The 2018 SSA Convention in Reno NV

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Here is a comprehensive report about the recent SSA convention - thanks  Heinz!


SSA Convention report

By Heinz Gehlhaar

My Highlights

  • Got the fly the Perlan simulator two times.

  • Got a nice glider model to fly and show off at meetings.

  • Great presentations, some were better than others.

  • The Awards banquets.

  • Lots of folks got recognized for their work. Jim Simmons too!

  • Got to meet a lot of people whose name I knew.

  • The food, drinks and company were excellent.

Get more details at

And you can see the speakers here:


Some of the details of the programs I participated in.

Perlan Program

  • Jim & Jacky Payne, Einar Enevoldson

  • Great talk at the banquet (See the OSTIV Dinner below)

  • Perlan brought a simulator which gave you a 20 minute experience in their fuselage with their instrumentation and controls.

I had the opportunity to ride in the backseat on day one with Lynn Wyman flying in the front seat; and on day 2 I got to try my hand at flying in the front seat with Lynn as backseat observer. Here is a summary of the flight sequence everyone got:

  1. Start on tow with a 100 ft towline (I suspect that is an inherited feature of the simulator-program, the real Perlan uses about 400 ft for the approx. 1hr tow). Once you are at some “safe” altitude you get to feel out the various control responses at low altitude.

  2. They then set you up in wave at about 8k ft. So you are flying at 50-60 knots IAS in significant wind and with 20+ft/ min up and you can practice to stay in the wave.

  3. They then take you up 90K ft in wave. They tell you the “coffin-corner” is from 32 to 51 knots indicated. So you sort out the control response (now very sensitive, especially the elevator) and try to stay safe inside the coffin corner, say at 40 kts. You glance at the GPS readout which sits near 350 kts ground speed.

  4. They then ask you to go into a tight turn to lose control and you do. But you get to pull the drogue chute which saves your butt. Going down at high speed until they say: “OK, you have control. You can release the chute and continue flying towards the airport.

  5. They then set you up in downwind at the appropriate altitude and tell you the field is to the left, go for the landing. And sure enough, you can see the airport on the screen from both the front and the back. But due to the visibility constraints, landing is only possible from the front seat.  Even from there it is a challenge.

I have to admit that Lynn did a better job piloting the ship, even though I had the practice in the backseat on flight one. Lynn managed a great landing. The Perlan could be flown again. I lost sight of the towplane fairly late in the tow, and something happened to my flightpath just before touchdown. It seems I go blown to the right, off the runway. And when I tried to rudder back, I also applied some aileron, and the long left wing contacted the ground and I did a good left turn ground loop. But all in all, it was a great experience to see some of the limitations which  the real pilots have to go through. Fully worth the whole trip to Reno.



Walt Rogers’ gave us an update of the Soaring Magazine article in February 2017, along with new weather technologies relevant to soaring in early 2018. He essentially listed all the various data inputs from National Weather models



Jon Roper discussed the various issues to understand the regulation and practical aspects of installing ADS-B technology in your sailplane.  The more you listen and read about this area, the smarter you get.

This ADS-B seminar was Trig’s push for the TN72 TABS GPS technology, designed to work with Trig transponders.



Dave Nadler and Tony Condon gave us the skinny about high-performance motor gliders, focusing on pylon- and FES- power systems (both electric and gas). They discussed the fallacious ideas of

  • Dreaming of taking off from wherever you want, whenever you want.

  • No towplane? Just push a button.

  • Avoid outlandings. Just push a button.

  • Escape from unfortunate predicaments. Just push a button.

  • Or to climb high and investigate wave

Motor gliders provide some of that freedom, but with significant tradeoffs which a user must understand to stay alive.

One of the important messages about missing outlandings is: To be successful, this has to be your sequence every time:

  1. Pick out a landing place,

  2. Fly the glider to that landing place,

  3. Only then worry about getting the engine started.

  4. Pay prime attention to landing. If she starts and produces power, you have avoided an outlanding.



Henrik Svensson from Sweden talked about how Swedish Soaring Federation continues to work with reducing accidents and incidents with safety programs. A brief introduction on their latest program which requires that accidents AND incidents are reported. They decided to include incidents, because there is not enough data with only 4 accidents/year. They seem to have a computer program which sorts through the accidents and the incidents and produces recommendations what training/operations-actions to take to reduce accidents.  And it seems that they do have good results.  It is worth noting that Hendrik is a government employee, using government computers.


