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Have you often wondered how it would feel to be able to soar through the air like an eagle? If so, wonder no more--just head down to the Seminole-Lake Gliderport and reserve a spot for yourself on a sailplane. Knut Kjenslie heads up the gliderport staff, and was the pilot for our first "lesson". We met Knut in the gliderport terminal, which was a pretty nice set-up. Besides the actual terminal, there was an in-ground pool, RV hookups, and a picnic area. After talking to Knut, we felt pretty confident--he had been running his gliderport for over 13 years, and had a perfect safety record.

After a short briefing, we then made our way out to the runway, in what Knut jokingly called "The Gliderport Limo", which was actually a beat-up, late model station wagon. Knut uncovered the cockpit, and began a series of pre-flight safety checks. After determining that everything was in good working order, we hooked up the sailplane to the tow-plane which was a converted crop duster. Knut gave the "ready" signal to the tow pilot, and we were off.

After an exciting takeoff, we were towed to the appropriate altitude and released the cable to the tow plane. We were then free--soaring between clouds about three thousand feet in the air. The first indelible memory is one of utter tranquility--it almost seems like you're suspended in mid-air. And, of course, the view is breathtaking! The seat is in a slightly reclined position and the canopy is very large, so you can see just about everything possible.

Piloting the craft under Knut's close guidance made the trip even more exciting--but the thrills had just begun. After a while, Knut asked if I enjoyed roller coasters. Being what modern sociologists term a "thrillseeker", I told him I did, so he began some fancy aerial maneuvers. I was amazed at how quickly the sailplane could transform from a serene sightseeing ship to an explosively fun vehicle. And although I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the ride, the aerial maneuvering was definitely my favorite part!

All too soon we were on the ground and making our way back to the terminal where Melissa, Knut and I discussed the sport.

"It's really popular in Europe," explained Knut, "but it hasn't even reached a fraction of its potential in the States. And the hot Florida sun produces a lot of thermals, which are what allows us to gain altitude, so our area is one of the best in the world for soaring."

Knut's gliderport started out relatively small, but has grown into a thriving business.

"We have seven gliders in the operation, and two tow planes," he said. "On weekends, I usually have two instructor pilots and two to three pilots manning the tow planes--it gets quite busy."

The gliderport also rents storage space for other pilots to house their own sailplanes. And, recently, Knut has sold off parcels of his adjacent land as homesites for a gliderpilot community.

The Seminole-Lake Gliderport offers a variety of rides starting as low as $30 per person--a pretty reasonable price for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And we wholeheartedly recommend anyone interested in flying to go see Knut at the Seminole-Lake Gliderport, but be forewarned: this sport is highly addictive!

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