"Good," said Carris. "This wind is pretty strong. We'd better get back toward the airport. I think we have enough altitude now."
Just before we got to the field, we found another thermal, a good one, and we circled and circled up to 4,500 feet. "Well," said Carris, "what do you know. We might as well go on for a while. Try it downwind this time. Over there." And he pointed to the southwest.
We found another thermal at 1,500 feet just west of Waverly, where Route 17 almost dips into Pennsylvania, and another, a very weak one, east of town, to keep us going. But then, south of Owego, we couldn't find anything. We hit one bad sink area that dropped us remorselessly 1,000 feet in two minutes, and soon we were down to 1,500 feet, without a sign of a cloud. We went down to 1,200 feet, to 1,000—and Carris began to look for a field. Then, at 600 feet, with some of the neighboring hills already above us, we found a wind blowing up a little ridge. We arose, briefly, and then the ridge current ran into a thermal. Up we went, like a kite, to 4.000 wonderful feet. I wondered if Carris was perspiring, too.
We crossed over the Tri-Cities Airport, and we still had 3,000 feet. Carris looked at his watch. It was after one o'clock. "In five minutes," he said, "we'll have been up for three hours. There must be a restaurant somewhere down there. What do you say?"
That was about all of the cross-country. We landed and called back to Elmira to tell them where to send the towplane. We ate lunch and explained to an endless horde of weekend power pilots how the 2-25 got into the air and what made it stay there and why. Some of them were fascinated; some of them looked at us and shook their heads.
On Sunday, just before I left, Paul Schweizer had them roll out a 1-23. This is one of the famous mass-production competition sailplanes, which have performed with great distinction against even the custom-built American and foreign sailplanes of the world. "This isn't ordinarily part of the course," he said, "but we thought maybe you might like to fly the 1-23."
"You won't have any trouble," said Carris, as he locked the canopy. "It's just like the 1-26, only faster."
It was a gloomy day, and there were no thermals, but there was good lift around the edge of the thunderstorms that crossed the valley that morning, and the 1-23 scorned the earth below. We went across the sky over Chemung County Airport like a swallow. We circled Harris Hill, standing on one wing. We flashed down the ridge, scattering hawks behind us. We climbed to 5,000 feet. I did some wingovers and lazy eights. I started to do a loop and changed my mind. "Watch it, boy," I said. "You're not that kind of a pilot anymore." Finally, because I had to catch a flight for home, I took the 1-23 back to the airport, whirled around the field one more time and slid down the sky to a landing. Like a feather.
Carris, I decided, was a good instructor. More than that, he was a pleasant man to spend a long afternoon with at an airport in Endicott, N.Y. I shook his hand. The Schweizers came out and shook hands, too. Maybe they were only happy to get their nice sailplane back, but they were far too hospitable to mention that.
"Come back," they said. "Anytime."