Skyline Soaring Club in the Twenty-First Century
By Jim Kellett, January, 2000 (edited January, 2014)
What started as an effort to document some of our own Club's eight year history at the close of the century soon grew into a study of many soaring organizations through which people, machines, and ideas have flowed over more than a half-century. As we follow these people, their machines, and their organizations, we see the same problems and issues, with subtle variations, being dealt with in myriad ways. A thoughtful study of those experiences should be instructive to us as we move into the 21st century.
What follows is a brief summary of the author's personal recollections of the events in the Washington, metro area soaring community of the last 50 or so years, plus additional data provided by others who shared in (and in some cases, preceded) these exciting years. This effort was aided considerably by having access to the Corporate records of the Warrenton Soaring Center from 1974 through 1991. I've tried to put faces to many members of this community that I've had the privilege of knowing. Some of the "real lives" of these people prove that soaring becomes a passion for many very different kinds of people - - and gives even more color, I think, to the story of soaring in this area.
The author accepts full responsibility for the accuracy or lack thereof in this narrative, and welcomes corrections and additions from any source. Of the many people who participated in assembling this record, we are particularly indebted to Charles Schwenker, Spencer Annear, Lonnie Patch, Jan Scott, Jack Perine, Rudy Rodgers, Jim Hard, Peter Bacqué, Tony Beck, and Charles Brown for their contributions. Very special thanks are due to Charlie Lee for many outstanding photographs, and to Trish Ward and Ernie Klimonda for many photographs, newspaper articles, and personal recollections. Piet Barber prepared this paper for presentation on the web.
Our Ancestor Organizations
The historical record of soaring in the last half-century includes a genealogy, not only of organizations but also of individuals who can trace their involvement in this sport person-to-person throughout the entire period. It is a startlingly close knit community!
The first post-war club in the area, the Washington Soaring Club, was been formed in 1946 at Beacon Field in Alexandria, VA. They operated for about two years, having started with three Pratt-Reads and one LK - all war surplus gliders that had been used to train troop carrying glider pilots in WWII! The Washington Soaring Club held the first Mid-Atlantic Soaring Contest at Beacon Field in 1949. Due to its close proximity of Washington, the meet received unequaled newspaper coverage. Kim Scribner won the meet, after he thrilled the crowd with low-level glider aerobatics such as slow rolls on tow & outside loops in his Schweizer 1-23 sailplane.
The second Mid-Atlantic was held again at Beacon Field in 1950. The club moved to Martinsburg, WV the next year.
Jack Perine, Nate Frank, and Bill Ebert (among others) formed the District of Columbia Soaring Club in 1948, using one of the three Pratt-Reads that had been used by Washington Soaring Club.
That group of men went on to form the Mid-Atlantic Soaring Association (M-ASA) 1951-2, when Jack Perine (living in Berryville, VA as recently as 2000) led the organizational effort. (An excellent M-ASA history was published by Jack in the February, 1978 CONVECTOR, the newsletter, q.v., of the M-ASA.) M-ASA operated out of several airports, including Westminster in Maryland, and Winchester and Front Royal in Virginia, before settling in Frederick, MD and Fairfield, PA; they now operate only out of their own airport near Fairfield, PA.
A commercial soaring operation, the Capitol Area Soaring School (CASS) was created in 1965(?) by the retiring President of the Mid-Atlantic Soaring Association (M-ASA), Gordon Bogora. It first operated out of a private strip near Westminster, MD, and later moved to KJYO in Virginia - then known as Godfrey Field, now as Leesburg Municipal Aiport. Other managers/partners of CASS included Ernie Klimonda (who worked at the World Bank) and Lew Tuttle (who worked at the General Services Administration).
It was at CASS that I earned my PPL(G), instructed by Gordon Bogora (and others). Another instructor at CASS, Jan Scott, went on to found the Flying Cow Farm in Lovettsville, VA, which was the home base for the Short Hills Soaring Club that I was involved with in the early sevenies.
CASS moved from Godfrey Field (KJYO) to Warrenton Airpark (7VG0) in 1969, and was shortly thereafter renamed the Warrenton Soaring Center.
After the untimely death in 1974 (he took his own life) of Gordon Bogora who owned WSC, the assets were taken over by another group of investors led by Jim and Karen Kranda who led WSC until its dissolution in 1991. The National Capitol Soaring Association, which operated a Blanik, was based at the same airport (Warrenton Airpark) as WSC.
Our Club, Skyline Soaring, was formed in 1991 by a group of staff and customers of WSC who purchased some of the equipment that company used when it ceased doing business. Current Skyliner Shane Neitzey led a group that came to include Founding Members Spencer Annear, Phil Jordan, Jim Miles, Jim McCulley, Bela Gogos, Bill Wark, Fred Winter, Joe Rees, Bill Vickland, Bob Neff, Kit Carson, and myself, among others.
The late Skyliner USAF General Dick Ault was among the original stockholders in WSC. Current Skyliners Shane Neitzey, Piet Barber, Phil Jordan (Emeritus), Joe Rees, and Paul Nassetta learned to fly at WSC; Spencer Annear and myself were both later Corporate officers (Treasurer and Secretary, respectively) and stockholders in the company. It was at WSC that I earned my CPL(G) and CFI(G) under the tutelage of people like Ernest Klimonda and Jim Kranda.
Soaring history fans will be interested in the growing number of clubs that have published histories of their own organizations. For example
Philadelphia Glider Council (Started in 1941!!) Soaring Society