By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — During a challenging year, many of us are looking to get away for a little while. One way to do that is to go 4,000 feet straight up, in a glider plane. In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen heads to Stanton Airfield in Goodhue County for a flight with no engine but plenty of calm and serenity.

During World War II, President Roosevelt called the president of Carleton College to see if the school would help with pilot training. That’s how Stanton Airfield was born.

“It’s just a down-to-earth, grassroots type of flying,” said pilot Jay Biggs.

Now, everything from Cessnas to Warbirds to powered parachutes will take off and land here. But it’s the planes that need help getting off the ground that caught our attention.

“I think of it as an aerial ballet. Banking in and out of turns,” said Biggs.

Biggs flew for Sun Country for decades. Now he spends his time teaching young glider pilots the challenge of riding the wind as long as they can.

“Earlier this year we had a plane set a national record. It went down to Tennessee,” he said. “Just gliding.”

With the help of tow pilot Hank Geissler comes the time to fly the friendly skies.

“He releases. He turns right, I turn left. He goes up and I go down,” Geissler said.

The tow plane takes you up to 4,000 feet. Once the tow rope is released, technology takes a back seat to Mother Nature as you rely on the sun’s energy to keep you aloft. With no engine noise, there’s no need for headsets.

“It’s peaceful. There’s no traffic,” Biggs said. “I wish you could see the smile on my face.”

The wind is the only sound you’ll hear and you can see both country and skyline at the same time.

“You can see downtown Minneapolis off to our right,” Biggs said, allowing Lauritsen to temporarily take over the controls.

Landing a glider on a grass runway takes skill most students don’t have quite yet, proving that the pilot is both the heart and soul of a glider plane.

“It’s like being a bird up there. It’s a lot of peace and quiet,” Biggs said.

John Lauritsen

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