Travel Blog #122 – Glider Rides Over The North Shore

Aug 8, 2021 | Activity Information

Until I got to experience a ride on a glider for myself I had no idea how cool these machines are. When to tow line dropped and we were on our own we really were quietly coasting through the air like a bird.

I met up with the Original Glider Rides at the Dillingham Airfield on the north shore of Oahu. I checked in under the pavilion and was told that it would be a few minutes before my pilot landed from his previous trip so I decided to go outside and look around the airstrip and see if I could spot my pilot flying around over the airfield.

The Dillingham Airfield has quite a history. The original use of the area was to house a communications station called Camp Kawaihapai. The camp was constructed in 1922. Then in 1941, the Army leased additional land surrounding the camp to construct the Mokuleia Airfield. The P-40s that were stationed here were some of only planes that were able to get airborne and attempt to counter attack after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The runway was extended to over 9000 feet in length to accommodate the massive B-29 Superfortress Bombers. Then in 1949 the airfield was expanded and renamed to Dillingham after a young pilot from a local family that was shot down in 1945 over Kawasaki Japan. During points in the cold war various missiles were stationed here until 1962 when the Hawaii Department of Transportation leased access from the military for general aviation use of the public. While the military does still perform nighttime training mission here from time to time, the airfield is mainly utilized by the Original Glider Rides.

It took about ten minutes before my pilot touched his glider down on the runway. The sleek aircraft made its way to a halt just past the pavilion where I had checked in at. The Plexiglas canopy of the aircraft popped open and the pilot and a male Japanese passenger emerged from the cockpit of the plane. Within about 5 minutes, the tow strap had been reconnected to the tow plane and the pilot and I were buckled into our seat belts inside the gliders cockpit.

The powerful engine of the tow plane turned on with a roar, as it began to move forward the slack began to pull out of the tow strap until it eventually pulled taught, lurching our glider forwards down the runway. The takeoff as very smooth and it did not take long at all before we were high enough up over the airfield to pull the cable release and start the gliding portion of our flight.

The north shore of Oahu stretched off into the distance beneath us. Small agricultural plots speckled the land underneath for as far as we could see. On the inland side of us the steep cliffs of the Waianae Mountain Range jutted upwards from the flat grassy plane that the air field was built on. We made a series of long banked turns that lasted for about 15 minutes before the pilot decided to line us up for our final approach back on to the runway.

As I felt the wheels of the plane gently make contact with the pavement of the runway I was startled by the noise that interrupted a period of complete silence that had lasted since we had initially released the cable from the tow plane. I unbuckled my seat belt as the pilot opened the canopy of the cockpit. We said our good byes and I made my way back to the parking lot I paused for a few minutes to watch some of the other gliders circle and then eventually land back on the runway. I had already gone shark cage diving earlier that morning and I couldn’thelp but think to myself how lucky I was to that it was only a few minutes past 1pm and I had already done two of the most thrilling activities that we offer on the island of Oahu.