National Geographic : 1967 Jan
Waves of air lift a sail plane high over a moun tain range. Strong winds sweeping up and over mountainsides form a se ries of waves, like those that build up behind a rock in rushing water. Entering the ascending part of a wave-ideally the first one downwind of the moun tain-a sailplane is swept upward at speeds as high as 3,000 feet a minute on eerily smooth air. Wave-soaring pilots look for characteristic forma tions-cap cloud on a mountain peak, lenticular (lens-shaped) clouds, and, at lower elevations, turbu lent rotor clouds. California's Sierra Ne vada ranks as the world's most famous wave maker - but even a lower range such as Virginia's Blue Ridge creates waves when the wind is right. range. If necessary, he will alter his course to stay within reach of a meadow, or work ther mals to a higher altitude so he can glide to a distant field if he runs out of lift. He always plans to arrive at his landing area with more than enough altitude. Coming in, he aims at a spot far down the field. Then he pulls a lever marked "spoilers," and long panels swing up from the wing. They reduce the lifting power of the wing-spoil it-so the gliding angle of the aircraft steepens. The pilot uses his spoilers to control the rate of descent and bring himself down with the full length of the landing strip ahead of his plane. It settles gently on its single wheel, usually at a forward speed of about 45 miles an hour. Full spoilers, then, which also activate the wheel brake. Push forward on the stick to bring the broad landing skid in front of the wheel into contact. Chances are, most of the landing strip will still lie ahead when the sail plane comes to a stop-generally within 70 yards of touching down. Flight 59 in my log reads, "Cross-country . Elmira to Dansville ... Silver distance and altitude gain...." Now only a five-hour duration flight stood between me and the Silver Badge. But it was time to leave Elmira and see more of soaring America. Mainspring of the movement is the Soaring Society of America. The SSA publishes Soar ing, the sport's monthly magazine, and ties most U. S. pilots together through loosely affiliated clubs. The headquarters is in Cali fornia. So are some of the country's best soar ing conditions. Perhaps my five-hour flight waited out there. Government Certifies Homemade Planes In Los Angeles, the executive secretary of SSA, Lloyd Licher, briefed me on the organi zation's place in the world soaring scene. "Let's start at the top," Lloyd began. "The Federation Aeronautique Internationale, in Paris, is the world control center of sporting aviation-private power flight, sport para chuting, model building, ballooning, and soaring. In America, the National Aeronautic Association represents FAI-and the Soaring Society of America, in turn, is the soaring division of NAA.