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101 Things To Do: Stanton Airfield Glider Rides

This glider, with both canopies open, rests in the hangar at the Stanton Airport. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Tom Kuhfeld, volunteer at the Stanton Airport, demonstrates the control panel for a glider pilot training in the history room at the airport between Northfield and Cannon Falls, Minn. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
This training simulator helped prepare early glider pilots for the many air and weather conditions they would experience when flying above the Stanton Airport. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

Editor's note: This is the latest stop in the series 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight. The stories are compiled at www.rivertown101.com. 

Many human beings watch an eagle or hawk soaring on the wind with a bit of envy, a feeling that likely inspired glider planes like those at the Stanton Airfield southwest of Cannon Falls, Minn.

When the weather is right, some weekends will find "a dozen gliders lined up. Everybody wants to be up when the sky gets cooking," said Tom Kuhfeld, volunteer at the Stanton Airfield. "They want to fly, so we often have two tow planes going."

The tow planes pull the glider off the runway and into the air to a specific altitude before releasing the glider to descend on its own. The pilot sits in the rear seat, with the passenger in front, giving the passenger a better view.

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"Usually we tow to around 3,000 feet," Kuhfeld said. "We give two rides. One is a 3,000 foot tow, and one is a 4,000 foot tow. Going to 3000 feet will give about a 20 minute ride, and 4,000 feet will give a 30 minute ride."

During the season, which lasts from May to October, one of the biggest challenges is getting all the right people together at the same time.

"Certain pilots give the glider rides, and certain pilots are certified to tow," Kuhfeld explained. "The glider, the glider pilot, the tow plane, and the tow pilot all have to be available. We have been adding glider pilots who can give rides, and we plan on adding another tow pilot."

Stanton Airfield also offers rides in an open-cockpit biplane as well as flight lessons.

Anyone wanting to ride in a glider plane needs to make a reservation, Kuhfeld said.

"This is all weather dependent," he added. "If the wind is too strong, we can't go. If the ceilings are too low, we can't go. If it is raining, we don't go. We end up with people who have scheduled in advance, and they get to the day and we just have to cancel it."

Kuhfeld understands that can be frustrating for passengers who are excited about a glider flight, but "for those that do go, it is usually a very good experience, and they really enjoy it."

If you go...

Name: Stanton Airfield Glider Rides

Address: 1235 Highway 19 Blvd., Stanton, Minn.

Phone: 507-645-4030

Website: www.stantonairfield.com

Hours: Daylight hours; most flights on weekends

Admission: See the website for reservations and cost of glider ride packages and gift certificates.

Steve Gardiner

Steve Gardiner taught high school English and journalism for 38 years in Montana and Wyoming.  He started working at the Republican Eagle in May 2018.  He focuses on features and outdoor stories.  

(651) 301-7872
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