For the week of August 4, 1999  thru August 10, 1999  

Local glider pilot breaks six state records

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum resident and glider pilot Bob Gladics added several accolades to his growing list of accomplishments on Saturday .

In a six-hour-and-37-minute glider flight from Hailey to Gardiner, Mont., and back, Gladics made a non-stop, round trip of 410.6 miles—an Idaho gliding record.

Another five state records also were broken as a result of his round trip. (He already held 11 state records).

For both an open class, in which all gliders qualify, and for the 15-meter wing span class, the 46-year-old Gladics set records for declaring his destination before leaving; making it there and returning; for making an undeclared destination and returning; and for overall distance traveled.

Larger gliders, he explained, have more loft beneath their wings, which sometimes gives them an edge when attempting distance trips.

He began his trip at an elevation of 7,300 feet, above Hailey where he detached from a tow plane. From there, he promptly climbed to above 10,000 feet, which was the low point for the remainder of his trip. He topped off at around 16,000 feet.

Gladics explained that piloting a glider is not easy work.

"You’re really busy," he said. "You come home tired from chasing thermals." Thermals are vertically rising air currents commonly created beneath clouds.

As Gladics worked his way east, he would slowly spiral his way upward beneath a cloud, gaining altitude on thermal currents. When he calculated that he was high enough, he would head further east, looking for another cloud under which he could ride on thermal currents. While between clouds he would lose altitude.

Gladics said his glider’s 15-meter wing span enables him to travel 42 horizontal miles for every vertical mile descended in calm conditions. Winds alter the calculations, however.

"It’s all a mathematical game," he said. "You’re thinking and calculating the whole time."

When he got to Gardiner, he took a photo and turned around, taking aim at Hailey. He repeated the same procedures he used to get to Gardiner.

"Getting home is the most difficult part," he said. "There were points when I thought I might not make it."

As he approached Dell, Mont., which is along Interstate 15 in the southwestern part of the state, he had to dump 30 gallons of water he was carrying to help his aircraft travel at greater speeds. Water helps a glider maintain speeds of approximately 100 miles an hour but hinders its climbing ability, Gladics said. After dumping the water, the craft slowed to about 90 miles an hour but was able to gain enough altitude to continue on to Hailey.

Gladics said the appeal of glider flying is the challenge and the beauty:

"You’re flying over awesome terrain. You can see eagles and other birds, and it’s often an adrenaline game. When you get low, the adrenaline really starts pumping."

He said gliders generally have enough performance to make it to a nearby airport for an emergency landing, but some gliders have had to land in fields.

During the first two weeks of August each year, gliders converge on Sun Valley for a sail plane regatta. Gladics’ record-setting trip was conducted as part of that regatta.

Seven Idaho glider pilots and two Seattle pilots will be here for the next week and a half, attempting to set records and trying to lay their stake to the Louis Stur memorial trophy.

The trophy is awarded each year to pilots who make it to a predetermined destination and back. This year, that destination is McCall, and pilots have all summer to make it there. Gladics made the trip on June 12, but he anticipates other pilots who are currently here for the regatta will make it as well. All who make the trip will have their names engraved on the trophy, Gladics said.


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