Gliding to new heights

Sports

BLACK FOREST, Colo. — Andre Gerner has always loved soaring through the clouds.

After flying KC-135 and KC-10 planes for the United States Air Force for 30 years, his next move seemed to glide right into place.

“I got my first gliding indoctrination at the Air Force Academy, and really liked it,” Gerner said. “But I did not get to fly another glider until test pilot school.”

After flying nearly 70 different types of aircraft throughout his career, he can safely say nothing compares to piloting a glider.

“When you get out there, like a surfer, when you catch a wave, you are sitting on top of the world,” he said. “Well, in a glider, when you catch some lift you just thermal on up.”

Most gliders are built for cross-country flying.

“There is a niche field in gliding, which is aerobatics,” he said.

Gerner was looking for the perfect fit and found it in the FOX, a Polish-made glider, ranked as the world’s best two-seat unlimited glider ever built.

Gerner’s bought the FOX for his aeronautical inheritance. His son, Joe, who is currently an active duty pilot in the Air Force, co-owns the plane with his dad.

“I bought the plane to give him some upside-down time,” Gerner said. “Now, he’s turning out to be a better pilot than I am.”

Together, the father-son duo competes in aerobatic gliding competitions. Most recently, they went head-to-head at the 2019 Ben Lowell Aerial Confrontation.

“He actually outdid me,” Gerner said. “My first ride did not go so well. The magic just didn’t work. He came in, when it was his turn, and he gold medaled in that round.”

In round two, Dad was able to show off.

“I ended up silver medaling,” Gerner said. “He bronzed. So, at least I got a little something on him. So it was a fun time being in there together.”

“Gliding is just a unique type of flying,” Gerner said. “They are sexy airplanes. I think they are the most beautiful aircraft built. They are really optimized for high performance. They are a delight to fly.”

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