Aloft In a Sailplane
Flying Without Power: Warrenton
Becomes Capital's Soaring Center
By PAUL SULLIVAN
A novel business moved to Faquier this month, bringing with it a new
title for the Warrenton community: Soaring Center for the Nation's Capital.
The venture is a Capital Area Soaring School Inc., formerly operating
from Godfrey Field, Leesburg. Owners Gordon Bogora and Ernie Klimonda
shifted the school, its four sailplanes and two power planes, to Warrenton
Airpark south of Warrenton last Wednesday to escape the increasing traffic
Soaring is flying in motorless aircraft. Followers of the sport are
enthusiastic, and its ranks include many flyers of conventional planes.
During the past year, 300 pilots flew with the school, half of them
students working toward a sailplane license.
The school offers certified instruction, rents aircraft, provides
towing service (sailplanes must be towed aloft behind a power plane), and
holds a dealership for Schweizer sailplanes.
Sailplanes, more trim and graceful than ordinary aircraft, offer man
the closest flying to
that of the birds -- quiet, vibrationless, safe and
with less feeling of effort.
A flight last Wednesday with Ernie Klimonda, 20 years a glider pilot,
emphasized the appeal of powerless flight. The weather was fine: a little
breeze, high scattered clouds, balmy temperature. The ship was a
Schweizer 2-33, featuring two seats, and used for training purposes.
On the End of a Line
A piper Super Cub did the towing, putting the sailplane via a nylon line
some 200 feet long.
Taking off in the sailplane is like riding a bicycle: an assistant is
required to hold the ship's wing horizontal.
Little run is required before the towed machine is bouncing into the
air off te last big bump on the grass strip.
The tow is uneventful, we climb out in the direction of Warrenton,
gaining about 350 feet per minute at an airspeed of 80 miles per hour.
Taking a look around, we find confidence in the long, sturdy wings,
each braced from the fuselage. Controls are simple: a joystick used with
conventional rudder pedals. Add a
tow line release handle and a handle
for the mechanically-actuated dive brakes which are located under either
wing and which are brought into use to provide rapid descent.
Sailplanes are lightweight, their wings provide great lift, and it can
be a problem at times to bring them down fast enough, hence the dive
Elsewhere in the cockpit, instruments are few: an airspeed indicator,
altimeter, turn-and-bank indicator, and a variometer. The latter
instrument gives a sensitive readout of the craft's rate of climb or
Gentle Rushing of Wind
At 3000 feet our pilot drops the
towline and the towplane falls away in a sharp descending turn to the
left. There is no sound, only a gentle rusing of wind.
When the tow leaves and nature takes over, there isn't the slightest
feeling of helplessness for lack of an engine: At the sailplane's
45-mile-per-hour cruising speed we are losing only about 100 feet per
minute and that can be detected only
A ONE-POINT LANDING, the proper kind for a sailplane,
is executed at
Warrenton Airpark. Note extended wing air spoilers near strut.
by the instruments, not the eye.
The air is stable, the ride comfortable, and there's a fine view of the
countryside. In all, there is a feeling of freedom. But the best is yet
For the first 10 minutes our flight amounts to a gradual loss of
altitude -- after all, we have no engine and nature is keeping us up.
But the veteran flyer is casting about for a vertical hitch-hike, a way to
Over a field of corn stubble we find a thermal -- an invisible column
of heated air rising thousands of feet into the sky. The altimeter had
shown about 2400 feet, but halts as Klimonda tilts the Schweizer into a
steep right turn to stay within the thermal.
Instead of a gentle descent, the sailplane is now in a moderate climb.
The variometer shows us to be ascending at between 200 and 300 feet per
minute. Just like big bird, lazily floating up, up, up.
Above, and some distance off, another sailplane is released and begins
to poke about the sky for lift. In minutes the pilot of the second ship
noticed our good fortune and wafts onto the magic escalator not far above
us. Together, our two birds continue to climb on their 50-foot pinions,
circling around, above and below one another.
Straight Down, Then Up
When our altimeter reads well over 3000 feet -- putting us above the level
of our tow re-
lease -- Klimonda elects to leave the thermal. Off we sweep,
away from air traffic, where the pilot aims to try a few aerobatics --
The little ship handles stalls and moderate maneuvers like a champ.
Capping things off Klimonda tries a loop. Stick way forward, the nose
drops and airspeed picks up rapidly to just past the ship's 100mph
"redline". Then it's stick hard back. The nose up fast and . . .
Warrenton is suddenly above us in the view through the windsheid. The
nose "falls through" and we're momentarily diving vertically on someone's
barn before the nose comes up and assumes its normal attitude near the
It's all over too soon. Our host spots the grassy strip on the C.E.
Beatley farm, swings into the landing pattern and pops the dive brakes.
We slip silently over farmyards, low enough tos ee wash on the lines and
dogs peering at us. We bank over treetops to line up with the strip and
our speed becomes noticable, even rapid.
Stop, On One Wing
In another second Klimonda puts the finishing touch on the approach -- a
deft flareout. Then, as we quit flying, things suddenly get bouncy and we
wonder what happens with just one wheel under us. the technique seems to
be wait -- until the speed drops to about bicycle pace, then stand on the
brakes and let the nose skid bring the ship to a quick stop-- wings
absolutely level. With the gentleness of a re-
tiring moth, the ship droops
on one wing.
Rides are avilable at $9 a shot and last from 10 to 20 minutes, but
anyone with a yen for flying should be warned that soaring can be
The "cure" (temporary) costs $375 and buys enough soaring for a
license. Power pilots can take a cheaper route for transition, costing
Capital Area Soaring School operates Wednesdays, weekends and holidays
but instruction is not offered from December 14 through mid-March.
During the midwinter the pros of the sport continue to fly, taking
advantage of our ripe weather conditions which provide so-called wave
soaring over the Blue Ridge.
There, noted Mr. Klimonda, altitudes of 17,000 feet have been attained.
Soaring, it seems is not (only) for the birds.
THE OLD LOOP-THE-LOOP at amusement parks was tame stuff compared with a
tight loop in a sailplane. The view is straight down through the
windshield. That's a barn and cornfield below.
NOW THAT RIDE'S OVER, Reporter Sullivan, former power pilot,
wishes he had a glider.
-- Photo by Pierre Mion