LOGAN – Logan-Cache Airport is the site of the Soaring Society Association camp this week, attracting a total of 19 pilots from as far away as New York, Florida, Alabama and Canada.
Logan is a glider’s jumping point to locations in Wyoming, Idaho and some of the Beehive State’s mountain ranges and national and state parks.
A glider, or sailplane, is an unpowered fixed wing aircraft with long wings and a narrow body. It is towed by an airplane, then released to get into the air.
The gliders use the lift provided by the wind to climb into the sky, sometimes as high as 14,000 feet. Pilots generally carry oxygen tanks and can stay afloat for hours.
Cindy Hall, one of the organizers, said the pilots get instruction during the morning and are given specific tasks they are supposed to do each day.
“My husband is a tow pilot from Logan,” said Hall. “He tows gliders up several times a week.”
Utah Soaring Association sponsored the camp. There are camps and competitions all over the country.
“They like to come to Logan to fly because of the mountains,” Hall said. “They love the scenery and one of the tasks is to fly to the Tetons and back.”
Each pilot is given a different task each day.
“Logan is a unique area for flying because of the mountains,” said Bruno Vassel, a pilot who brought his sailplane from Draper. “Flying is more technical because the way the winds bounce off the different peaks and canyons.”
The winds from mountains are more technical than some pilots are used too flying in. They come here to learn how to fly mountain ranges.
Wednesday, Vassel, a 25-year veteran of soaring, flew to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and back, a 250-mile flight that took five-and-a-half hours.
“Most pilots cruise at 13,000-16,000 feet in the air,” he said. “We find air pockets and soar like you see birds soar.”
“Risk-wise, flying a glider is the same as riding a motorcycle,” he said. “It is safer than a hang glider or paraglider, and you can stay up longer.”
All pilots strap parachutes on before settling into the cockpit.
He said a glider can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000, and there are a wide range of options.
Vassel was the first one in the air Thursday, starting about 1:30 pm, and returning about 5:30 from the Box Elder County side of the Wellsville Mountains.
He had a smile on his face.
“I flew over southeast Idaho and over Palisades Reservoir. It was beautiful,” he said. “It defies reason.”
Vassel is a member of the Utah Soaring Association.
Lee Harrison, a New York pilot, said he thought Logan was a beautiful place to have camp. He found the mountains more dangerous than most places he flew.
“I got my gliders license when I was 17 and my instructor credentials at 18,” he said. “Then life got in the way and I started flying again a few years ago.”
“Look around,” he said. “Most of us pilots are in our 60’s and older. That says something about us.”
The camp will go until Saturday.