Cops have lives too. In my second novel, ROPE BREAK, the story of Corporal Sam Deland picks up six months after the dramatic ending in my first, SINK RATE. Sam’s team of state troopers has been shaken by shootings both at them and by them. And now Sam is sending his eighteen year old son, Ken, off to the Air Force Academy in just over a month. While they still can, they are spending as much time together as busy schedules allow. Flying their sailplane has been one of the strong bonds between them and this last flight has Ken streaking cross country in strong lift while Sam climbs out of the tow plane and then tries to follow on the ground with the truck and trailer in case Ken has to land out. But the son and father can’t stay bound together forever…
The 1-26 ahead of Ken was climbing in the solid thermal Sam dropped him into as Ken settled into the cockpit at the end of the runway. Sam was turning the Citabria onto the strip from the taxiway and gave a thumbs up as he passed. Ken arranged his maps and water and tucked everything in tight for the tow. The line boy hooked the tow rope and called for Ken to pop the release to test it. Once they both felt the solid snap, the kid reset the ring at the end of the rope and Ken slid the release lever back forward to lock in the tow rope.
It was getting hot and stuffy in the cockpit and Ken adjusted the air intake to blow up to his face. He would risk a few pieces of runway grass from the Citabria’s prop wash just to get some air moving. The line boy jogged out to Ken’s left wing, picked it up and leveled the glider. Sam eased out onto the runway and pulled the tow rope tight. When Ken saw the slack gone, he glanced over his left shoulder looking for planes in the pattern and when he saw it was clear, waggled his rudder back and forth to signal his dad he was ready.
The light 1-26 single seater bounded down the runway and after only a few steps, the kid on the wing let go. Ken felt the stick respond to his touch and he kept the wings level in the churning air. The glider rumbled and bounced on the grass then lifted off the runway. Ken pushed lightly forward on the stick to keep the sailplane within a few feet of the ground so he wouldn’t pull up the tail of the tow plane and rub the prop into the grass. Sam pulled the Citabria into the air and the climb was on.
Out over the end of the runway Ken felt the first good bump of a thermal. His dad pulled him through several more on the upwind run and Ken pulled the release a bit early at 1800 feet into the middle of 400 feet a minute up lift. He banked into a tight right turn and watched the variometer indicate his climb up toward cloud base.
Sam smiled when he felt Ken release. Even though he hadn’t made it to 2000 feet, Ken was smart enough to know to drop into any good thermal above 1500. Sam settled into the pattern and landed. As he taxied back toward the office, he watched Ken dancing in the lift above. This time together had to be made the best of. Before much longer the young man would release the father son tow rope and be on his own.
Ken kept adjusting the bank to take advantage of the lift. Thermals are rising columns of air but the columns are never completely symmetrical. They bulge and shift, depending on the wind and moisture. This one was pulling Ken up to a cloud street that stretched out to the southeast for many miles. The ridge below wouldn’t be needed today. He could see the 2-33 skimming along the ridge working the lift along the face. The student pilot getting in a good days practice. Ken placed the other 1-26 but the Nimbus was already gone, streaking at high speed south toward Maryland.
Ken knew the landmarks and as he neared cloud base he marked his exit point to the southeast on each revolution. The first twenty miles weren’t too bad. Although mountainous, there were several airports and fields scattered along his route. A small strip to the southwest and the big airport at State College. Beyond that though, the ridges up and across Mifflin and Snyder Counties offered little but places to crash.
ROPE BREAK is tentatively scheduled to hit the market in February 2016. SINK RATE is out this coming October.
Go Pro cameras are changing everything. Amateur video production of just about any activity brings adventure right into your laptop or phone. You can read about flying sailplanes in my books but this video brings it to life. Enjoy.