The Arizona Soaring Association is a chapter of the Soaring Society of America. It is a non-profit corporation in the State of Arizona for the purpose of fostering the sport and science of soaring and educating the public on motorless flight in Arizona.

Officers and Directors, 1997

President Bill Bartell 580-9270
Vice President John Goodman 395-9334
Secretary Jeff Turner 940-4050
Treasurer Tony Smolder 942-6519
Director Jim Burch 942-2734
Director Bob Blakemore 483-6482
Director Cliff Hilty 374-5387
Director Kirk Stant 933-1572


Ship Manager Kirk Stant 933-1572
Contest Manager Tony Smolder 942-6519
Equipment Jeff Turner 940-4050
Legal Advisor Bob von Hellens 954-8015
Membership Arnie Jurn 279-7840
Newsletter Ed Doug Bell 566-3593
Airspace Bob von Hellens 954-8015
Safety Open
Historian Ruth Petry 274-3968


Tuesday, January 27 General Membership Meeting Barros Pizza - Coral Gables & 7th Street, Phoenix

Tuesday, February 24 General Membership Meeting Barros Pizza - Coral Gables & 7th Street, Phoenix

Tuesday, March 24 General Membership Meeting Barros Pizza - Coral Gables & 7th Street, Phoenix



Your Last Issue of Air Currents?

This may be the last issue of Air Currents you receive. That is, if you haven’t renewed your membership for 1998 by the next publication date. Send your renewal notice to the membership chairman to be sure you don’t miss a single action packed issue.

272 miles and 50,000 ft to Diamond Altitude

by Mike Parker

Tuesday - Tucson

The top of lift is forecast to be 20,000 feet with thermals more than 900 feet per minute. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about Diamond altitude which requires a height gain of 16,404 feet (5,000 meters). Only two problems; scattered clouds around 16,000 feet, and class A airspace that begins at 18,000 feet. Subtracting the needed altitude gain from 18,000 says that I must have a low point of 1,594 feet. Unfortunately El Tiro, the Tucson Soaring Club’s field, has an altitude of 2,120 feet so my low point would be more than 500 feet underground.

However, I have a plan. For many years several of us have talked about flying to Phoenix’s Estrella gliderport, diving down close to the ground, hitting a dust devil, and returning to 18,000 feet over Mt. Lemmon near Tucson. Maybe someday I will try out the plan.

Wednesday 7AM - Tucson

Check the weather just in case. WHATS THIS, the dew point is down to 26 degrees. Maybe the cloud base will be high enough. What about the rest of the forecast….900+ feet per minute and 20,000 feet top of lift…WOW it may be possible. Who needs to work today anyway. Well, club operations don’t start till 12:30 so go to work for a couple of hours. On the way call George Kulesza, the club’s instructor for today, and talk him into being my official observer.

On the 1 hour drive to the field check Estrella field altitude and discover that if I set 1,500 feet ASL as my low point, I will have to dive to within 222 feet of the ground. Since this makes me a little nervous, I start looking at the sectional for lower airports. Gila Bend is at 778 feet which puts me 722 feet off the ground at the low point. I call Estrella, and they say that they will get a tow plane to Gila Bend if I need it. Won’t cost me any more than the salary that I am already losing by skipping work. Gila Bend, hmmmm, I’ve never been there in a sailplane, but there must be some landable fields on the way.

Wednesday 12:15 PM - El Tiro Gliderport

I’m sitting on the runway with my glider waiting for the line chief and tow plane. Several people, after hearing what I plan to do, have constructive suggestions like: Why don’t you carry water ballast, Gila Bend is a long way away? Answer : I would rather launch early than mess with the water, and its HOT.

Why don’t you just ask for an IFR clearance above 18,000? Answer: Can you really do that? Well I have a different plan.

12:45PM - Finally I launch successfully after the first aborted takeoff ever in my Ventus. I release and notch the barograph. I’m not sure why I notch it, but I figure it’s tradition.

1:15 PM - Start for Gila Bend from 11,600 feet after a climb averaging 512 feet per minute. Not too bad for the 1st thermal of the day. Get the GPS turned on and see that Gila bend is 82 miles away upwind. Is it REALLY that far? Even if I push, I won’t get back to Mt. Lemmon till 4PM. Maybe I should go to Estrella. But to go to Estrella I have to get within 200 feet of the ground and there is no margin for error. Over the next 45 minutes I change my mind about once a minute until finally I commit to Gila Bend.

