The Soaring Society of America – the organization that fosters and promotes all aspects of soaring and improves the sport’s safety, will convene at the Reno Convention Center this weekend, today through Saturday. It’s a sort of “meeting of the clan,” an opportunity for about 1,000 glider pilots from all over the nation (and some foreign countries) to spend several days talking about operations, opportunities and new equipment in our sport. I will be at the convention, rubbing shoulders with fellow sailplane pilots, drooling over the latest in sailplane design and accessories, and generally enjoying the camaraderie of fellow soaring pilots.
Soaring brought me (and a lot of other glider pilots) to Northern Nevada many years ago. Readers who aren’t into the sport may be excused for not knowing we live in a soaring paradise. But it’s true, as demonstrated by the hundreds of pilots who fly out of local soaring centers every year. The happy circumstance of mountains, desert and weather result in soaring conditions people in other parts of the world can only dream of.
If you’ve ever noticed the long lines of lenticular clouds that frequently line up north to south over our valley you’ve seen the most obvious symptom of the mountain wave we have during our winter months. And those huge billowy clouds that rise above our mountain ranges during the summer show off another type of soaring weather: thermal soaring that allows us, by flying from thermal to thermal, to soar hundreds of miles in a flight that lasts from around noon until late in the day. “Around noon” means we have to wait for the sun to heat the earth sufficiently for thermals (which you might have seen as dust-devils) to break free and build those puffy cumulus clouds and occasional thunderstorms.
Enjoying either form of soaring weather — mountain wave or thermals — would be a happy circumstance for any glider pilot hoping to break the apron strings and soar away from his home airport. Having both forms of weather — wave predominantly in the winter and thermals in the summer — makes Northern Nevada a really special place for followers of this sport. And glider pilots visit year-round to try their hand at flying in our world-class conditions. Using nature’s dynamic ocean of air, I myself have flown more than five miles above sea level and traveled more than 1,000 miles in a flight that lasted more than 12 hours. And those aren’t record-breaking flights!
But record flights can be made from Minden (south of Carson) or Air Sailing airports (north of Reno, near Pyramid Lake). The world-record-holding Perlan II Project, headquartered in Minden, performed all its shakedown flights out of Minden before setting its first world record in a wave flight above 52,000 feet over the Argentine Andes. Personnel from Perlan will show off their glider and talk to the convention-goers about their efforts to push the altitude record for soaring flight more than 75,000 feet in the coming year.
With all the superlatives that are ours — world-class skiing, fun casinos, luxury hot springs, cowboy poetry festivals, ghost towns, great boating and fishing on beautiful lakes, championship air races, Tesla’s giga-factory, Amazon’s mega distribution center, purple mountain majesties, the world’s loneliest highway, and wild mustangs munching our garden plants, Northern Nevadans might be excused for not knowing about the special soaring conditions that are ours.
If you’d like to learn more about the sport, or just feast your eyes on the beautiful fiberglass birds we pilot through the Nevada skies, come visit the Reno Convention Center on Friday or Saturday and learn about us!