Flying With the Durango Soaring Club at Val Air Field



Flying With the Durango Soaring Club at Val Air Field
Southern California
A Publication of the Region 12 Soaring Council
July/August 2005
[email protected]
Flying With the
Durango Soaring Club
at Val Air Field
By Tom Brabeck
Perfect little cu’s were forming and dissipating
directly overhead in the deep Colorado sky. Strapping
into the cockpit of my HpH 340CZ, I took a brief
moment to reflect that I was about to fulfill a long
overdue dream by launching from a strip of grass that
was probably the envy of every glider pilot, let alone
any golfer! I was flying out of Val Air Gliderport in
Durango Colorado.
Over twenty years ago, I took my two young sons
on an old fashioned train ride from Durango to
Silverton. On the way up the 5000’ grade of the
rugged Animas River Gorge into the San Juan Range
Val Air Field.
of the Rockies, we passed Val Air gliderport. I couldn’t
help but notice its perfectly manicured green grass strip with a tow plane and about six gliders. I vowed that someday I would
return to this little strip of paradise and fly in my own ship. That day finally arrived on May 23, 2005.
Val Air gliderport was the dream of its two owners, Beverly and LaVern St. Clair. Nestled next to the usually docile Animas
River, deep in a valley with 3000’ high rock walls on both sides, the gliderport is adjacent to the highway to Silverton. Since the
land is situated on flood plain, its historical use was as a pasture. But as a passionate pilot, LaVern knew its ultimate use was as a
little strip for his single engine Bellanca and a
glider ride business. Hence was born Val Air
Upon arrival after a great weekend of soaring in
Sedona, I turned the corner from Durango and
noticed that the Animas was no longer a docile
stream, but a raging, flooded river inundating 2/3 of
the valley flood plain. Like California, Colorado
had a record breaking snow pack. Unusually warm
conditions were causing a massive amount of
snowmelt to turn all the streams and rivers into
raging torrents of muddy brown water.
As I pulled into Val Air, LaVern was on his
backhoe, fervently reinforcing a dike to keep the
water from inundating his pristine runway. If the
levy broke, the field would easily be under two feet
of water. But La Vern, who came from salt of the
earth farming stock, was bound and determined to
beat back the river and save his airstrip.
Parking my car and trailer, I checked in at the
Val Air Field is circled.
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Southern California Soaring
SCS Table of Contents
Durango Soaring Club with LaVern’s wife Beverly.
Among other things, she informed me that anyone who has
not flown there before must take a check ride with LaVern Flying with the Durango Soaring Club at Val Air Field
in their L-23 Super Blanik. This was for safety purposes,
3 Days, 3 Diamonds
since it was important I knew the nuances of the field and
OnLine Contest Standings
Being an avid pilot, La Vern was more than happy to
jump off the backhoe, delegate work to one of his
Flying with KS at Parowan
subordinates and say “Let’s go fly!” As we strapped into
his clean L-23, the tow pilot cranked up the Pawnee and we Dust Devil Dash 2005
were ready for departure. Oh, I forgot to tell you about the
soft spot cutting the runway in two, done in by the ole
Performance and Vigilance Testing in Sailplane Pilots
Animas. The 3400’ foot runway was now temporarily
How the PASCO Egg Got To Bishop
down to 1500’ until the highly unusual flood waters
receded. By the way, the runway elevation is 6555’ MSL,
Soaring News
AND, the temp was about 80 degrees! You can figure out
the rest. If you don’t know by now, this field is only for the
experienced mountain pilot and not the faint of heart.
We took off into very bumpy air even at 11AM on that late May morning. The normal premature release or rope tow break
land out sites were completely flooded. I could hardly wait to get above the 200’ decision height in the event of a rope break. We
headed out on tow directly over Durango, then hit the typical house thermal over Table Mountain cliffs.
Climbing over the cliffs and up the west side of the valley, we flew into the La Plata Mountains. The key to flying in this
area, LaVern told me, was to stay above the rim walls. Once below the walls it is almost impossible to get back up, so “Stay on
top!” That was the advice of the day.
We flew around the area for about 45 minutes to get the “lay of the land.” After the winter of 2004-2005, the sights were
breathtaking. Massive amounts of snow were still on the mountains. The flooding of the valley was really apparent from this
Finally, LaVern said it was time to take a shot down runway 35. “Just fly parallel to the wires and poles next to the road and
make sure you land AFTER the soft spot in the middle of the runway created by the river.” That gave us about 1500 feet to land,
more than enough space.
Back on the ground, I assembled my glider. LaVern came over and suggested I might want to fly with my 15 rather than 17
meter tips. His reasoning: down low the thermals are extremely tight. Later, I was glad I took his advice.
