About M-ASA, a Brief History (The Beginnings)
THE EARLY YEARS OF MASA
By Jack Perine
(Reprinted from CONVECTOR, February 1978)
In the past few years various members of the Mid-Atlantic Soaring Association have suggested that I write a history of our club. Fully realizing my shortcomings as a writer, and because the HP-11 sailplane was in its final stages of construction, I was reluctant to undertake the task. But when Bob Schott asked me recently to write it for the Soaring Convention issue, I felt that if nobody else would do it, then I would, and deserve to be completely forgiven for the way it turns out.
As soon as I started, I realized that the week and a half allotted was not enough time for me to contact those who, since our move to Frederick, had become close to those historic events that have more recently occurred, such as our Frederick lease and hangar construction, and the dram atic acquisition of Fairfield Airport. To cover 27 years of activity in just these few pages, and considering the time available, would have given us a sketchy history indeed. So I have chosen to write about our “learning and struggling year”, the 14 years span of events that started in 1952 at Martinsburg, and ended at our arrival at Frederick in 1966.
It may be of interest to barely touch on some of the gliding activities that have preceded us in the Washington area.
In the early 1930’s, airline pilot Shelly Charles operated an open primary glider from auto-tow at the old Washington-Hoover Airport (where the Pentagon stands today). His flights were usually of short duration before an appreciative Sunday afternoon crowd. In 1933, Richard du Pont made a 122 mile flight from Waynesboro, Va. to Frederick, Md. In the late 1930’s, Peter Riedel, the Air Attache at the German Embassy operated a “Kranich” sailplane from College Park, Md.
The most prominent pre-war club was the Washington Glider Club which operated a “Franklyn Utility” from Congressional Airport where the Congressional Shopping Center in Rockville is today. One of its members was entertainer Arthur Godfrey.
Another club was the Engineering Research Corp. Club, the builders of the pre-war “Ercoupe” who operated at the old Hybla Valley airport. Memberships were $12, and my first solo while in 2nd year high school was in their primary glider.
Then came the war, and most gliders were taken over by the government, and the owners compensated for them. Peter Riedel’s beautiful “Kranich” was said to have rotted to pieces. The war itself greatly helped soaring get off the ground, so to speak. The German invasion of Crete utilizing gliders spurred our military to become glider-minded, and for training purposes purchased quantities of militarized version of the pre-war Schweizer SGS 2-8 and the Laister-Kauffmann “Yankee Doodle.” Designed during the war was the Schweizer TG-3 and the Pratt-Read LNE-1. Eventually the military found that these were all of too high performance to be useful as trainers for troop gliders, and after little use, most were put in storage and sold as surplus during the closing months of the war.
The importance of this cannot be over-emphasized. This availability of two-place high performance sailplanes at a price that many could afford, even in those money-scarce postwar days made it possible for many clubs on a limited budget to form and successfully operate. Such was MASA. It may be of interest in view of today’s $18,000 sailplanes that the surplus Pratt-Read, brand new and on trailer sold for $350.
The first post-war club, which can likely be called the predecessor of MASA, was the Washington Soaring Club, formed around 3 Pratt-Read’s and a Laister-Kauffmann. This group operated in 1946-1948 at the old Schrom Airport at Greenbelt, and present MASA members who were members of that club are Bill Ebert and myself. There were about 8 active members , and when the club disbanded after a few years, one Pratt-Read, NG0745, was sold to a newly forming group called the District of Columbia Soaring Club. Nate Frank was one of its members.
To publicize gliding, this club held the first Mid-Atlantic Soaring Contest at Beacon Field on August 4, 5, 6, 1949. Beacon Field was then on US-1 just south of Alexandria, and probably in part due to its close proximity of Washington, the meet received unequalled newspaper coverage. Flying was of a local nature for the benefit of the spectators. Points were given for duration, altitude gain, and spot landings. The meet was won by Kim Scribner of Flushing, New York. Kim thrilled the crowd with low-level glider aerobatics such as slow rolls on tow and outside loops in his Schweizer 1-23 sailplane. Twelve pilots competed for the championship.
About M-ASA, a Brief History Continued (1950s)
THE EARLY YEARS OF MASA By Jack Perine (Reprinted from CONVECTOR, February 1978)
The second Mid-Atlantic was held again at Beacon Field, Virginia on June 18, 19, 1950 which I won, flying a modified Laister-Kauffmann sailplane.
By February, 1951, most local soaring pilots were operating from Martinsburg Municipal Airport where the operator, Mr. Dick Zebley, was especially anxious to have us, providing fee hangars at a modest price. A local cropduster, Mr. Russell Howard, provided tows at a flat $1 per thousand, and after gave us a display of aerobatics on the way down for another tow.
