Smithies talks about the unique way in which hawks are able to help pilots avoid danger.


Oliver Smithies:

Hawks are always important in flying a glider, because they’ll tell you where the lift is, or as Tee Bahnson — my current partner in flying — calls them, “buzzards.” If you know where the buzzards are, you know where the lift is. And, we have a nice entry of that on May the 4th, let’s see the year, I always got the year, May the 4th, in 1980. Perfectly clear sky in the morning, local small cumulus until about 5PM, and then clear again but smooth. And with a note that the Morey Local, Blanik L1348028, three hours and 15 minutes towed to 2,000 feet, with a bad release in severe sink, and was ready to quit, when I got down to 900 feet above ground. Followed a hawk then, to 3,000 feet, and the way into the cloud base at 10,880 above ground, more than 3,000 meter gain, a local record, passes Lodi by one mile. That was a local record for me, anyway, and 20 miles with zero lift and zero sink, home with still 2,000 feet to spare. So, it was a really beautiful day, one of the best flights in the Blanik that I ever had, all starting from almost quitting, but seeing a hawk and following it up to get out of trouble.


Chapter 15: “Transatlantic Flight, Part 1” >>