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Skyline Soaring Club in the Twenty-First Century

By Jim Kellett, January, 2000 (edited January, 2014)


What started as an effort to document some of our own Club's eight year history at the close of the century soon grew into a study of many soaring organizations through which people, machines, and ideas have flowed over more than a half-century. As we follow these people, their machines, and their organizations, we see the same problems and issues, with subtle variations, being dealt with in myriad ways. A thoughtful study of those experiences should be instructive to us as we move into the 21st century.

What follows is a brief summary of the author's personal recollections of the events in the Washington, metro area soaring community of the last 50 or so years, plus additional data provided by others who shared in (and in some cases, preceded) these exciting years. This effort was aided considerably by having access to the Corporate records of the Warrenton Soaring Center from 1974 through 1991. I've tried to put faces to many members of this community that I've had the privilege of knowing. Some of the "real lives" of these people prove that soaring becomes a passion for many very different kinds of people - - and gives even more color, I think, to the story of soaring in this area.

The author accepts full responsibility for the accuracy or lack thereof in this narrative, and welcomes corrections and additions from any source. Of the many people who participated in assembling this record, we are particularly indebted to Charles Schwenker, Spencer Annear, Lonnie Patch, Jan Scott, Jack Perine, Rudy Rodgers, Jim Hard, Peter Bacqué, Tony Beck, and Charles Brown for their contributions. Very special thanks are due to Charlie Lee for many outstanding photographs, and to Trish Ward and Ernie Klimonda for many photographs, newspaper articles, and personal recollections. Piet Barber prepared this paper for presentation on the web.

Overview (Working Backwards)

While most current Club members are aware that Skyline sprang from the Warrenton Soaring Center (WSC), many don't really know all that much about WSC or about soaring in this area in the earlier years. Our Club, Skyline Soaring, was formed in 1991 by a group of staff and customers of WSC who purchased some of the equipment that company used when it ceased doing business. Current Skyliner Shane Neitzey led a group that came to include Founding Members Spencer Annear, Phil Jordan, Jim Miles, Jim McCulley, Bela Gogos, Bill Wark, Fred Winter, Joe Rees, Bill Vickland, Bob Neff, Kit Carson, and myself, among others. The National Capitol Soaring Association, which operated a Blanik, was based at the same airport (Warrenton Airpark) as WSC.

WSC, in turn, was created in 1974 when it took over the assets of the Capitol Area Soaring School (CASS) after the untimely death (he took his own life) of Gordon Bogora who owned CASS. CASS had moved from Godfrey Field (KJYO) to Warrenton Airpark in 1969, and was shortly thereafter renamed the Warrenton Soaring Center. After Gordon's passing, WSC was owned by a group of investors led by Jim and Karen Kranda who led WSC until its dissolution in 1991.

The late Skyliner USAF General Dick Ault was among the original stockholders in WSC. Current Skyliners Shane Neitzey, Piet Barber, Phil Jordan (Emeritus), Joe Rees, and Paul Nassetta learned to fly at WSC; Spencer Annear and myself were both later Corporate officers (Treasurer and Secretary, respectively) and stockholders in the company. It was at WSC that I earned my CPL(G) and CFI(G) under the tutelage of people like Ernest Klimonda and Jim Kranda.

CASS was created in 1965(?) by the retiring President of the Mid-Atlantic Soaring Association (M-ASA), Gordon Bogora. Other managers/partners of CASS included Ernie Klimonda and Lew Tuttle. It was at CASS that I earned my PPL(G), instructed by Gordon Bogora (and others). Another instructor at CASS, Jan Scott, went on to found the Flying Cow Farm in Lovettsville, VA, which was the home base for the Short Hills Soaring Club that I was involved with in the early seventies. 

M-ASA, in turn, was established in 1951-2, when Jack Perine (now living in Berryville, VA) led the organizational effort. (An excellent M-ASA history was published by Jack in the February, 1978 CONVECTOR, the newsletter, q.v., of the M-ASA.) M-ASA operated out of several airports, including Westminster in Maryland, and Winchester and Front Royal in Virginia, before settling in Frederick, MD and Fairfield, PA where they now operate.

The group that founded M-ASA had been flying a Pratt-Read owned by the District of Columbia Soaring Club, which had been formed in 1948 by Jack Perine, Nate Frank, and Bill Ebert, using one of the three Pratt-Reads that had been used by the then-defunct Washington Soaring Club.

The first post-war club in the area, the Washington Soaring Club, had been formed in 1946 and included current M-ASA members Bill Ebert and Jack Perine. They operated for about two years, having started with three Pratt-Reads and one LK - all war surplus gliders!

Thus the historical record of soaring in the last half-century includes a genealogy, not only of organizations but also of individuals who can trace their involvement in this sport person-to-person throughout the entire period. It is a startlingly close knit community!

Soaring history fans will be interested in the growing number of clubs that have published histories of their own organizations.  For example

    Philadelphia Glider Council (Started in 1941!!) Soaring Society
    Tidewater Soaring Society
    Colorado Soaring Association
    Mid-Atlantic Soaring Association

Foreword, Acknowledgements, Introduction & Overview Chapter I
The Beginnings
Chapter II
Capitol Area Soaring School
Chapter III
Warrenton Soaring Center
Chapter IV
Skyline Soaring Club, New Market
Chapter V
Skyline Soaring Club, Front Royal