The whooshing of wind and a weightless feeling in your stomach is what true freedom feels like.
I felt that freedom while soaring about 2,000 feet over Debert in an air cadet glider.
The last time I felt that freedom was nearly 20 years ago, as a teenage air cadet who took to the skies over southern England.
“This is what I live for,” said cadet Salma Khattab, 16.
Living for the skies is hard work, however.
Khattab, from Halifax, underwent a three-month training program at the Debert Airport over the summer.
She received her glider’s license after hours spent learning the controls, such as how to work the pedals and flight control stick. Trainee pilots must also undergo theory lessons covering the principles of flight and how gliders use thermal air currents for lift.
Flying a glider is a delicate job, as it relies solely on winds and has no engine, as Khattab soon discovered. To take off, gliders are attached to a ‘tow plane’ that pulls them into the sky using a rope. Once airborne, pilots detach from the tow plane and ride the thermals.
“The best thing about flying a glider is being able to go up into the air and enjoy the scenery, and also to really have confidence in what I do, just being able to make decisions by myself up there,” said Khattab.
The scenery Khattab and other pilots enjoy from above is the patchwork of forests and fields around Debert.
After a bumpy takeoff from Debert Airport, gliders fly over the village and on clear days can enjoy stunning views over the Bay of Fundy. Off in the distance, we saw the row of wind turbines just outside Truro and Hwy 104 snaking back to town.
Air turbulence made for a slightly nauseating but still thoroughly enjoyable ride, as I relived my air cadet days.
Back then, I completed several powered flights in Grob Tutor planes, under the watchful eye of a Royal Air Force pilot. I also went up once in a powered glider.
The big draw of air cadets was “fly before you drive,” as the brochures said.
I was 15 when I flew for the first time. Unlike Khattab, I didn’t become a licensed pilot, but for a brief few minutes I could forget about any earthly worries.
“I think it was really cool that at age 16 I was able to fly one on my own,” said Khattab of her gliding prowess.
I know exactly how she feels.
At her age, I wanted desperately to become a fighter pilot in the RAF. For a brief moment, kitted out in my flight suit and pushing my Grob Tutor through a loop-the-loop, the dream felt oh-so-real.
But my poor eyesight and a shaky grasp of physics doomed me to a life on the ground.
Except for these few tantalizing moments when I soared over the forests and fields of Colchester County.
This is what I live for.