Matthew Scutter of SkySight gave us an introduction of the technology and the data behind modern weather forecasting.  He continued with an overview of how SkySight utilizes modern cloud compute technology to deliver complex forecasts at low cost, and high detail. Using cloud compute technology permits them to keep the weather computation and the plot-production in “local” computers (i.e. communicating with computers within the local area. Google is one company which seems to make such cloud-computer service available).
Essentially every soaring forecaster uses the output of the major government forecasting services/programs, and then plots data that might be interesting to glider pilots.  However, for local areas, they may define a finer raster in position and altitude.


Cindy Brickner discussed 5 “missing” (i.e. not yet reported) NTSB reports

“What was he thinking?” tends to be our typical response after hearing about a soaring accident.

The NTSB is tasked with responsibility for analyzing fatal aviation accidents in the US. We glider pilots have long been dissatisfied with “hardware answers” and the catch phrase of “loss of control” in NTSB final reports. We glider pilots, on the other hand, seek the specialized perspective of soaring operations and meteorology’s interaction in soaring accidents so that we can learn from those accidents. (See the Safety Program in Sweden above).

Cindy’s interesting review of recent fatalities offered a glider instructor’s perspective and an opportunity to compare these to my personal soaring flights.  And it tends you to ask interesting questions:

  • “What issues confronted those pilots? Which ones can I can avoid?”

  • “What guidelines can I use to avoid being hurt”

  • “How do I think about my soaring recreation”

  • “How can I avoid the same pitfalls?”

However, that is not the answer is we get from the NTSB reports.  Especially, when they only come out several years after the occurrence.

My take on that is: The SSA must push much harder to convince the NTSB that for glider accidents we glider pilots could help and should be asked to do so. Perhaps the SSA can set up a cadre of senior technically experienced gilder pilots, asks for investigation-training by the NTSB, and makes them available to help with glider accident investigation and with final report writing.



Chuck Hobbs gave us 2 talks about that subject. Chuck Hobbs’ father, Captain Henry C. Hobbs, flew a Horsa glider into Normandy on June 7, 1944, and  GC-4A gliders into Holland on September 17, 1944, and into Germany on March 24, 1945.

For the most part, the US used two different gliders during WWII.   They were the US manufactured CG-4A glider and the British manufactured Horsa glider.

The US glider pilots were assigned to Troop Carrier Groups as were the C47 pilots who flew paratroopers to drop zones and towed the gliders to the landing zones.

The paratroopers and the glider infantry troops were assigned to Airborne Divisions including the 82nd, 101st, and 17th Divisions.  

Chuck described the Horsa glider which was flown in combat by the US glider pilots for the invasion of Normandy. He covered the experiences of the US glider pilots during the invasion of Normandy and for Operation Market Garden (See the book/movie A Bridge too Far) based on the interrogation checklists his father filed after returning to the US airfield from which they departed.


SSA General Membership Meeting

  • Finances are in good shape. But we do need donations. We can’t produce programs to grow our sport. You can find the financial reports on the SSA Website


  • JP Stewart of the Youth Committee has developed 2 Videos displaying soaring which are useful for the general public. These videos should show up on the SSA Website very soon. The committee also is promising a monthly Soaring Webinar. The first one is scheduled to run May 1st and then they plan on one per month on each 2nd Tuesday. One can find a lot of the Youth Committee activities at


  • Several persons in each Region were honored by SSA Awards, among them Tony Condon, Jim Payne, the top CFIGs in each Region. Jim Simmons was included in that list.

The OSTIV Dinner

This was a formal evening dinner with good food and great company. Jim and Jackie Payne gave us a great summary of the Perlan Program, starting with the unpressurised (i.e. Spacesuits) Perlan 1 (Perlan 1 hangs in our Museum of Flight) and continuing with Perlan 2 which is a pressurized sailplane designed for flight up to 90k ft.  The Perlan team was in El Calafate, Argentina, from July to September 2017 for high altitude test flights using the Polar Night Jet aka Polar Vortex.  Jim Payne lead us through his amazing flights, leading up to flying high above the Patagonia mountains in Argentina. The highlight was the September 3 flight to 52,172 feet GPS altitude (FL540) and the claim to a new world record. While Jim lead us through all the technical details, Jackie, who is the Team Guru of making sure all comes together, and nothing is left behind, especially on the Calafate mission, gave us a good rundown on the beauty of the place.
BTW: The Airbus funding for the Perlan Project runs out this this year. We all ought to get after Boeing to finally step up to the cause.

