Where I flew in northern Vermont we soared with red-tail hawks daily, but for some reason eagles were exceedingly rare. Once though, I came upon a sovereign golden in a blue thermal at the edge of our local area and decided to follow along and see what I could learn. Several times the instructor left good lift sooner than I expected and moved on, quickly finding better nearby. We meandered miles beyond my usual haunts before I lost courage and turned for home, forever transformed by the lesson. I’d love to have had that exemplar endorse an hour in my log, but who knows if it had current certification — or could even hold a pen.
At a different locale where eagles appear almost every flight, I’d watched two fledglings soaring together for weeks, and on a day off brought my camera hunting in the mountains. It took longer to catch them than to find them, and that seemed the fun part until – I couldn’t believe it either – they widened out and allowed me to ease the 1-26 between them. Imagine, climbing to 12,000 feet with a baby eagle off each wingtip! Downright glorious.
If their mother were watching would she have been horrified? Or aggravated. I’ve been attacked by mature eagles three times after getting too cozy, and each of them flew away first, almost out of sight, then homed straight back in nose to nose. One came so close I could see its eyes from the back seat as it passed under! We had a video cam mounted forward and held position long as I dared before pulling up, already fantasizing about that most unlikely inch of footage. Naturally (amazing how often things happen this way), that frontal assault began mere seconds after our film ran out.
And in another millennium, as the only glider guy in a ride operation at a summer resort I had the rare liberty of flying approaches any way I chose. Just my luck, a pair of bald eagles had their nest in the broken top of the tallest pine around, perfectly positioned for us to dive from downwind leg, cut a 2G turn around them and pull up into normal base. When no chicks were in the nest Mom and Dad often perched on a shaded branch below, so it paid to look close, and passengers squoze in back always loved seeing them turn their heads to watch us sweep by.
Often they were away of course, doing what eagles do. And sad to say, in two full seasons flying there, not once did I sight either of those baldies on the wing! Does that mean their range was a whole lot bigger than mine? Or maybe I just didn’t fly enough…