Skyline Soaring Club in the Twentieth CenturyBy Jim Kellett, January, 2000
Chapter II -- Capitol Area Soaring School
In the early sixties, the Capitol Area Soaring School (CASS) was organized by Gordon Bogora, M-ASA's President, and his wife, Fran at a grass field near Leesburg, VA. While CASS was a full-time operation for Gordon and Fran, there was one other partner, Lew Tuttle, who remained a senior career bureaucrat with the General Services Administration.
Gordon's hard driving approach was mitigated by his lovely wife, Fran. She was the one who kept the books and often was the person dealing with the customers. Fran still lives in Maryland, with her second husband (another Gordon!).
CASS started at the "old" Leesburg airport, which was a grass strip, located on the north side of Rt. 7, roughly where Rt. 15 now heads north. But it had moved to Godfrey Field (now Leesburg Municipal) with its paved runway and wide sod areas usable by gliders, by 1966, when I moved to Alexandria and discovered CASS in a "Weekender" section of the Washington Post. The land for the Leesburg airport was donated by the then-wildly popular radio and TV entertainer, Arthur Godfrey, who lived in Leesburg and for years frequently hosted his TV variety show from his home there. He kept his personal airplanes - a Baron, a DC-3, and later a jet - at Godfrey Field over the years the gliders were operating there, and it was not unusual to have a cup of coffee with him in the FBO hut. Godfrey was an avid pilot who flew his own aircraft, but to the best of my knowledge never got interested in gliders.
Tony Beck took this picture of Herb Barnes pulling one of CASS's 2-33's on the line at Leesburg. These were the "new" trainers - - replacing the 2-22s that I learned to fly in! (Herb showed up in Leesburg in 1966 with 7 (read SEVEN) full log books of experience and had never had an aero tow! He had learned to fly, and had gotten his commercial (grandfathered to instructor) on auto tow.
Some of the other stalwarts from CASS days include Al Dresner (one of my instructors). Al was a Navy pilot whose accomplishments include once buzzing Sixteenth Street in Washington in a Navy trainer to impress girlfriend Barbara (who became his wife). Al still flies with M-ASA.
I started flying in April, 1966, got my PPL(G) in June, and bought my first glider, one of CASS's 1-26s (N8630R) in August of that year. I recall taking my PPL checkride on the same day as Pierre Mion - Pierre was/is a well regarded artist, who specialized in painting technical subjects. He ghost-painted more than one piece attributed to Normal Rockwell, and one of his beautiful murals still adorns the entryway to the Air and Space Museum. I also took my checkride in a 1-26 - while the FAA examiner watched from the ground!
In the fall of 1966, I met James E. (Jim) Hard who had moved his family from the Chicago area to Rockville and a year later to Bethesda. Jim Hard did his Diamond Goal flight back in the sixties in an open cockpit 1-19 from a winch launch! Always a fan of low performance gliders, he holds many records for 1-26 flying. Jim now lives in St. Cloud, MN. He began flying at Godfrey Field in 1966, instructing in 2-22Es and 2-33s and flying towplane. Some of his students were (in addition to myself) Don Ward, Pete Kern, Karl Freienmuth, Pete Garafola, Byron Roudabush, Steve Hard (Jim's son, now an engineer with the FAA in Oklahoma City), Dick Mott, Paul Gearhart, Charlie Lindsay, Don Kiscaden, Frank Linder, Bill McClure, Ernie Klimonda, Ed VerHoef, Jack Hessian, Greg Niswonger, Tony Beck, Oran Nicks, Chris DeMuth, and Willy Peterson. Jim has a clear recollection of Oran Nicks trying to make it back to the airport on a local soaring flight, flying over three perfectly landable fields and hitting the airport fence doing minor aircraft damage and causing Oran much embarrassment. Steve Hard soloed on his 14th birthday at Leesburg.
My first partner in a glider was a pathologist at Georgetown (I forget his name) who never flew the plane once during our short partnership! Jim Hard bought my partner's share in N8630R, and we both made cross-country flights to Pennsylvania and locations to the south. In the next few years I got my Silver badge in our 1-26.
Leesburg was where Hard made his first and only flight in Warren Price's Wolf. (Jan Scott bought Warren Price's Wolf and restored it to the original German Nazi appearance. It is now on display in the Wasserkuppe museum in Germany, albeit without the swastika (which was added to the vertical fin after this picture was taken.) This was the second of two built in this country; the first one is the one at NSM.)
