If you've not been exposed to soaring or a club of this type you might wonder what we are and do. A past Chairman of the Soaring Society of America, Ken Sorenson, wrote the following in the December 2018 issue of Soaring magazine. Ken lays out the varied reasons one joins and enjoys being in a soaring club:
Why would you want to take up soaring? Are you nuts – flying an airplane that doesn’t even have an engine?
Why? For many of us it’s not just about the soaring. It’s much more. And for some, it’s not really about soaring at all.
About the soaring… Some of us are attracted by the joy and beauty of silent flight – soaring with the birds (the skies near Houston are filled with migrating birds as I write this) and gracefully maneuvering a sailplane within the invisible air currents that most people never get to experience. Some of us enjoy the spectacular view from a sailplane’s cockpit – there is little to obstruct your view of the sky above and the scenery below. Some of us enjoy the thrills – the sensations of speed and turbulence while flying along a mountain ridge, the g-forces felt in a steeply banked turn while thermaling, the strange sensation of climbing in level flight while in the eerily smooth lift of a mountain lee wave. Speaking of thrills, some enjoy sailplane aerobatics – the physical sensations of being upside down, or pointed straight down (momentarily), and the challenge of managing the sailplane’s energy in order to perform precise and unusual maneuvers. Some enjoy the satisfaction and decision making related to flying sailplanes cross-country - which route to take, which clouds to chase, which thermals to climb in, how high to climb, when to use the ridge lift, how fast to fly between thermals.
Not about the soaring… Some of us enjoy the friendships and the social aspects of the soaring community, and the flying is just a bonus – many of us have developed soaring friends all over the US and around the world. Some are no long actively flying but enjoy being involved in aviation-related activities, or perhaps they like fixing things – there’s always something that needs fixing, under the watchful eye and training of the certified mechanic of course. Some bring their children (or grandchildren) into the sport even if they are not pilots themselves, having recognized that the soaring community provides a GREAT environment for children to grow up in - “kids” are (mostly) treated as adults and have the opportunity to interact with and be subject to instruction from adults other than their parents and school teachers.
Sort of about the soaring… Some like to teach – they become FAA-certified flight instructors (or flight simulation instructors – no certification required) in order to experience the satisfaction of teaching some very special skills to sharp youngsters whose minds are like sponges, or less-youngsters whose might require some more creative teaching skills. Some like to fly the towplanes that provide aerotows – they are “power pilots” looking for a mission beyond the proverbial $100 hamburger sometimes used as an excuse to exercise their flying skills.
Why soar? When a friend asks, or the youngster flying model airplanes, or the parents of the youngster, or the bored power pilot … Talk it up.
Oh yeah, and….It’s FUN!
Thanks to Ken for the use of his comments. Be sure and visit the SSA site at www.ssa.org for a variety of information and resources on soaring.