I towed the glider back to the north end of Runway 35 near the Clubhouse “shack”, did my preflight check list, buckled in,
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Southern California Soaring
and was ready to tackle the Rockies for the first time.
Having flown the Sierras many times, I felt confident that
I had plenty of mountain flying experience. But nothing
prepared me for the insane lift AND sink I was about to
encounter the next two days. It was almost like riding the
most wildest roller coaster ever built. Countless times I
was pegged at ten knots up AND ten knots down. To
make matters worse, the thermals were tighter than
LaVern said. I swear I was in at least a 70 degree bank
trying to stay in those rascals. I felt like I was glued to
my seat pan! And it still didn’t seem like enough bank!
I specifically remember losing 2500 feet in less than a
minute flying between clouds. And all this with nothing
but “Tiger Country” underneath with no landout sites
except the pristine snow fields at 11,000 ft and no
apparent roads. One of the veteran pilots at the field told
me his XC philosophy was simple: “Anytime I get below
14K, I just start heading back if I am not past my point of
no return. There is just no place to land once you are out
Durango Mountains.
Ya, you guessed it right, more than once I was heading back for Val Air with my tail between my legs. For this low time 300
hour glider pilot, this was an intimidating place. LaVern was right on when he emphasized this is no place for the novice pilot.
I did have a nice flight my first day, and was able to climb to a most convenient cloud base of 17,999’ while on my task. On
day two, the weather was even better! Cu’s were forming by 10 am. By noon, they were in all quadrants just north of the field.
Running dry, I took off again, thinking no sweat, piece of cake! Well, instead of cake, I ate a piece of Humble Pie falling out just
48 minutes after takeoff. After finding marginal lift at the traditional “House Thermal,” I crossed the valley to the east side to
find lift where it was yesterday. Not only was it not there, but I fell below the dreaded rim. I worked my butt off for 30 minutes
on the east rim before finally admitting defeat and landing for a re-light.
I waited for an hour on the ground, as the sky continued to develop into a pilot’s dream. Streets in all quadrants with a cloud
base around 18,000’. A local pilot who was flying up the valley for an elk count in his Cessna 185 radioed back, saying the
closer he got to Silverton, the better that Missionary Ridge (on the east side of the valley) was working. It was time to take my
second tow of the day. Releasing at 9500’, I instantly found a mini-boomer over the local radio towers on Missionary Ridge, and
blew up to 16,500’! I worked my way up the ridge until I was humbled by heavy sink that put me down to 10,500’. In retreat, I
headed back to the old boomer for a refuel of altitude. Luckily it hadn’t moved much, and was still working. Topping off at
17,000’, I tried a different tactic up the ridge, and was rewarded. After that, I did the rest of the flight jumping from cloud to
cloud, maintaining between 14 and 18,000’ almost all the way north to Silverton. There, I made my turn west to the La Platas,
and then toward the town of Mancos on the west side of the La Platas. While I didn’t make it quite to Mancos, I did get close
enough to see my son’s 5 acre property far below. From Mancos, I headed to Durango Airport, then to Lake Vallecitos, and
finally home to Val Air. The landing on “fresh cut” runway 17 was uneventful.
After putting FTR back in the box late in the afternoon, the steam engine came by huffing and puffing, blowing its whistle.
What a way to end a perfect day. I couldn’t help but reflect this was some of my finest mountain flying since Omarama, New
Zealand. The scenery was absolutely stunning, with mountains and snow fields as far as the eye could see. Think what it would
be like from the air in the fall, with deep, golden bands of Aspen cascading down the mountains, showing off their stunning fall
This is one place I will definitely soar many more times in the coming years. Even though it is a 13 hour drive from the Lake
Elsinore Soaring Club, it was worth every mile! But remember, be sure and get your mountain flying experience BEFORE you
fly Val Air. You’ll be glad you did, and you will be a lot safer in the process.
This is a private operation, and is run as a family business. Its primary focus is not tows for private glider pilots, but instead
glider rides for tourists visiting Durango. From the minute I parked my car, I was truly made to feel like I was a longtime
member of the Club. The hospitality of LaVern, Beverly and the entire staff of pilots and members was nothing less then
fantastic! As for fees, it is quite simple. You join the Club for $10/week or $50 for the summer. A checkout with La Vern is
$75. It costs $10/night for parking, and a tow to 3000’ is $40.
There is a ton to do in Durango if you happen to be skunked due to an OD day, or are just burned out from too much flying -the pools at Trimble Hot Springs, the steam engine to Silverton, insane mountain biking, hiking, golf, 4-wheeling, and shopping.
