FARIBAULT, Minn. (WCCO) — Thrill-seekers often look to the skies for a little adventure, be it skydiving or hang-gliding.

One aviation experience that doesn’t get a lot of attention involves a motorless airplane: gliding.

Gliding, or soaring, has been called the best kept secret in flight, and a Minnesota pilot owns one of the state’s only commercial glider operations.

The familiar hum of a propeller signals incoming traffic to the Faribault Airport. Small planes of all makes and models use the facility for takeoff and landing.

“We do about one flight per hour,” said Don Ingraham.

As the owner of Cross Country Soaring, Ingraham introduces people like Ruth Abernathy to motorless flight in his two glider planes.

(credit: CBS)

“Part of my motivation was that it’s such a spectacular thing to do, spectacularly wonderful thing to do,” he said.

Takeoff is much more labor intensive with a glider than a tradition airplane. With no engine, a tow plane is needed to lift the glider to an altitude of 5,000 feet.

When the two planes disconnect, the real adventure begins.

“Taking the engine out of the flight experience is a much bigger step than you might think,” Ingraham said.

Columns of heated air called thermals help keep the glider aloft.

Using its 58-foot wingspan, the aircraft can climb, dip and slice through the sky.

In perfect conditions, Ingraham could stay airborne for hours, though most flights are less than 40 minutes.

“I don’t know how to describe it. It’s quiet, and you can see so much more than you can in a regular airplane,” Abernathy said.

(credit: CBS)

The aerial tour gives passengers a perspective of Faribault they’ve probably never seen before.

And for those who are seeking a thrill, Ingraham can easily create a more adventurous flight.

“It’s a blast to do aerobatics,” he said. “These things do wonderful spins and loops and hammerheads.”

In the world of aviation, soaring may be the least used form of flight, yet for those who sail the endless sky, it’s the most memorable.

“It is a mystery why it is such a well-kept secret,” Ingraham said. “I’m going to be the guy that cracks the secret wide open.”

To learn more about ride packages and prices at Cross Country Soaring, click here.

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  1. Ray Sewell says:

    In your broadcast you said this one of the only such services in Minnesota. Could you elaborate on who else does this and where they are located please. Or did you mean to say that they are the only one? I am confused.