Wednesday 2:14 PM - 1,600 feet above Gila Bend

There are no dust devils within gliding range of the airport to mark thermals. Nobody answers my radio calls; the airport appears deserted. I fly through a strong thermal. It’s crunch time. Pull spoilers and dive to lose altitude, 180 degree turn, accelerate to 120 knots at 700 feet off the ground, pull up, …….. no thermal. Boy its hot down this low, and I’m starting to sweat.

2:16 PM - Losing altitude in reduced sink.

2:17 PM - Losing altitude in reduced sink. Still announcing traffic to a deserted airport.

2:18 PM - Losing altitude and back down to 900 feet AGL. Boy its hot! Wait, there’s a bump. I concentrate on keeping the yaw string straight while trying to center a thermal that is smaller than my turning circle.

2:20 PM - Now I’ve climbed a total of 300 feet. It’s still hot, but my sweating starts to stabilize.

2:23 PM - The little bump has turned into 800 feet per minute. If it just goes high enough I can get back over the 26 miles of unlandable terrain that I passed over on the way into Gila Bend.

Wednesday 3.47 PM - Over the Tortolita Mountains 100 miles from Gila Bend

I’m at 9,000 feet starting another 500 feet per minute climb. I haven’t been above 12,000 feet all day or under a single cloud. The climb rates seem to be dropping and the only clouds in sight are scraggly and well east of Mt. Lemmon. GLOOM.

4:07 PM - Who would have believed it. The thermal over these little mountains continued up to 15,400 feet. HAPPINESS. On oxygen, I continue to big Mt. Lemmon.

Wednesday 4:16 PM - Flying a search pattern over Mt. Lemmon between 12 and 13,000 feet.

Nothing. This is where the BIG thermals are supposed to be. Nothing. Nothing. GLOOM. Nothing but those scraggly clouds up high farther east. Well what do I have to lose? If I go for them and nothing is there, I could always land at San Manual mine.

4:24 PM - Approaching the clouds. They look like cumulus, but they have almost no vertical development. And they are over the middle of the San Pedro valley. Why aren’t they over the mountains? WORRY.

4:25 PM - HAPPINESS in 750 feet per minute lift. But are the clouds high enough? Will the cloud base be too low to get to 18,000 feet? Will the lift continue? WORRY. Boy its cold under these clouds.

4:32 PM - Over the San Pedro river at 18,000 feet.

WOW I did it! I leave 800 feet per minute lift at 18,000 feet, still 1,000 feet below the clouds. My feet are freezing. I need to get down where its warm. But wait. Isn’t the red line of this glider slower at high altitudes? And doesn’t gel coat crack if the temperature changes to rapidly? I quickly slow down to 90 knots indicated. While gliding the 53 miles to El Tiro I realize that from this altitude, at best glide ratio, I could glide the 137 miles back to Gila Bend. WOW!

So I got my Diamond altitude. In doing so I flew 272 miles and gained more than 50,400 feet in altitude. Between thermals I averaged a glide ratio of 31.6 to 1. Except for three minutes in a 186 feet/minute thermal, the weakest thermal worked was 459 feet per minute and the strongest 777 feet per minute. The last climb averaged 741 feet per minute and took 8 minutes. During the speed portion of the task I averaged 67.4 mph. The temperature on the ground had reached 106 degrees that day, and the temperature at 18,000 feet was about 30 degrees. Just a typical June day in Arizona.

While driving home, I thought about all the things that had to work just right in order to get the Diamond. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together. (And how many other places in the USA could you do this? Don’t you just love Arizona? -ed)


December Board Meeting Minutes

by Jeff Turner

The meeting was held at the von Hellens’ home, 5800 N. 39th St. ,Paradise Valley, Arizona.

The meeting was called to order at 7:15 PM, December 15, 1997. A quorum was present.


Bill Bartell (President)

John Goodman (Vice President)

Hans Heydrich (Treasurer)

Jeff Turner (Secretary)

Jim Burch (Board Member)

Tony Smolder (Board Member)

Kirk Stant (Board Member & Aircraft Mgr)

Bob Von Hellens (Member & Legal Advisor)

Discussions of A/C finances were put off until next board meeting.

Jim Burch will undertake to update the bylaws to maintain consistency with the articles of incorporation.

John Goodman will attempt to check with the secretary of state’s office to ascertain if the articles of incorporation were successfully amended in 1979. John will also attempt to check with the corporation commission to determine if the ASA is still considered in "good standing."

A committee to investigate the finances relating to the club’s aircraft was appointed. The members of the committee are: Tony Smolder, John Goodman, Kirk Stant.