One more thing -- be sure and try the “Serious Texas BBQ” restaurant at the north end of Durango. I did that after day two, and
had some scrumptious pulled pork with Mango Chipotle BBQ sauce, washing it down with a long neck bottle of “Dumb Blond”
beer, a local brew. A perfect way to end a great day in the Colorado skies! That’s as good as it gets!
Page 4
3 Days, 3 Diamonds
Southern California Soaring
By Doug Levy, aka Hangman
Last summer, I arrived in Bishop, California on July 1 for several days of soaring over the holiday weekend. Two dozen
pilots flew at Bishop that weekend. We enjoyed excellent soaring conditions – I would make three diamond distance flights over
three days in my 1-26.
July 2
The morning of July 2nd brought early cu’s forming east on the backside of the White Mountains. I was first to launch at
10:30. A decent climb to the west on the Sierras, and I was on my way south enjoying the lakes, glaciers, fast running streams,
sheer cliffs and huge rock formations – the spectacular scenery that is the backdrop of high mountain soaring. While cruising
south near Independence between 12 and 14,000’, I spotted some hang gliders going north, always a welcome sign of lift.
I would normally turn around at the hang gliding launch site south of Lone Pine. However, on this day there were a few
clouds further south, so I headed to Olancha Peak. Turning north there, I retraced my flight, but with more clouds and better lift.
At Big Pine, I crossed over the valley to the Whites, and at Black Mountain thermalled back up from 11 to 14,000’. To the north
of Bishop, the sky was now overdeveloped without much lift. Turning south well before White Mountain, I sank down to 8,000’
before I climbed again.
The flight south was in very good cu filled conditions to a cloud south of Keeler. The return to the north ended south of White
Mountain. I landed at Bishop at 6:37 pm after 357 miles in 8 hours and 7 minutes earning 922 OLC points.
July 3
The morning of 7/3 saw rapidly forming dark clouds over the White Mountains. Many decided not to fly. Carl Czech
volunteered to crew for me, though I thought the overdevelopment would bring an early
end to the chances of good soaring in the Bishop area.
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Southern California Soaring
A few badge seekers towed east and returned. I towed again to
the west, at 10:45 am. The lift was not strong but ample to maintain
over most of the peaks. As I neared Olancha, I heard Paul Robinson
and others heading north from the Mojave. Little wisps of clouds
marked the eastern escarpment of the Sierra, enticing me further.
As I approached Boomer Ridge near Inyokern, I saw several gliders
going north. Turning around there, I was 115 miles from Bishop.
The sky now was filled with working clouds, so it was an easy run
north along the Sierras, where I crossed to the Inyos near
Independence. The overdevelopment around Bishop had decreased,
so I soared north past White Mountain. However, the clouds further
north looked uninviting, so I headed back south for an easy flight to
Mt. Inyo near Lone Pine. There, at 15,000’ under a cu with lots of
sun, and 60 miles from Bishop, I turned for the final leg back north.
The automated weather at Bishop now was reporting a ground
wind from the north at over 25 mph. Further, about 25 miles south
of Bishop, a cloud with a 12,000’ base had overdeveloped, releasing
a mile thick wall of heavy rain across the entire valley. I got a radio
call from Wayne Walker on the ground in Bishop to give me a
warning of the winds.
As I entered the rain, I encountered no sink. But just as I was
getting out of the rain, I was slammed with heavy 10 knots down.
Two days earlier, Carl Czech and I had checked out possible landing
areas near Westgard Pass, a sometimes troublesome area to cross.
The hay fields there might now be my landing area - if I could get to
them. I called Carl and asked him to come and get me in a half an
hour if he didn’t hear from me.
Then, at 1,600’ above the terrain, I luckily found a broken
thermal to work. I bounced in and out of this thermal, while rising
slowly to 7,900’, where I lost the lift. I headed north once more,
and was slammed upward in powerful lift. Near 11,000’, I headed
with confidence for the airport with 3,000’ over final glide.
However, it turned out I had not planned for the head wind and
possible sink. I was quickly losing altitude, so I moved to the
foothills, hoping for ridge lift and reduced head wind. I worked a couple of weak bumps then went on final glide making an
exciting end with an abbreviated pattern. The flight took 8 hours 27 minutes, and was my personal best of 389 miles for 1,024
OLC points.
July 4
This day, I launched at 11 am over the White Mountains. I headed south at a slow pace with few clouds to mark the lift.
