neil has flown by far. Neil had carefully documented 34 flights with his Dad since he was about 2 or 3 years old. His first flight was in a Schleicher 2-33DXR on 24th August 1997 and he remembers being impressed with the amazing view. With Dad at the controls Neil recalls that he wasn’t nervous at all. Other memorable flights were taken in the Twin Astir on April 12th 1998 and May 17th 1998 sitting side by side with his sister Angie. That was cool Neil remarks.

Like most of us Neil is afraid of heights he explains although being in a glider is quite different from looking down from the top of the CN Tower. Somehow in a glider it is strange that there is no such fear because “you are not tied to the ground” Neil explains.

Neil has an ambition to become a teacher rather than follow a flying career. He will follow in his father’s footsteps and always take an interest in gliding. Neil likes the atmosphere at SOSA, the social events at Canada Day and the Halloween costume party, dinners at the brown barrel restaurant and at Tom and Shirleys home, as well as cooking dinner; hamburger and steak over the BBQ at SOSA. Other interests are gymnastics at school and soccer. However they take second place to gliding. Neil would like to encourage other young people to take up this unique and special sport.

This summer Neil hopes to spend a large amount of time at SOSA with his friend Dennis Dyke and will stay with their family if his own family are away. Take the time to chat with Neil at the field. He is a very mature young man and is keen to share his knowledge of the club and of gliding.