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Flying gliders is more than a hobby – it’s a passion

Jul 20, 2023 12:34PM ● By Becky Ginos

Alley’s glider flies over Mt. Nebo. Courtesy photo

MORGAN—Flying through the air without an engine sounds crazy but that’s exactly what Lynn Alley does in his glider. The Bountiful man has loved to fly since he was a teen and it’s still his passion 53 years later. He is chief instructor for the Utah Soaring Association and flies out of Morgan, Logan, Nephi and Heber but mostly out of Morgan.

“Most people don’t know they exist,” he said. “You have to be a licensed airplane pilot and get a license with a special category rating. A Cessna can’t fly unless it’s licensed by the FAA. Like a plane, a glider has to be licensed by the FAA.”

Alley’s glider is 66 feet wide and weighs 900 pounds empty. It holds two people. “It’s pulled by a rope behind a powered airplane to get going,” he said. 

Wind doesn’t just go horizontally, said Alley. “Air has lots of up and down movement. If you get a piece of air vertically it will carry the glider up. Using the aircraft skillfully it can go long distances for hours. I went from Morgan to Escalante and returned. I went 390 miles and was in flight for over eight hours.”

Alley caught the aviation bug when he was 11 years old. “I decided I really, really had to fly,” he said. “When I was 12 I was watching a Saturday morning kids’ show and it said you can’t really get a license until you’re 16. It mentioned that you could train on gliders when you were 14. When you’re 14, 16 sounds like half of forever.”

He told his parents and they thought he was nuts, Alley said. “They told me you’re not going to be a glider pilot. I did a lot of research and presented the facts to my parents. We had a lot of fights over it. I also wanted to jump a parachute. They told me you are never going to do this.”

Alley said he told his parents they couldn’t stop him in two years when he turned 18. “I said ‘then I’m going to be a glider pilot.’ I had to promise I’d never jump a parachute. I trained and got my license. My mother would get into bed and close the windows and door until she knew it was over.”

His love of flying carried over to his son, said Alley. “My other three kids actively did now want to go into aviation. But my son is a pilot and I was his instructor. I started training him at 12 and at 14 I turned my back and told my son to go fly. He had the skills and I had no doubt he could do it.”

The very odd thing is despite the real danger it’s much better than him playing video games, Alley said. “He's a first officer for UPS and flies big airbuses. He flies so much professionally that he only flies gliders now and again. Sometimes he flies the tow plane.”

Alley owns four aircraft, two antiques and two gliders. “I fly antique airplanes,” he said. “The 1946 airplane is the one I train in the most.”

A single engine Cessna can go up to roughly 10,000 feet, said Alley. “If it goes much higher the engine struggles. The glider can go up to 18,000 feet which is the legal limit. I fly at 18,000 feet fairly often and have oxygen in both seats. At 18,000 feet you can comfortably glide more than 50 miles.”

Alley has never feared for his life but he has had a few things happen. “I’ve had some tough weather situations,” he said. “There are thunderstorms around here that I got caught in once or twice and I’ve had to land in some very difficult situations. I’ve been flying for 53 years and I’ve never been afraid for my life but I’ve been afraid I would damage the glider on several occasions.”

Oddly enough, Alley said he’s afraid of heights. “I’m scared to death. I’m terrified of heights but up there I have wings. My favorite thing to do is fly from Morgan to Timpanogos. It has that razor edge ridge trail with a shed at the top. I fly along that ridge and look down and think ‘don’t those fools know they don’t have wings?’ They’re probably looking up at me and saying ‘there’s a fool up there.’”

Alley holds several records but that’s not what’s most important to him. “It’s not a job,” he said. “There’s a saying that you can make a small fortune in aviation but you have to start with a large fortune. I actually lose money. It’s my passion for the sport. It’s a hobby not a business.” λ

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