The seagull glided effortlessly over the beach, tilting its wings this way and that to catch every ounce of lift. The sailplane pilot frowned in concentration as he carefully imitated each of the seagull’s moves.
Seagulls are expert at finding and exploiting updrafts and using them to stay aloft. Since the sailplane had no engine, it was dependent on the same dynamic. The pilot hoped to learn how to find and use updrafts by studying and copying the seagull.
It seemed to be a good strategy. As the seagull worked back and forth along the beach, the sailplane followed and rose on the same rising columns of air. Gradually, the seagull eased out over the water and away from the beach, chasing the best thermals. The sailplane pilot was focused so intently on copying his teacher that he didn’t notice as the beach receded behind them.
After nearly an hour of soaring, working from one updraft to another, the seagull turned toward the beach. As the sailplane came around behind the seagull, the pilot’s eyes widened, surprised at how far he had come from the beach. It was a thin white line near the horizon.
The seagull seemed to grin as it looked over its shoulder at him, then turned toward the beach once more and began flapping its wings.