In the winter of 1951, a few of us attended an organizational meeting of the then-forming Northeastern States Soaring Association in New York Cit y. Its purpose was to promote soaring. On the way home from this meeting we discussed the need for its counterpart here – New York seemed so far off. So, I volunteered to send out notices for the Mid-Atlantic Soaring Association’s first meeting, and wrote Bulletin No. 1, a one page affair; a copy of which I still have. In it was the meeting notice, a letter from Dr. Raspet of the Mississippi State College Research Department discussing a way to improve a glider’s performance, and the date and time of the next gliding weekend at Martinsburg.
The first meeting was held at the home of Mr. Harold Fawcett, 5523 13th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. on Friday the 21st of March 1952. The first officers elected were a Chairman, Vice-Chairman and 6 Directors. They were as follows: Chairman: Russel A. Pierce Vice-Chairman: Melvin Burroughs Technical Director: Nathan Frank Operations Director: Harold Fawcett Assistant Operations Director: Albert Selby Publicity and Publications Director: Hope Howard Consultant Director: Bert B. Brooks
Herb White and a youthful Gene Wilburn became members at that time.
During its first summer of operation MASA went en masse to the Northeastern States Soaring meet at Elmira, N.Y. A caravan was formed for the trip, with most participants sharing the same two cabins on Harris Hill. A Pratt-Read was taken along for the members’ use for local flying, and I took my L-K in which I competed, placing third by virtue of a flight to Elizabethville, Pa.
Most of the rest of 1952 was spent trying to recruit new members, and before December we had reorganized twice. During the Fall, a contest was held to design an insignia for the organization. After a close competition, mine was selected – the same design that usually graces the cover of the Convector.
Until December, 1952, the club newsletter was called “The Bulletin”. After our insignia was selected, Mel Burroughs, who by profession was an artist, offered to silkscreen it on the covers of the December “Bulletins”. But lo and behold, when Mel delivered the covers he had decided to change the name to the “CONVECTOR”. Mel liked it, we all thought it was good, so without fanfare it stuck.
Member Al Selby was “Cashier-Agent” of National Airport, and through his office we obtained for meetings the use of the “Presidential Room” in the Main Terminal Building which in those days provided easy parking and a central location. Its main drawback was the large aircraft warming up their engines just outside the windows. When this happened, the meeting would just stop. Interestingly, the practice of meeting on the 2nd Friday of each month began in 1952 and has continued all of these years.
Some of the activities in which we participated during ’52 were our first “Open House” and the ARTHUR GODFREY DAY airshow at Frederick. Del Pierce and I double-towed behind the cropduster’s Stearman over and back from Martinsburg. By the end of 1952, the first Silver-“C” was completed, and the membership roster showed 34 members with 15 which may be considered active. Hope Howard continued as editor of the Convector until the beginning of 1953.
In 1953, we became operationally more sophisticated because of the arrival of an experienced British soaring pilot. His name was Commander H.C.N. Goodhart, Royal Navy. “Nick” was his nickname (no pun) and he brought with him experience and the discipline to which he was exposed in the British clubs. We all recognized his value, and soon after joining MASA, he was elected a Director, a job which he performed with hard work and dedication. He initiated and wrote an article each month for the CONVECTOR called “Nick’s Corner” in which he tried to teach us the technical aspects of soaring. Among his later accomplishments were his development of the optical landing system for aircraft carriers, a leader of the Sigma Project in Britain, British Soaring Champion, and the World Soaring 2-Place Champion. Nick attained the rank of Admiral before retiring in recent years.
But during the summer of ’53 under MASA’s banner, Nick entered the 20th Nationals at Elmira, placing fifth in a rough L-K sailplane against competitors with more sophisticated equipment. This was an indication of things to come. Nick also attempted the first out-and-return flight from our home field with a flight to Chambersburg, Pa. Nick’s 195 mile goal flight to Idlewild Airport, N.Y. during the 20th Nationals made the July 7, 1953 Washington newspapers, one of which headlined “Idlewild Startled as Glider Slips in with D.C. Diplomat”.
Cross-country flying during the early years was minimal except for an occasional badge-leg try. We left most of our cross country flights for the soaring meets at Elmira. The core of experienced pilots had not yet developed, and those very few who were qualified for cross-country were passenger hopping and instructing in an attempt to enlarge the club.
Socially however, we were very active and in 1953, we held a successful “Open House”, two picnics in the mountains, and a dinner-dance at Hillendale, Md.
We were indeed fortunate for having such an excellent airport as Martinsburg, from which to operate. We did much of our training by auto-tow which was safe and practical because of the 5000 ft. runways, which had another 150 feet of smooth grass on each side, and at least in the beginning, almost no air traffic. A 24-hour weather station operated in the terminal building. Because we bought tows from the local cropduster, we did not have to worry about tow duty, O.D. duty, airplane maintenance, gasoline bills or tow billing. We just paid him in cash for the day’s tows each had received.