The Little Glider That Could: Six Decades of the 1-26

Dan Ernst showed us the history of this classic American One-Design glider, as well as some of the pilots that have flown it and their many accomplishments in this decidedly non-high-performance ship.
The 1-26 first flew in 1954 and nearly 700 were built during its long production run that ended in 1979. The 1-26 is a simple, rugged glider that is still inexpensive to buy (If you can find one) and easy and fun to fly. The 1-26 is numerically the most popular glider in the United States but is often overlooked as an addition to a club for time-building and cross-country training. We also heard about the 1-26 Association which is a very active group offering support and encouragement to owners to keep their ships flying by sharing maintenance expertise and soaring knowledge. The annual 1-26 Championships is the flying and social event of the Association and offers a fun atmosphere for a contest. For more info see  

15 Bright Ideas That Slowed Me Down, Lost Me Points, or Got Me Stuck

Garret Willat highlighted some of his mistakes he made and learned from in contest-flying. One of the things he mentioned was: Saving a few minutes by editing the previous day’s task to get to the new task. Conclusion: It is not worth it; especially if you forget such minor things as updating (in this case, reducing) the target-circle size. Another one: Heading out into the blue towards the one great-looking cloud, while wondering why Nelson Funston was going the other way. (Garret ended up as a lawn dart). I think quite a few of us can say: Been there, done that. Even in non-contest circumstances.

29 Ways to Make Yourself Stupid

Dr. Dan Johnson discussed some things which I might do or actually do, to unknowingly become mistake-prone or just plain stupid. He covered medications, oxygen, physiology, disease, and the nature of life itself. It is truly amazing, how many things there are, which can help us slip up. Even common, non-prescription pills and meds. And sometimes it takes a very long time to flush out the deleterious effects of some of those pills.
And then to boot, your brain will trick you into seeing, or not seeing what is really out there. Dr. Johnson showed a great example: See how many black dots like this: you can see in the figure at the end of this article (See last page):


Krzysztof Kubrynski told us about the details of the Diana-2 program and its potential growth. The Avionic company has the rights to the SZD-56-2 Diana-2 glider. Avionic is known primarily as the producer of glider trailers, but also (which is not popular knowledge) as the producer of about 90% of composite structures of EXTRA-300 aerobatic aircraft. In 2016, the company acquired from the successors of the designer and the previous producer, Bogumił Beresia, the right to this Diana-2 glider type. Therefore Diana-2 production has resumed, and the first glider has already been delivered. Work has started on the modernization of Diana-2 and its motorization. Krzysztof told us that a modified glider with FES electric drive soon will be tested. Elimination of some of the reported deficiencies of Diana-2 is also in work.

The thing which interested me most, is the process that Krzysztof is going through in optimizing glider designs. He starts with airfoils. There are 6 different airfoils in the wing of Diana-2 (11 distinct foils are currently planned in an eventual Diana-3). Positions of the airfoils and wing-planforms are then optimized toward various goals: min. sink, or max L/D, or straight flight, or thermalling flight (optimized for right turns or for left turns   you read that right, it can be optimized ---that is what I think he said). Finally, the aircraft as a whole, is optimized. Then, one of those is built, and hopefully many will be bought.

Not only is a new 18-meter glider under design using this process, but Avionic’s plans are more ambitious: The initial work has already begun for the design of an open-class sailplane.



Frauke Elber told us all about the development of woman’s soaring in the world. In the early days of soaring, there only were a few women-only clubs here in the US and in Europe. But women’s competition had a start in 1947 in Poland. However, this only encompassed women from the socialist countries. Later, these competitions were also opened up for pilots from the West and were then called Women International Contests, which in 2001 led to the officially FAI-recognized Women World Championships. Frauke took us through all of these events step by step.


Fool your Brain exercise


How many black spots do you see?


I will tell you, so you can search for more: there are 12.

See how the brain fools you. Especially if you only have a very short time to glance at the scene. Like when you are in deep trouble for some reason, at low altitude over questionable terrain. And remember, an aircraft on a collision course does not move in you field of vision. Just like these black spots. You might see an occasional glint; but if you wear polarized sunglasses, you will eliminate 50% of those.  (OK, ok,   I will get off my stump)