Your connection with the sky

Sailplane Guy

SEL Commercial, Instrument , Glider CFI-G Began flying glider and airplanes in 1960 and ammassed about 6000 hours in each. Holds FAI Diamond Badge. Owns a 1980 Shempp-Hirth Nimbus 2C sailplane with a partner. About BillD

FAI Grand Prix Sailplane Racing Santago, Chile

January 5th, 2010

ACONCAGUA1January 2nd, 2010 - and it's time for some serious Grand Prix sailplane racing. Sailplane racing is one of the most visually spectacular events in air sports. It demands the strategy of a chess master and the tactics of a fighter pilot - and at this level of competition, real courage.

The technology used to present FAI Grand Prix racing in real-time on the Internet is astounding. Each glider will telemeter its GPS location and altitude to Santiago in real time so the relative standing of the pilots can be seen in 3D computer graphics. Highly experienced pilots will provide color commentary as the races progress.

15 pilots from 8 countries will line up on the starting grid at the Club de Planeadores de Vitacura in suburban Santiago for the 3rd World Sailplane Grand Prix Championship. You can watch the action by pointing your browser at: The races will begin at 19:00Z (3PM local) each day from January 2 - 9 and last several hours each depending on the weather. Join us for some of the best "edge-of-your-seat" nail biting air racing drama available. Read More >>

Flying (Soaring) on the Cheap

November 4th, 2009

The country's in the midst of the "Great Recession" and it costs $250 to fill the tanks on a light airplane.  You need some time in the air for "mental heath" but the cost is daunting.  What's a person to do?

As a poor college student in the fall of 1959 I faced the same problem. Pratt Read2 I chose to join a soaring club - the Orange County Soaring Association who based two WWII ex-military 2-seat training gliders,  a Pratt Read and an LK-10A , and a single seat Schweizer 1-26 at Skylark Field at Lake Elsinore, CA.  I paid OCSA  $100 to join and $10 a month in dues. Instruction in the sailplanes went for $0/Hr - something I could afford.  A half century of inflation has bumped the membership up to $300 and the dues to $55 but the hourly rate for OCSA's modern fleet of gliders and instruction is still $0.  If you're under 22 and a full time student, the cost is about half that.   That means you can start learning to fly sailplanes for the cost of a fuel stop.    What a deal!  See:

To make things even cheaper, we took camping trips to the El Mirage Dry lake in the Mojave Desert to launch the gliders with auto tows. OCSA still does this except urban sprawl has pushed the camps deeper into the desert.  Here's a story from my early experiences with this type of flying. Read More >>

Bird Brains

August 25th, 2009

The first would-be airmen tried to imitate bird flight with negligible success.  When aviation took it's own independent path, speeds quickly exceeded that of birds.

Sailplanes are an exception.  Their minimum airspeed is not much faster than the birds themselves.  Large birds like eagles can glide in formation with us.  That they often choose to do so is a matter of great delight for sailplane pilots.  Silent sailplanes seem to get a aerial welcome from soaring birds  that noisy airplanes don't enjoy. Read More >>

“Automatic rough” – Bumps in the Night

June 19th, 2009

I know I'm supposed to write about sailplanes and soaring. However, I spent a lot of my flying career driving single engine light planes just about everywhere and in just about every weather it's possible to do so. I also read all the blogs on Lets Go Flying which led me to think this subject might interest some readers. Read More >>

Sailplane camps

June 12th, 2009

Airplane owners think nothing of taking off for a distant location - it's why they own an airplane.  For sailplane owners, it's a little more complicated but just as much fun.

Most sailplane clubs have a tradition of taking their gliders and tow planes to a distant airport for a weekend to fly different skies.  Sometimes it's to the same place on the same holiday every year and sometimes it's an expedition to a place where no one has flown sailplanes before.  Expeditions to new places are always fun Read More >>

Sailplane flight simulators

May 15th, 2009

PC flight simulators have proven very popular. The current generation of gaming PC's deliver performance that only a few years ago was the province of supercomputer labs. It's not surprising that aviation enthusiasts have written flight simulator software to take advantage of this computer power. Read More >>

Sailplane instrument panels

May 4th, 2009

When airplane pilots first encounter a glider instrument panel it can be a jaw dropping experience. Not because of its complexity but its simplicity. Training gliders may have nothing more than an altimeter, ASI, variometer and compass. Instructors will point out that the view outside and a bit of red yarn taped to the canopy are your most important instruments. Read More >>

Diamonds in the sky

April 17th, 2009

 This story is about my Diamond Distance flight from Sunspot near Alamogordo, NM to Alamosa, CO in a Nimbus 2C sailplane. Perhaps this narrative will give the reader a sense of the techniques and decision-making that goes into a cross country glider flight. There's nothing special about this flight - many pilots have gone farther and faster in lower performance gliders. The photo shows a plot of the flight log on a Sectional Chart. Cool colors mean the glider was losing altitude and warm colors mean it was gaining altitude. Read More >>

Sailplane racing

April 2nd, 2009

Many glider pilots find enough challenge matching wits with nature for a few quiet, beautiful hours of soaring flight, but others have a 'Racing Gene'.  Air Racing has always been a dramatic part of aviation.  However, when racing sailplanes, there is a special tension involved - you have to go fast AND stay in the air. Read More >>

Sailplanes – Getting “Launched”

March 24th, 2009

We have seen that gliders, once airborne, can fly high and remain in the air for long periods. Pure gliders lack a power source to get them in the air. So, how is this done? Read More >>