A Jewish Pilot in the Land of Milk and Honey — Part 3

It was not that easy for me to be accepted at that gliding course. Anybody who wished to go gliding had to pass a medical exam similar to the one which was given to those who wanted to go flying light airplanes. I therefore went and passed this medical and received an A certificate which I handed to Uri Breier when I arrived at Kfar-Yeladim. He looked at me and asked to see my identity-card and when he saw that I was not 16 years old yet he refused to accept me. I had to beg and argue that I was only 4 months and 8 days under age until he finally agreed.
All the gliders which we had at that period were single-seaters which meant that the trainee sat by himself  on the glider and the gliding -instructor remained on the ground. Our primary-glider , the Wrona-Bis, made in Poland was made of wood. The wing was part wooden and covered with cloth which was impregnated with dope and cellon. There was no wheel in its undercarriage but a long skid separated from the fuselage by 3 hard-rubber shock-absorbers. The seat had a seat belt.  Under the front of the fuselage there was a hook. To this hook the bungee-cord was hooked. The bungee-cord was very long and shaped like the letter Y. It stretched about ten feet from the hook and then divided into two arms – left and right, each about twenty feet long. The bungee was a thick cord made of many rubber-bands.  It was very elastic and could be stretched considerably.
The 0A starting place was at the very foot of the hill and had a very light slope ahead. The glider was placed at the head of the slope and the trainees were called each at his turn. I was standing on the right side of the Wrona and when Breier called out my name I approached and mounted the seat from the right. Before I managed putting the seat-belt on I heard Breier  saying in a loud and angry voice: “You are grounded for the rest of the course. Get off the glider. Bewildered and perplexed I got off the glider and asked, “Why?” Breier refused to explain and called the next trainee. Yehudi Fishman, who was present, approached Breier and told him in strong language: “What you are doing is unfair. Neither you nor any other instructor has ever told any of us that we must board from the left and dismount from the right and now that we are discussing it why are you insisting on this stupid principle? This is not the horse-cavalry and the glider is not a horse which one mounts from the left. The poor boy has had enough difficulty in getting here and if this is an aviation tradition why don’t you explain it to him instead of grounding him.!” Breier remained silent for a couple of minutes and then turned back to me and said: “Mount the glider from the left.”
Since we were eventually to fly into the air on our own, our instruction was very slow and careful. The instructor started by moving the wing left and right so as to see that you reacted by pushing the joystick in the opposite direction in order to have the wing balanced level. Next, the bungee was hooked to the glider and 4 men on each side of the cord started pulling. Since the glider was not held back it started moving forward, scraping the ground, with the instructor holding the wing tip and running along. This exercise was called “ploughing”. Then the glider was brought back and two men sat behind its tail holding it with a rope which was tied fast to a ring at the tip of the tail. The first man held the rope and the second man sat behind him with his arms around him holding him back. The instructor used to call out: “Chords! Start walking, walk on, walk on!” The men on the two spread cords walked and the bungee cords stretched while the glider remained fix held by the men on its tail. Almost immediately the instructor used to call, “Release!” and the men at the tail released their hold. The glider used to shoot forward rising slightly and since the bungee was not stretched much the glider used to sink back to the ground. The instructor used to time this so-called “jump” on his time-watch. The first jump lasted 2 seconds. The glider was brought back and the next in turn had his “start”. I was mad with happiness: I flew in the air for 2 seconds, straight and well balanced!
The next day, my jump lasted 3 seconds. On the third day I was given two starts: one of 5 seconds and another of 7 seconds. On the fourth and last day of this short course I was given two starts again: The first lasted 8 seconds and the second lasted 10 full seconds. The longer the jumps were the higher the glider was catapulted and the further it traveled. Breier signed my log-book. Although he marked all my 6 jumps as “Satisfactory” Breier never liked me. I was too good too soon, and apparently his beginning was not so.

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