After 3 hours, I was only 80 miles from Bishop. I picked up the pace going north and turned south near Basalt. This leg was 124
miles taking 2.5 hours. Near Westgard Pass the lift was weaker, so I turned north again rounding Boundary Peak. I landed early
enough to get the glider secured before the fireworks show and celebration. This flight was 345 miles, taking 8 hours 20 minutes
for 891 OLC points.
I had July 5th off from work. At the time, I felt that I was up for another flight, but didn’t think I’d be good for the 6 hours of
driving home afterwards. Back at work the next day, however, I realized that fatigue had taken its toll. In 3 days I had flown
1091 miles in about 25 hours.
During 2004 I flew eight OLC computer optimized flights over 500k long in “Lucy” (named from the Beatles song “Lucy in
the Sky with Diamonds”) my well used 1956 Schweizer1-26A. All my flights are posted on the OLC website.
Doug Levy flies with the Skid Row Squadron at Warner Springs. Last year, he won both the USA and the International
Aerokurier Online contest.
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Southern California Soaring
OnLine Contest Standings
The popularity of the OnLine contest continues to grow. It is not unusual for there to be a dozen postings on a typical
weekday, and a Saturday may have well over 50. Region 11 pilot Gordon Boettger continues in first place with 7807 points, over
2500 points more than the second place pilot. As of Friday, July 22, Region 12 pilots in the top 100 nationwide are:
Russ Owens
Warner Springs
Dan Armstrong
Kevin Wayt
Lake Elsinore
Paul Robinson
Hole in the Wall
Doug Levy
Dan Ladd
Warner Springs
Marty Eiler
Carl Czech
Warner Springs
Jim Payne
Joedy Gregory
Garry Dickson
Mike Ziaskas
Lake Elsinore
Stan Foat
Hole in the Wall
Paul Savaria
Erik Larsen
Warner Springs
Mark Navarre
Dan Gonzales
Hole in the Wall
Sean Franke
Warner Springs
Mark Grubb
Jim Norris
Santa Ynez
Gary Ittner
Hole in the Wall
Standings among Region 12 clubs are:
Warner Springs
Hole in the Wall
Lake Elsinore
Santa Ynez
Page 7
Flying with KS at Parowan
Southern California Soaring
By Greg Arnold
Karl Striedieck (KS) is a soaring legend. The
first person to fly a glider over 1000 miles, he has
won numerous national championships, and has attended a dozen World Championships as a member
of the US Team. He was in first place at the 1999
Worlds at Bayreuth, Germany until the final day
(when he landed out).
Three years ago, KS bought a Duo Discus. Since
then, he has flown the Duo at several contests each
year, including the Seniors and the Sports Class
Nationals. During these contests, he rents out the
Duo’s back seat in return for a donation to the US
Team. Currently the recommended donation is $200
per flight. This is quite a deal -- you can get 5 hours
with a soaring legend for not much more than a 30
minute sledride at a typical soaring operation. KS’s
efforts have resulted in donations of over $20,000 to
the US Team over the last few years.
I flew with KS during the first two contest days
at this summer’s Sports Class Nationals at Parowan,
Approaching Zion (on left) with KS (in white hat).
Utah. Most of the tasks during the contest were turn
area tasks (TATs). This is a task with a circle around
each turnpoint, with the radius of each circle typically being 5 to 25 miles. The pilot can turn at any place in a circle. By going
deeper into a circle, the pilot will increase his distance. Since there is a minimum time for the day, you must fly far enough into
each turnpoint circle so that you don’t land early. If you do land early, your speed will be less than if you had flown deeper into
the circles and added distance.
The first day, John Good (the Competition Director) called a TAT that went south over Zion National Park towards the Grand
Canyon, then north towards Bryce National Park, then back to Parowan. After starting, KS quickly headed south from Parowan,
vowing not to stop for any thermals that were less than 10 knots. This strategy worked well until we were south of Zion, where
we weren’t finding any decent thermals, let alone any 10 knot ones. A complicating factor was a forest fire north of the Grand
Canyon, with thick smoke between us and most of the circle around the turnpoint. We flew through the smoke in conditions that
probably would not satisfy the FAA definition of VFR. On the other side of the smoke, we flew toward some fine looking
clouds, where we climbed to 17,500’.
Continued on Page 8
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Southern California Soaring
We then turned north toward Bryce, flying once again through the smoke. Ahead of us, the cloudstreets looked good.
Unfortunately, they didn’t have any lift under them. We got lower and lower over wild territory that had no good landing
options. I spotted what appeared to be a dirt strip, and pointed it out to KS. We continued to head north for a few minutes, then
KS said “Where was that strip?”
