On Friday 17 May, two groups of WUR students were taken in vans to Deelen airbase, where the Royal Dutch Air Force practices. Their mission: gliding.
The students were taken up in the air by an experienced pilot.
‘You are launched like in a rollercoaster. You shoot up in the air incredibly fast, which pushes you back in your chair and your ears pop. Then the pilot says “We are going to detach the cable” and the glider’s nose drops. That’s the scariest moment because it seems as if you about to go into free fall. But suddenly it’s peaceful and silent. Then you are gliding.’
Sonja van der Wal (21) talks enthusiastically about her first time gliding. The Plant Biotechnology Master’s student got to go first on the gliding trip organized by student sports foundation Thymos. ‘It’s better that way as I might have lost my nerve otherwise. Gliding sounds pretty dangerous. When they explained the safety rules to us, it was all about safety on the ground but not what you should do in the air if things went wrong. I thought that was weird.’
Each year, Thymos offers a number of ‘experiences’ such as waterskiing, sand yachting (‘sailing’ in carts on the beach) and windsurfing. ‘The registration list for gliding is always full in no time,’ says Rijk Dersjant of the Thymos committee, who was also gliding for the first time. ‘It is a unique opportunity to experience something like this.’
The two-seater gliders are launched by a winch. The students were taken up in the air by an experienced pilot and were able to glide over the Veluwe for six to seven minutes. ‘That is enough because it gives you time to feel what gliding is like,’ says Van der Wal. Her first go at gliding made her keen to do it again but there are some practical obstacles. ‘The Deelen gliding club’s trial course costs 250 euros for one year. That makes it an expensive sport for students. It is also a long way away and I don’t have a car.’