By Bill Stansbeary
The location of this year’s Soaring Society of America Convention and Air Sports Expo, held January 23-25, was the birthplace of flight.
Working at their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio, Orville and Wilbur Wright designed, built, and flew many gliders before they installed an engine on their
Wright Flyer motorglider in 1903, to achieve the world’s first successful powered and controlled flight near Kitty Hawk, N.C.
This convention, held at the Dayton Convention Center, attracted aviators from many countries with an interesting schedule of events. The exhibit hall was a showcase of aircraft that are at the leading edge of soaring in the world today. Fifty-two exhibitors showed what they have to offer to soaring customers. Thirty-eight speakers made their presentations to a highly motivated audience.
A special tour of the USAF Museum featured over 175 aircraft at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and the SSA awards banquet recognized some of the outstanding individuals in the soaring world.
Burt Compton set the tone for soaring safety with his overview of the Soaring Safety Foundation Site Assessment Survey Program. Compton grew up in an aviation family, on an airport near Miami, Fla. He soloed in gliders in 1968, and is an FAA gold seal glider flight instructor and was selected as CFI of the Year for 2001 by the Miami district.
He is one of only 200 master CFIs nationwide as designated by the National Association of Flight Instructors. He also holds a commercial certificate in airplanes and seaplanes, and is a flight instructor in airplanes. He is the SSA governor for the State of Florida, and is an SSA instructor with the authority to administer the coveted A B C Badge program.
Each year, he manages the SSA exhibit at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh and Sun ‘n Fun aviation conventions. As an aviation video producer, he has created several safety videos for the Soaring Safety Foundation. With his wife Kathie he now has plans for opening a new soaring operation at Marfa, Texas.
Jim Payne presented an outstanding program on advanced cross-country soaring. Payne started soaring at the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1971 and is now one of the fastest pilots in soaring. He graduated from the academy as the class of 1974 Outstanding Cadet in Soaring.
During 3,975 hours of soaring, he has earned a Gold Badge with 3 diamonds, a 1,000 km diploma, a triple Lennie pin for a soaring flight to 42,200 feet, a world distance award, five world and 57 national records.
Known as “Jet Pilot” in the racing community, he was the gold medallist in the 1995 and 1996 SSA Distance Award competition. He won the 1996/1997 Hilton Cup and the 1999 U.S. National Open Class Soaring Championship. Payne has been team manager five times and was an open class pilot at the World Championships in South Africa. He holds the fastest ever world record in soaring at 247km/hr (154 mph).
An SSA director representing region 12 (Southern California), Payne is retired from the USAF where he was an F-16 test pilot. His wife Jackie has helped him and the entire soaring community with her efforts.
Gerhard Waibel, chief designer at Alexander Schleicher GmbH, will retire in 2003, marking the end of an era. Waibel, Wolf Lemke and Klaus Holighaus were the “big three” German designers who ushered in the age of fiberglass sailplanes that changed forever the soaring world. With 40 years of designing sailplanes, Waibel has created more new glider designs than anyone else.
His gliders have dominated competitions worldwide for many years in standard, 15-meter and open classes. He has been awarded special recognition for his “significant advances in the development and design of safety cockpits.” His improvements in cockpit crashworthiness have helped set the standards of the industry. He was the featured speaker at the SSA awards banquet, highlighting the “Forgotten Milestones” of Orville and Wilbur Wright.
Charlie Spratt, chairman of the SSA awards committee made several presentations. The Hatcher Trophy (Soaring Racing’s Top Gun) went to Ron Tabery; the Kolstad Junior Scholarship Award to Joshua Burczynski, Kathryn Fosha, and Chris Saunders; the Henry Combs Perpetual Trophy to Philippe Athuil and Jim Hard; and the Spratt Award to Bob and JoAnn Dittert.
The Paul Schweizer Lifetime Service Award went to Lewis Hull, Bernald Smith and Sterling Starr; the Lewin B. Barringer Memorial Trophy to Mike Koerner; the SSA Exceptional Achievement Award to Greg Cole, Dr. Jack Glendening and John Leibacher; and the SSA Exceptional Service Award to Guy Byars, Charlie Meason, Jim Norris, Bob Nady and Dan and Janice Armstrong. Mile Culver received the Warren E. Eaton Memorial Trophy.
The display of the Wright 1909 Military Flyer and the Wright 1911 Modified “B” Flyer highlighted the SSA tour of the USAF Museum. Another notable aircraft on display is the Air Force VC-137C (Boeing 707) 26000. In 1963, this aircraft flew President Kennedy to Berlin where he mistakenly declared to the West Berliners, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” (“I am a jelly donut”), thinking he was assuring them of “his Berlin citizenship” and continuing support of the U.S. in the face of the construction of the Berlin Wall. This airplane flew President Kennedy to Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963, where he was assassinated, and it was on this aircraft that Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the thirty-sixth president of the United States.
The museum presents the history of the USAF and predecessor organizations by exhibiting aircraft, missiles, and numerous artifacts associated with celebrated events, important eras, notable achievements and technological developments.
For more information, please visit [http://www.ssa.org].