Turning around, we headed back south. Keeping an eye on the strip, KS ridge soared a couple of hundred feet above steep
hills a few miles west of the strip (Deer Springs), gaining a hundred feet here and losing a hundred feet there. Slowly working
south along the ridge, we rounded a corner and spotted a very small town with a few farm fields (Alton). KS left the safety of the
strip, and headed to the town. We continued to descend as he discussed landing options on the fields. At this point, the entire
sky was covered with clouds, with a thunderstorm just a few miles south. Against all odds, over the town we contacted a weak
thermal that took us up to 16,000’, adequate altitude to get back to Parowan.
John Good commented on this flight in his write-up on the SSA website:
Karl Striedieck (KS) didn’t have quite the flight he’d hoped. His progress was fairly good until about 25 miles short of
Bryce Canyon, where lift proved undependable and he found himself in survival mode, hugging a local ridge.
Landability was no better than adequate, and the weather trend was not encouraging. After 35 minutes of frustration, a
developing rainstorm swept by and, somewhat against reason, allowed a slow climb to 16000’ and eventually a
complete task.
KS ended up finishing 33rd for the day (out of 48 contestants). Two pilots landed out at Deer Springs. One was towed out,
but due to the hazardous condition of the strip (a berm on each side), the tow pilot refused to tow out the second glider. That
glider returned to Parowan by trailer at 3 am the next morning.
Many pilots made it through the Deer Springs area with no problems. Apparently, they were the pilots who had just touched
the edge of the turnpoint area by the Grand Canyon, rather than going deep into that area like KS. Thus, they headed toward
Bryce before KS, and before the condition deteriorated. This is an example of how the less aggressive pilots can have a better
day than the “hot shots.”
Commenting on the flight next day, KS thought we would have had problems landing the Duo with its large wingspan at Deer
Springs. He also remarked that landing in the fields by the town probably would have “polished the gear doors.”
The second day’s flight was relatively uneventful compared to the first day. KS was able to choose any turnpoints he wanted,
and headed north up one of the mountain ranges from Parowan. On the way back, he ended up relatively low in a blue hole, but
managed to find a boomer that took us back to altitude. He finished 9th this day.
During the remainder of the contest, KS continued to fly with other “guest pilots.” He was in 5th place going into the last day,
and would have finished second if he had won that day. Instead, he finished 33rd, and ended up 7th in the contest.
The common question asked about this experience is “Did you learn a lot?” I wish I could say “yes,” but unfortunately the
answer is “not really.” Sure, KS goes fast, seems to know where the thermals are, and has no problem centering the strongest lift.
I wish I flew that way. But after flying with him, I don’t know what he is doing that I am not doing. It is like watching an in-car
video of the Indianapolis 500 race – interesting, but it won’t help you to jump into an Indy car and go fast.
I have been reading about KS for years, and had thought he would be an excessively macho guy who would never admit a
mistake. Instead, however, he turned out to be a pleasant fellow who freely admitted his errors, and not infrequently expressed
uncertainly about what to do next. I would happily fly with him again.
Dust Devil Dash 2005
By Ian Cant
Statistics lie, damnably, but sometimes they hold a grain of truth. One oft-quoted statistic is that only about 20% of sailplane
pilots fly cross-country, and only about 20% of cross-country pilots fly in competitions. There are lots of good reasons for this
state of affairs; some popular ones include “the rules are too darn complicated,” “competitions require expensive/exotic
equipment,” “I might need a retrieve, and those are hard to arrange,” and “who can take off for a whole week or more plus travel
time ?”
The Dust Devil Dash defies this reasoning every year. It is an excellent introduction to cross-country soaring for those who
are prepared but not quite committed (a state of mind which can last for a long time), and an equally excellent introduction to
competitive soaring for those whose skills are well-developed but who need encouragement to “go public.” And it is an excellent
challenge for the experts.
The rules are SIMPLE. Take a 3000 ft tow from Tehachapi Mountain Valley Airport, fly as far as you can, and land
somewhere else. No declarations, no observers, no cameras, no flight recorders. Choose your own route, take as long as you like
to fly it. Send a postcard saying where you landed. Any questions?
Continued on Page 9
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Southern California Soaring
You can compete in ANY sailplane. The lower-performance your sailplane, the more advantageous your handicap. Last
year’s winner flew a 1-26. In 2003 the winner flew an LK-10 (a WW2 two-seat trainer). In 2002 it was a Nimbus 4D. Every
sailplane has a chance to win. More important, every pilot has a chance to fly a personal best. If you can glide 3 miles, you
could land at the other Tehachapi airport, and appear on the scoresheet. Fifteen to 20 miles will get you to California City or
Rosamond. Stretch yourself to 40 miles for Inyokern (an honest Silver distance) or 150 miles to Bishop (almost an honest Gold)
or 550 miles to Twin Falls ID. How about Jean, Nevada, or Avenal or Hollister? Take your pick, fly the mountains or the desert
or the farmlands.
