First Silver Badge in Western Washington

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Soaring – i. e. being able to fly without power, to stay up and even gain altitude (as opposed to gliding)) – came of age in the 1920s, and in the early 1930s soaring pilots began to leave the ridges for true XC soaring.  As recognition for these previously unheard of achievements and as an incentive for aspiring pilots the FAI (the international organization dealing with aero sports) created the Silver Badge for soaring achievements that pushed the limits of what was possible at that time.  Thus the conditions were set as an altitude gain of 1000m (3240 ft), a duration of 5 hours, and a distance of 50 km (31.1 miles), and these conditions are still valid today.  Robert Kronfeld – the first pilot to exceed 100 km in soaring flight - was awarded the Silver Badge no. 1.

Badge flying has become neglected lately (at least in the Northwest) as soaring pilots now concentrate more on the OLC, a worldwide documentation platform based on the internet and GPS.  However, soaring badges are still worthwhile goals for aspiring pilots and serve as recognition for passing levels of accomplishments.  The Silver Badge is actually a requirement for participation in regional and national competitions.

Enter Thomas Van de Velde, Evergreen’s latest pilot to make a name for himself.  On January  21, 2017, he concluded from the weather forecasts that it was a promising wave day, with strong southerly winds at altitude and reasonably clear skies.  So, properly prepared with oxygen and newly acquired arctic survival pants he took an early tow in his Discus, released at some 7300 ft close to Mount Pilchuck, contacted wave up to 13,635 ft., and finally came back just before sunset.  It was a historic flight, and even though he found only this one area of wave lift, he managed to exceed all three Silver Badge conditions.  While the paper work will take some time to make it official, this will be the first time that a Silver Badge has been achieved in western Washington - all in one flight and in January!  Once again, congratulations to Thomas!

Some statistical data for this flight (time in PDT):

1   11:01          takeoff from AWO

2   11:17          release near Mount Pilchuck, 2231 m

3   11: 20         lowst point after release, 2144 m

4   12:10          maximum altitude (4146 m/ 13,635 ft), NE of Mount Pilchuck

5   12:20          near Twin Peaks, farthest point east, 3822 m

6   16:33          west of Tulalip Casino, farthest point west, 1721 m

7   16:52          landing at AWO

            altitude gain (from 3 to 4)       2002 m

            duration (from 2 to 7)              5:35 hrs.

            distance (from 5 to 6)             68.2 km (42.4 miles)

                        allowable altitude loss for distance = distance/100 = 682 m

                        actual altitude loss = height at point 2 – height at point 6 = 510 m