FAI Pan-American Gliding Championship takes flight in Ontario

The third Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) Pan American Gliding Championship is currently taking place at Rockton, Ont. Hosted by the Southern Ontario Soaring Association (SOSA), the competition runs from July 29 to Aug. 14.

Teams from Argentina, the United States and Canada are competing in three categories, with the objective of completing a set course in the fastest possible time. Eric Dumigan Photo
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Opening ceremonies were conducted the morning of Aug. 1 and included mayor Fred Eisenberger from Hamilton, councillor Jan Liggett from Cambridge, and Soaring Association of Canada president Sylvain Bourque. FAI representatives included chief steward Renato Tsukamoto from Brazil and jury president John Godfrey from the U.S.

Three SOSA members, Scott McMaster, Poul Hansen and Andrea Kuciak, who also fly for the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association, brought in three Harvards for the ceremony. The Royal Canadian Air Force provided a 424 Squadron Griffon helicopter and SOSA towplane pilot, Logan Orosz, had a Tiger Moth on display.

Teams from Argentina, the United States and Canada are competing in three categories at the championships: Club, 15M and 18M. Objectives are to complete a set course in the fastest possible time. Each day the sailplanes are weighed (some categories carry water ballast) and then positioned on the starting grid. When thermal conditions are optimal for the day, the sailplanes are launched and towed to an altitude of 2,000 feet, where they are released. Four towplanes are used to launch over 30 sailplanes, which takes about 45 minutes. It is then up to the pilot to find thermals to reach higher altitudes that will allow them to fly the course. The competitors are tracked and timed digitally with GPS.

Each day, the pilots gather in the morning to receive the day’s forecast prediction, debrief the previous day’s results and address any safety concerns. The weatherman, along with the task setter(s) set the course for the day. If the weather is marginal for soaring, a “sniffer” is sent aloft to determine if the gliders can remain airborne. The launch only takes place when the race director is confident the conditions are adequate.

SOSA, located on Highway 8 south of Cambridge, Ont., is Canada’s largest gliding club and boasts a fleet of a dozen gliders ranging from trainers to advanced single seat sailplanes. Eric Dumigan Photo

Most contests are held over a seven-day period and at least three days have to be flown for a valid contest. Once all the gliders are launched and in position, the race director will announce the start gate is open. Each pilot can choose when they want to start by announcing over the radio. Some may delay their start due to tactical reasons.

SOSA, located on Highway 8 south of Cambridge, is Canada’s largest gliding club and boasts a fleet of a dozen gliders ranging from trainers to advanced single-seat sailplanes. Three towplanes and a winch are operated by the club.

The club offers several types of introductory flights that include a single flight or a five-flight package.

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