You are worried about the retrieve? The usual problem with them is the uncertainty. You find a willing crew (no easy feat in
itself) and get him/her enthused – then you land back home and it’s an anti-climax. Or, you are so anxious not to over-tax your
retriever that you repeatedly find reasons to abandon cross-country tasks. On the Dust Devil Dash there is no uncertainty -- you
know in advance that you will need a retrieve, so you can plan accordingly. With that decision made, you and your crew can
make sure that all the retrieve preparations are well-organized, and you can fly/drive with an easy mind. It is the perfect
introductory retrieve – there are even good dinner stops along the highways in all directions, and the day after is Sunday, so there
is no problem with getting home late.
Which brings me to the other great feature of the Dash -- it takes only one day. Tehachapi is within 3 hours or so of LA,
Riverside, all of the Central Valley. You can drive there, assemble, fly, get your retrieve and go home in one (admittedly long)
day. Breakfast is available right on the airfield. The briefing is after breakfast. Thermals typically start by 11 am.
So put your flimsy excuses aside and come soar for a day. Afterwards you will have bragging rights for a year, regardless of
where you end up on the scoresheet.
This year’s Dust Devil Dash will be on Saturday September 10 at Mountain Valley Airport, Tehachapi, CA. Registration
starts at 9:00 AM, followed by a pilot's meeting at 10:00 AM in the Raven’s Nest Coffee Shop. For more information, contact
me (Ian Cant) at (661) 821-6609, or [email protected]
Ian is in charge of this year’s Dust Devil Dash, taking over from Rich Gillock, who ran the contest for many years. Kudos to Ian
for taking over this job – it is volunteers like him who making soaring enjoyable for the rest of us.
Continued on Page 10
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Southern California Soaring
Performance and Vigilance Testing in Sailplane Pilots:
Does Self-Certification Work? By Ray Warshaw
The FAA requires physical examinations for most pilots. Yet, there is considerable disagreement about whether such exams
increase safety. Proponents cite the risk of incapacitation due to a medical event. Detractors cite evidence that an exam is a
poor predictor of the likelihood of such an event. They also point out that such incidents are exceedingly rare, and almost never
cause accidents.
Sailplane pilots are permitted to “self-certify” their fitness to fly. The recently announced Sport Pilot Certificate uses
possession of a driver’s license as a surrogate for a medical examination. Both the EAA and AOPA have questioned whether
aviation physicals are needed for any private pilot certificate.
Pilots attending the 2005 Soaring Society of America (SSA) Conference were invited to complete a medical history
questionnaire and undertake a reaction time test. The test measures speed of reaction, accuracy and vigilance. Prizes were
offered for the best age-adjusted score in two categories -- greater than 54 years (seniors) and less than 55 years of age. Onehundred and eighty-nine people completed the questionnaire and the test. Of these, 88 (53.4%) had a current FAA medical
certification. Fourteen (including one of the winners) took advantage of "relights" for a total of 203 tests.
The winner in the "Standard" class, ages ten to fifty-four, was Dan Wrobel. Dan's score was the fastest we've ever measured
for this test. There was a tie for the best time in the "Seniors" division between Linda Armstrong and Duane Crum but, after
correcting for age, Linda was the winner. The chart shows the results.
Mean (all)
Mean (No medical)
Mean (Current
P > 0.05
Age (yrs)
Heart attack
All heart dis
Diabetes (%)
SRTmin (ms)
SRT % pred.
CRTmin (ms)
CRT % ped.
What does this mean? Sailplane pilots in this sample were older and healthier than the general population. They also had
faster than average reactions for both simple (SRT) and choice (CRT) reaction time. No significant difference was detected
between those with and without medicals.
As with all studies of this type, many questions remain. The 189 participants may not be representative of all sailplane pilots.
Those with serious medical conditions or concerns may have declined to be tested. The tests may not be the best test of
neurological competence for pilots. Other tests – such as contrast sensitivity, visual field intactness, and susceptibility to the
effects of hypoxia (especially below 10,000 feet) -- may be better predictors of accident risk. Much work remains to be done.
The results presented here are preliminary and a more complete and detailed report is in preparation. Many thanks to the SSA
for providing the opportunity, space and infrastructure for the testing. Also, thanks to all who participated.