To facilitate moving the club to using only a single checking account, $1550.00 was moved from the current primary checking account to the checking account currently used as the contest account. This leaves a small reserve in the old account to cover final checks written on that account, which will be closed out in the near future.

The next board meeting will be held at Hans Heydrich’s home on 1/6/98.

The meeting adjourned at 9:07 PM.


December General Membership Meeting

by Jeff Turner

The meeting was held at the von Hellens’ home, 5800 N. 39th St. ,Paradise Valley, Arizona.

The meeting was held in conjunction with the annual Christmas party on December 1, 1997.

The only point of business conducted at this meeting was to vote for the members of the board of directors for 1998. Due to the death of the president earlier this year the vacant board positions for the coming year are a little different. Because Ken would have been on the board for a third year as the past president, it is required that a board member be elected to fill a 1 year term in order to maintain the board at 9 members. Ballots were received from 25 members. The following members have been elected to the board of directors for the normal term of 2 years:

Bob Blakemore

John Goodman

Cliff Hilty

Kirk Stant

In addition to the above noted members, Bill Poore has been elected to the board of directors for an interim term of 1 year to maintain the board at it’s full complement of 9 members.


ASA Members Donate to Make-A-Wish

As in previous years, ASA members were given an opportunity to make a donation to a local charity at the annual Christmas party. Due to it’s popularity last year, the Make-A-Wish Foundation was once again the recipient of the ASA donation. A total of $485 was contributed to help grant the wish of terminally ill children. Many thanks to the membership for this generous contribution.


Random Ramblings

by Doug Bell

I don’t know whether to "blame" in on El Nino or not, but the weekend of January 3-4 provided some amazing soaring weather for the middle of winter. When most other areas of the country are buried under snow and overcast, Arizona managed to produce a couple of pretty nice "off-season" soaring days.

I was returning from California and decided to turn off I-10 at Brenda Junction in order to collect GPS coordinates there and at other popular ASA turnpoints between there and Wickenburg. A cold front had passed though the night before and we got to Brenda about noon. The cu’s were just starting to form at that time and were dotting the sky.

By the time we go to Salome, some of the most beautiful cloud streets had formed along the Harquahala valley. There was one to the north, the full length of the Harcuars. Another to the south over the Harcuahalas. The best one, though, was smack dab up the middle of the valley all the way to Wickenburg. Although cloud bases were lower (7000-8000?) than in summer, I’m sure any glass ship could have flow from Salome to Wickenburg without having to circle.

I was hoping to see someone taking advantage of these conditions, but never saw anything. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my crew radio with me, so I don’t know if anybody was up or not. However, even if they were flying, it probably been a little challenge to get to the east end of these cloud streets. As we drove through Wickenburg, we encountered showers and much lower cloud bases, especially to the north.

The next day found me in Benson. Having taken care of my business there, we headed back home about 11:30. After stopping for lunch in Tucson, we headed north on I-17. As we passed Marana, I had to marvel at what Mother Nature had dished up for the southern part of the state. From Picacho Peak southward as far as the eye could see, there were fair weather cu’s from the western horizon to the eastern horizon. Judging from the obscuration of Mt. Lemmon, I estimated the bases at about 7000 feet. Not your typical January day. I hope some of the El Tiro crowd was able to take advantage of these remarkable conditions.


Annual Annuals Scheduled for Feb 28

by Doug Bell

Annual inspections for your sailplane will available on Saturday, February 24, 1998 at Turf. Our friend Larry Clark will provide this service for a fee of $25. Inspections will start at 8:00 am and continue every half hour for the day. Contact Doug Bell to schedule a time. You will need to have your make, model, serial number and registration number when you call. Space is limited, so reservations will be taken on a first come, first served basis. All reservations need to be made by February 14 to allow Larry to check the AD’s and service bulletins for your ship.



For Sale: Borgelt B100 Glider Computer

Complete with manuals and all updates

First $2400.00 takes it!

Bill Bartell, 602-580-9270

For Sale: Cobra Trailer 1995 Fiberglass molded top set up for Ventus 2 but adjustable to most planes. New sells for $12,000. Asking $9000. Trailer is in excellent condition. Used very little. May be seen at Turf. Contact Cliff Hilty email or phone 602-374-5387.

For Sale: Std Cirrus '18' B model, Cambridge
C-Nav, Dittel, 1300 hrs. TT Reduced to $19,500. Steve Johnson (602)-978-9324