After Class: Five Professors Talk About Their Off-Campus Talents


Publish Date:
March 13, 2015
Stanford Alumni Magazine
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Professor A. Mitchell Polinsky spoke with Stanford Magazine about his role outside of the classroom; glider pilot.


Mitch Polinsky

Beauty, exhilaration and a sense of accomplishment combine to create the lure of flying a personal-sized aircraft on nothing but thermal currents for more than 600 miles above breathtaking terrain. But there's risk, as well, which led law school professor and glider pilot Mitch Polinsky to take a hiatus for nine years in the 1990s after a close call crossing a mountain ridge. But he says he thought about what he was missing—”soaring,” as glider pilots say so eloquently—”at least once a week.” Back he went, more determined to improve his technique and maximize his performance.

The results include 16 U.S. speed and distance records established over the past two summers, including a 685-mile flight from Nevada to Nebraska. Polinsky, 67, competes in the single-seat motorglider category, meaning his 69-foot-wingspan flying machine has an engine with a retractable propeller. That's what gets him up in the air, but then he does without it for, oh, six to eight hours at a stretch. And if he needs the engine in a pinch, “you hope it starts,” he says with a wink.

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