Friday, September 16, 2011

Air & Space Magazine 2009-08

IT'S JUST 55 MILES from my home airport in Los Angeles to the Tehachapi gliderport where Pete Buck has his hangar, but it's usually a jarring flight through torrents of wind that tumble eastward off the mountains like whitewater. Not today. The air is perfectly still. The hundreds of huge windmills that dot the ridges are motionless, the sky is without clouds, the visibility without limit. I've pulled the rpm way back, so that the grumble of the engine, through earplugs and a headset, recedes into the distance. The airplane seems to slide along frictionlessly, like a skater coasting, hands in pockets, on a pond of infinite blue. An engineer with a youthful manner and a day job at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, Buck, 51, is waiting on the ramp when I taxi in. As we walk to his hangar, only our voices, and the occasional chirp of a bird, disturb the universal calm.