[Headline: Soar Utah 2014]
My flying buddy, Joe Chovan, from Syracuse, New York, has contributed a guest column this month on the Soar Utah 2014 event—one of the most venerable destinations on the national Slope Soaring event circuit. Here’s Joe’s report:
Slope fliers congregated near Salt Lake City Thursday, August 28, through Monday, September 1, for one of the nation’s premier Slope Soaring events: Soar Utah. The Intermountain Silent Flyers (IMSF) hosted this biennial extravaganza on Labor Day weekend.
We were welcomed with a social time and refreshments on Thursday, a banquet barbecue on Saturday, and a commemorative T-shirt. There aren’t too many excellent Slope sites this close to the amenities of civilization, and the hospitality of the IMSF has repeatedly drawn us back.
We flew from three venues. The main flying site, Point of the Mountain (aka The Point), is a peninsula rising hundreds of feet above the Interstate 15 corridor at Bluffdale. The “bench” of this landmark features a wide, flat perimeter (large enough to accommodate a housing development) to which one may drive, a paraglider flight park on the north side, a gravel-mining operation on the west side, and an additional flight park on the south side.
Winds normally blow up the south side in the morning and switch to the north at midday, so fliers are wise to watch for changing weather indicators. Both locations feature abundant big-sky lift and rotor-free landing zones, so any sailplane can fly here.
In recent years, the Geneva Rock company has mined the mountain to provide gravel aggregate to support large development projects ranging from the 2002 Olympics venue to the National Security Agency’s data center, now visible from the point.
Flight park proponents have said that mining has disrupted airflow and limited opportunities for paragliders and hang gliders. Although the north and south sides are still flyable for Slope Soarers (including the famed “widowmaker” ridge on the north side, home to Dynamic Soaring), it is sobering to witness the extent to which this mighty landmark has been altered.
Pilots were treated to aerotowing on Thursday and Friday at the Great Salt Lake Salt Flats in Grantsville, Utah.
Aerotowing is a tug that tows a sailplane via a line connected to the nose of the sailplane. Tow-release mechanisms allow either tug or sailplane pilots to release the line at any time. Typically, the tug tows the sailplane to cruising altitude, where the sailplane pilot releases the towline and then proceeds to search for thermals to extend the flight time. The tug returns for the next sailplane and the fun continues.
Tows were provided by Ron Mendel and his Fieseler Fi 156 Storch and Tom Hoopes with his Pegasus. Mike Gibson also flew his Pilatus PC-6 Porter. Conditions were calm and those who partook had a great time.
Highlights included Mike Gibson flying his LS-4, Wid Tolman and his Frank Zaic 12-foot wingspan Floater, and Larry Bennington’s impressive scratch-built 4.5-meter Altitude Limited Electric Soaring Glashawk.
Soar Utah is heralded as an informal event with little competition that features a fun-fly. This year, registrants wanted to fly impromptu racing when conditions permitted. The winds cooperated, to the delight of pilots and spectators.
The F3F competition is airplanes flying individually in a timed race for 10 laps of a 150-meter two-pylon course. Judges monitor pylons and sound a horn to signal turns when a sailplane reaches each pylon.
Races were held each morning, flying over the gravel “bowl” to the west at the point, far from the main area to avoid air traffic congestion. Nine pilots competed and in the end, Loren Mills won first place and had the fastest time of the weekend with 46.38 seconds flying his Ceres. Thomas Rauber took second place and Spencer Deputy earned third.
Francis Peak Excursion
On Monday, those who ventured by car up the narrow winding mountain road were treated to beautiful streams, wide alpine ridges facing Antelope Island, and the summit of Francis Peak with its commanding view of the Great Salt Lake. The air is thin at 9,560 feet above sea level, and sailplanes travel noticeably faster.
We flew in azure skies and excellent lift for several hours—a memorable way to end a trip and say goodbye to friends as they left for home.
Bravo and many thanks to contest director Tom Hoopes and the IMSF crew for another great event. We look forward to the next biennial Soar Utah in 2016.[dingbat]
League of Silent Flight (LSF)