Brazil – Flying High over Rio de Janeiro

Brian doesn’t send me flowers, and he’s not allowed to buy me jewelry. I would so much rather do something with the money he would spend on those things.

Instead, when he’s feeling generous, he gives me amazing experiences and I am the luckiest woman alive because he feels generous a lot.

He made some sneaky phone calls to Helene, a friend of ours who lives in Rio, who happened to be in the middle of training to get her glider pilot’s license. We made plans to stay with her in the city for the weekend and spend that Saturday morning meeting her young students from her English class. I knew we would be making a quick run out to the small airport just north of the city in Nova Iguacu with her while she took care of some class business with her instructor.

I didn’t know they were going to put me in a plane.

Wearing my parachuteAnd they didn’t just put me in to one plane, they sent me up in two different planes, and a helicopter.

My first ride was in the tiny but cute little two seater tow plane.

wind up toy?I sat behind the pilot waiting for the glider to be lined up and connected to the cable attached to the steel frame behind me. I couldn’t understand much of what he said to me over the noise of the engine, but I did understand his thumbs up sign and his big smile. As we pulled the glider behind us, it actually went airborne before we did. Before long, we were all in the air and it felt like riding along on the back of a very large bumble bee.

a very large and drunken bumble bee. We bounced and jagged and bumped all over the sky. I am prone to motion sickness, so it’s a good thing I was expecting a lot of driving that day and had taken a pill before we left the apartment in the morning. If I hadn’t, that poor pilot would have been wearing my lunch about four minutes in to that first flight.

we have liftoffBefore long we had bumped and bumbled way above the city. When we reached the right altitude, the glider released the cable and flew away on it’s own.

They're free!

My pilot let me open my window to take photos during the flight, and made sure to make a couple of extra circles around the area so I could see as much of the city and surrounding mountains as I could.

Rio smogIt was a smoggy day, so we couldn’t quite see far enough to get a glimpse of the Christo statue in the distance. Instead we saw a waterfall in the middle of a remote area of forest tucked in between the mountains, and we saw a whole lot of concrete. The urban area around Rio de Janeiro is huge, and spreads out for miles and miles beyond the mountains you see in the city itself.

We flew back to the airport and plopped the big bumble bee down on the runway. I was thrilled! What a great ride!

I waited with Brian and Helene and a few other flight students in the shade under a tarp near the runway for my turn in the glider. There were two flying that day, and as each one took its turn in the air, the other was being rolled out near the runway to line up and wait its turn.

As I chattered and babbled away about my flight, we watched a black helicopter come buzzing overhead. It was shiny and new, and the pilot was obviously showing off. He zipped right over our heads, he circled, he zigged and he zagged. Then he landed in the grass just a hundred feet from us.

Helene ran over and greeted him as the old friend he was, and waved me over.

I grabbed my camera and ran. I had never seen the inside of a helicopter before and I hoped the pilot wouldn’t mind if I snapped a few photos of him and the inside of his shiny new chopper. Not only did he not mind, he made me climb in and buckle up! Helene gave me a big grin and two thumbs up as she jogged away and the rotors started speeding up.

I’m gonna fly in a helicopter!

All those zigs and zags he did before he landed? He did them again with me inside. That was just about the wildest ten minutes of my life and I was once again very grateful to the makers of Dramamine.

THAT WAS AWESOMEThat photo up there? That’s my stunned and happy face. I thanked them about twelve times before they finally kicked me out of my back seat and made me go back to Brian and Helene in the shade.

Before I even had a chance to come down from that high I was once again being led out to the runway and strapped in to a flying machine.

It was finally my turn for the glider.

First I had to step into my parachute harness.

Can I just say that I have never had any opportunity or need to strap on a parachute before? Nor did I have any desire to need a parachute? Sky diving is not on the bucket list. However, I really did want to go up in that glider so I manned up and put on the parachute.

Then I climbed in and they buckled me up. After strapping in to that little cockpit I have a new appreciation for flying coach. There is really not much room to get comfortable in a glider.

roomyI managed to settle in and find a way to comfortably wedge my feet in a corner and keep them off the control levers. I didn’t want to accidentally take over control of any part of that plane. My hands never came close to that stick in front of me.

My little tow plane pulled up in front of us and we hooked on.

A minute later and we were flying!

pulled upThe glider was so much smoother than the other plane! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had no idea the ride would be this smooth. The slim plane felt like it was just cutting through the air. It was so quiet! No engine, no vibration and just the flowing sensation of soaring through the sky. It was fantastic!

My pilot found all the air currents coming up off the mountain side and kept us airborne for what seemed like hours.

Before long it was time to make our way back, but before we did he asked me if it was ok to do a couple of “small maneuvers”. I gave him the thumbs up and a smile.

Next time I will say, “Hell no! Put me back on the ground!”

This is the photo I took as he dropped the nose straight at the ground so we could pick up speed:

Aaaaaaaaaaaah!STRAIGHT. AT. THE. GROUND. And picking up speed. The plane actually shuddered.

I think I did too.

I held on to my camera for dear life and blindly clicked away without even looking through the view finder. Not that I could have if I tried, the G-forces made it impossible to raise the camera higher than about chest level as he pulled up violently and then flipped us upside down in a giant loop.

Up. Side. Down.

flippingHe leveled out, finally straight and level and signifigantly closer to the ground.

And then he did it all again.

Two dives, two shuddering descents and two barrel rolls.

Click, click, click, click, click. (Insert my maniacal fear laughter here).

And I did not die.

We had just enough altitude left to circle around the runway once and glide into a perfect landing.

He didn't kill meBack on the ground and untangled from my parachute harness, I hugged my pilot and kissed both his cheeks. I also may have fist pumped the air and let out a couple of whoops. I know I kept smiling for days.

I don’t get flowers or jewelry. Instead I have the best husband in the world.

On the map: Click here to see this location on our Google Map.

Take a look at more photos below in the gallery:

This was not a sponsored post. We paid for my time in the glider, but the ride in the tow plane and the helicopter were offered to me at no charge just because the pilots are awesome and wanted to do something fun for a friend of a friend.

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About akil3655

A Scotsman and his American photographer wife traveling the world and writing about it. Tales, reviews, photos, interviews and crazy goings on. Because you never know what's going to happen.

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