Trish Worthington had learned to fly gliders at her home in England. She came out to fly with CASS while she was working at the British Embassy in Washington. Trish worked as a "line boy" at CASS. Interestingly, Trish strapped in one new customer - Don Ward - on his first flight at Godfrey Field. Later, they married ten years to the day that she'd had her first glider flight in England! They had one son, Peter; Don passed away in 1996, and Trish still lives in Leesburg. Don owned a 1-26 (No. 289) in a partnership with Tom Adamczyk. Later, Don sold his share to Skyliner Bob Collier, who subsequently bought out Tom's share and has been flying it ever since.
By June of 1970, one of the instructors at CASS, Jan Scott, had developed his own gliderport near Lovettsville, VA - Scott Airpark, also known as the home of "The Flying Cow". Scott Airpark, in turn, became the home in the early seventies of the Short Hills Soaring Club that included, including myself, Jack Hessian, Gordon Dicker, Frank Sears, Jim Hard, Karl Ockert, and others. SHSC bought a 1-23, but the club disbanded when its only plane was crashed in 1973 or 1974. Some of Jim Hard's students at Scott included Gordon Dicker (winch tow checkout), Bill Getsinger, Fred Balmer, Hunter Robinson, Tim Ettridge, Karl Ockert, and Bill Gunnison who got his C Badge on his first solo flight. There were many ridge soaring flights on the Short Hills and quite a few wave flights originating at Scott Airpark. Frank Linder, Frank Sears, and Jim Hard owned a Standard Cirrus, which flew out of Scott in 1973-74. Unfortunately, it got wrecked sometime before July 1974.
Like so many clubs and companies involved with soaring, CASS felt an obligation, driven in part by enlightened self-interest, to promote soaring to young people. Many kids came out to Leesburg to work on the flight line in exchange for free flying. On September 21, 1968, there was a very positive newspaper article about their support of young people in the Washington.
Special Section, Newspaper article from September 21, 1968 [Go There Now]
I got my first few seconds of fame in July of 1968 when I was surprised by seeing my picture on the front page of the Loudoun Times-Mirror!
In 1969, Godfrey Field got rather too busy with sharply expanding power traffic, so CASS started operating at Warrenton Airpark in early October of that year. The Company was then owned by Gordon Bogora and Ernest Klimonda, who had purchased Lew Tuttle's share in the company.
Ernie Klimonda was one of the more interesting people (among many very interesting people!) involved in soaring about this time. Born in a village near Prague, he grew up during the war in German-occupied Czechoslovakia. He learned to fly gliders as a youth. He joined the French Foreign Legion and fought the communists in Viet Nam when it was still a French colony - becoming one of the original Viet Nam vets! Later, he married a French woman and lived in Morocco for some time before immigrating to the US where he worked at various places as a travel agent. (Fluent in many languages, he enjoyed working as a tourguide in Washington after his retirement.) He was a very active glider pilot, and owned a SGS 1-34 and later an ASW-19; the same ASW-19, that is now owned and flown by Jim Garrison. He was also a power pilot, a CFI(G), a towpilot, and a DPE. (It was Ernie who examined me for my CPL.) He was and is a most skilled photographer, having won many awards in photography contests over the years. Many were taken of the soaring community. Ernie retired from the International Monetary Fund, and now lives in Fairfax.
The move to Warrenton was heralded in a local newspaper article in October of 1969 about Warrenton (and Fauquier County) becoming the home of a prominent gliding company. Ernie was one the instructor who was interviewed by a local reporter and who, of course, was treated to an introductory flight. One of the pictures published in the paper was from the front seat of a 2-33 - - pointed straight down at a farmhouse - - on the back side of a loop that Ernie did for him!
Special Section, Newspaper article from October, 1969 [Go There Now]
Back in these days, prices were a LOT different! CASS advertised introductory rides for $9, and a package deal for $375 that was supposed to take you all the way to a PPL(G). Ernie and Gordon were pretty good about scrounging up "free" advertising in the local newspapers, including the Washington papers.
Warrenton Airpark was, and still is, owned by Charles Beatley, a retired United Airlines pilot who for several terms was also the mayor of Alexandria, VA. He also did a lot of towing for WSC (see below), and served as a Director for the lifetime of that Company.