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Southern California Soaring
How the PASCO Egg Got To Bishop
By Peter Neumann
[Ed: The July/August 2004 issue of SCS,, told the story of
how certain Cal City pilots “stole” the PASCO egg from Avenal in violation of the rule that the Egg could only be claimed by
a Region 11 pilot. This is the story of the Egg’s return to Region 11.]
Last summer, I participated in a Nevada Soaring Association (NSA) Safari to Bishop. This was the 3rd Bishop Safari for
the NSA group from Air Sailing. I had four good days on the Whites -- June 14-17. On the fifth day, June 18, I decided to
try for Cal City from Bishop, which should have been a fairly easy flight – only about 250 km.
The reason for my flight to Cal City was that I wanted Caracole Soaring to help me with a problem I was having with my
304 CZ bird -- it was hard to rig because it was difficult to get one of the wing spars to mate successfully. I knew that the
folks at Caracole, Cindy and Marty, could help me, because I had called them. After describing the problem, Marty opined
that he knew how to fix it.
Even though I have been a PASCO member for some time, believe me when I tell you that I had no knowledge whatsoever
of the existence of the PASCO Egg, let alone its (as some have called it) "sordid history." I was simply trying to make it from
Bishop to Cal City to get my sailplane fixed.
The flight started out so-so. I released over Bishop 2,000’ or a little less, and thought I would get on the Whites and go
down the east side of the valley. However, things weren't working so well, and it got a little too overcast for my liking on the
east side, so I switched over to the west side, hoping to get up on the Sierras.
Well, that didn't work out very well, either, and after about an hour and a half, I was only abeam Lone Pine, and pretty
low. I never got high enough to get on the Sierras, and in fact, there were times when I didn't think I would be able to make it
back to Lone Pine from my position just over US Highway 395 near the village of Olancha. I must have circled there for at
least an hour, never getting above 6,500 feet, on a tiny little thermal that was on the east end of the outcropping that sticks out
of the massive Sierra near there. Several times I got below glide slope to Lone Pine, and had to stay very close to the ridge,
just high enough that I could not actually see the lizards doing their pushups on the rocks below.
Finally, at about 4:30 pm, there was enough lift that I ventured southward some more, right over US 395, towards the town
of "Dunmovin." I figured that if I could get to Dunmovin, I could probably slither into Inyokern, or at least the desert to the
north of it. When I finally did get abeam of Inyokern, I spotted one, single, solitary little cu that looked about the size of a
volleyball that was above me and near Walker Pass. It was an
act of faith to fly towards it, because I was only about 5500’
MSL. I got close to it just as it evaporated. However, the lift
was still there, and I managed to get up to about 6500’ feet, and
from there I flew towards Kelso Valley airport, never really
getting higher than 7,000’.
The good news was that there was a lot of flat desert within
reach of me to the east, and I figured I would at least survive an
outlanding in that terrain. So I kept heading south, never
straying too far from US 395. When I got to Kelso Valley
Airport, I started calling for Caracole Soaring on 122.7, and
eventually Marty answered me. When I told him I was only
about 20 miles out and about 4500 feet, he assured me I would
make it OK, which I did.
By the time I landed at Cal City, the wind had come up from
southwest and was blowing steadily at 15-28 knots. Naturally,
there was good lift for the last 20 miles, in fact the only good lift
I had seen that whole day.
Cindy and Marty were very gracious. Within minutes they
had my wings off, and Marty began honing down the wing spar
supports with a very fine cloth. After making some other
adjustments, the wing spars fit together in the fuselage just as the
manufacturer had intended -- very smoothly and easily. I was
quite pleased, and told Cindy and Martin I would take them out
for dinner in Cal City.
It was during dinner that
Continued on Page 12
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Southern California Soaring
Cindy suddenly put her hand on her forehead and exclaimed: "Oh my God, Pete, it just hit me. You can claim the PASCO Egg!"
I had no clue what she was talking about, never having heard of the PASCO Egg. But Cindy told me just enough to convince me
that I had somehow accomplished a great feat, by coming from Bishop which is in Region 11, to Cal City which is not, to the
place where the Region 11 PASCO Egg was resting.
Cindy never really did tell me how the Egg got to Cal City. I recall asking about that, and she suddenly changing the subject,
and my forgetting to ask her again. All I was told was that this Egg had to be taken back to Region 11. Since I was going to be
going back to Bishop -- either by glider, or some other means so that I could get my trailer -- Cindy more or less ordered me to
take the Egg to the Bishop Airport.
I stayed at a local motel that evening. The next morning at the Cal City airport, Cindy showed me the PASCO Egg, in its little
carrying pouch. I filled out the log book at her direction, and then took custody of both the log book and the Egg. A friend from
Reno flew a power plane from Reno to Cal City, and flew me to Bishop. There, I entrusted the Egg and its log to the FBO, who
promised to have it displayed in the glass case at the Bishop terminal building. I then flew home with my friend to Reno, and
forgot all about the Egg, until Lee Edling of Air Sailing told me that the Egg had been captured by Peter Kelly and taken to
Truckee. Lee asked me to write this story of how it got from Cal City to Bishop.
Soaring News
Region 12 Director Election
You probably have received your ballot for the Region 12 director election. Cindy Brickner is the only candidate running,
which should make your voting choice fairly easy. This is a good opportunity to mention the time and effort that Cindy -- as well
as fellow Region 12 Director Jim Skydell, and Director at Large Doug Easton -- put in to help soaring. They do this for free, and
about the only thanks they get are complaints when something goes wrong. Thank them the next time you see them at the
Crystal Squadron Results
Just a reminder – is the place to go for the weekly Crystal Squadron results. Every week, Bob Maronde sends us a writeup
which we post on the website for your reading enjoyment. The
latest results can be found at
RESCO Banquet
This year’s banquet Region 12 Awards Banquet is scheduled
for 6:00 to 10:30 pm on November 5, 2005. It will be held at
the Phoenix Club at 1340 S. Sanderson Aveneue in Anaheim.
Mark it on your calendar!
Region 12 Soaring Championships
The annual Region 12 contest will be held at California City
on August 27 - 28 and September 3-5. Classes will be Sports,
Standard, 15 Meter and Open (if there are sufficient entries).
Practice days will be August 20-21. Entry fee is $325. The
contest personnel will be Hannes Linke (Contest Director), Jim
Norris (Contest Manager), Cindy Brickner (Operations
Manager), and Bill Elliott (Scoring). Come to fly, or just to hang
Continued on Page 13
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Southern California Soaring
Camarillo Airshow – Volunteers Needed
Last year, local soaring pilots displayed three gliders at the Camarillo Airshow. This year the Airshow returns on August 27
and 28, with the theme “youth and aviation.” Again, there will be another soaring display. One glider is scheduled for display.
Would you like to display yours, or simply show up to talk soaring? Contact Doug Easton at [email protected] for more
The Grand Marshall at this year’s show is soaring legend Dr. Paul MacCready, Jr. He started flying model airplanes when he
was twelve, and sailplanes as a teenager. With an academic background in physics and aeronautics, he is an inventor,
meteorologist, and world champion glider pilot. Known as the “father of human powered flight,” he designed a number of
groundbreaking aircraft—the Gossamer Condor (the first controlled human powered airplane), the Gossamer Albatross (the first
human-powered aircraft to fly across the English Channel), and the first solar aircraft (the Solar Challenger). Dr. MacCready will
demonstrate his latest battery-powered ornithopter (a heavier-than-air craft designed to be propelled through the air by flapping
wings) that is about the size of a large dragonfly or small hummingbird.
New Electric Self-Launcher
Robert Mudd, the dealer for Apis sailplanes, confirms that he will be selling the new 15 meter Apis E electric self-launcher
(photos at The glider reportedly has a climb rate of 400 fpm to
an altitude of close to 5,000’. The Apis will join two other electric self-launchers -- the 12 meter AE-1 Silent with climb of 400
fpm to 2,000’ (, and the 20 meter Antares with climb of 900 fpm to 9,800’ (http:// Of course, those are advertised values, and may be slightly optimistic!
Apis E
New AD
Tow plane operators should double check their records to see what propellers are installed on their towplanes. If the propellor
was overhauled by Southern California Propeller Service of Inglewood, CA, and has not been subsequently overhauled, you must
essentially perform an overhaul within ten flight hours of August 11, 2005. Southern California Propeller Service was shut down
by the FAA in June of 1998 for failure to make correct overhauls. One of their overhauled props shed blades in flight.This AD
(AD 2005 – 14 – 11) includes Hartzell 2 and 3 bladed, McCauley and metal Sensenich props. Its full text of may be found at:
Continued on Page 14
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Southern California Soaring
Memorial Day at Lone Pine
Caracole again took its annual trip to Lone Pine over the Memorial Day Weekend. Here are pictures from the weekend.
Notable Flights
Congratulations to new Region 12 pilot Peter Hartmann, who in the first cross-country flight of his soaring career earned his
Gold Badge and one Diamond. He flew over 400 km at Tonopah in his Grob 104.
Remember When…
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Southern California Soaring
26500 West Agoura Rd.
Suite 102-726
Calabasas, CA 91302-2969
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Contact Us
Editor: Greg Arnold - [email protected]
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