The airport manager had given us a bunkroom over the main hangar, and all-in-all, we were quite happy with the arrangements. One side benefit was a large quarry near the airport with a constant supply of thermals (wind shadow) coming from it. The smokestack on its edge with its ever present smoke indicated the thermal’s rise.
At the end of 1953, we had 12 gliders and sailplanes, two of which were owned by clubs within our club, and the rest individually owned; MASA not owning any equipment at all.
There were: 5 Laister-Kauffmann sailplanes 2 American built “wolf” intermediate sailplanes 1 Dawydoff “Cadet” utility glider 1 Schweizer 1-9 utility 1 Schweizer 1-20 intermediate 2 Pratt-Read sailplanes
On December 14 through the 17th 1953, MASA helped celebrate the “50th Anniversary of Powered Flight” at Kill Devil Hill, N.C. Floyd Sweet, Nick Goodhart, Bob Derrick and other members took an L-K sailplane, and because of high winds were the only flight demonstration which appeared. The Air Force had to cancel out.
The MASA elections of April 1954 resulted in the following: Still Chairman: Russel A. Pierce Vice Chairman: Jack P. Perine Treasurer: Albert J. Selby Secretary: Ruth Petry Publication: Cdr. Nick Goodhart Technical: Nathan Frank Operations: Lt. Col. Floyd Sweet
Eventually our cropduster/towpilot began to tire of towing each weekend, and began to suddenly go out of town at the last minute, or go home for lunch and not return; and after driving 75 miles, partially assembling your sailplane and waiting hours for a tow which sometimes never developed, you became disgruntled. Disaster struck us in early May ’54 when without warning our towpilot sold his Stearman, bringing the situation suddenly to a head. Later at the May meeting of MASA, $850 was pledged, a plane selected out of a copy of “Trade-A-Plane” which someone brought, a phone call made and suddenly it appeared, we were in business again. Two days later, Chairman Russ Pierce and I took a bus to Columbia, South Carolina, where I haggled with the airport operator until he dropped the price from $850. We flew it home the next day very pleased with ourselves. The plane was a Meyers OTW biplane with a Warner 145 HP engine, which turned out to be a good choice, and was the first piece of flying equipment MASA owned.
Through the early months of 1954, hangar space began to be at a premium at Martinsburg because of a buildup of private flying by the townspeople. Over the winter we had 9 gliders and sailplanes in 5 tee hangars. There appeared no solution in the future for this problem, so w e were invited by the operator at W estminster, Md. to operate there, having been previously approached by him. Besides being offered a large hangar where we could keep our gliders fully assembled, another inducement was that the operator, Mr. Richburg, offered the use of his Stearman as an alternate towplane. This was too much, and by June 1954, the exodus from Martinsburg was completed, but with a measure of sadness for all.
At about this time, member Lt. Col. Floyd Sweet became President of the Soaring Society of America and the rest of us were justly proud of him.
During 1954, we still were meeting at National Airport, and were operating at Westminster, when an article appeared in the Sunday Supplement section of the April 4, 1954 “Evening Star” newspaper about our activities at Martinsburg the previous Fall. A new company had just taken over the lease on Martinsburg Airport and decided that they wanted us back, doubtless because of the article, and helped by the fact that I was employed by the company holding the lease. As an inducement, the company’s President, Mr. Armand Thieblot offered to erect a quonset style hangar for us, and while it was being built, realizing that we would soon outgrow it, he then offered instead our use of the large main hangar for $100 a month for as many aircraft as we could get in it. So during the winter of 1955 the return to Martinsburg was completed.
Initially MASA was intended to be an organization of private owners, but about this time the Directors began to think about club ownership of sailplanes to be made available to those who could not afford their own aircraft, possibly starting with training equipment. But this was a turbulent issue and the cause of some lively discussions. And some members felt that we should become incorporated now that we were beginning to own club equipment. So at the March meeting it was announced that Incorporation was proceeding with Russel Pierce, Jack Perine and Albert Selby as Corporate Directors. By May 1955, we had become MASA, Inc.
MASA was maturing now, and the 1955 soaring season produced greater activity than ever before. The April, 1955 issue of the Convector included our first approved towpilot list, composed of Nick Goodhart, Jack Perine, Ray Johnson, Jim Redway and Russel Pierce. The CONVECTOR also said that a Mario Piccagli was receiving instruction in the Pratt-Read.
Nick Goodhart entered the 1955 National Soaring contest of Elmira, N.Y. competing in a borrowed Schweizer 1-23, and winning the meet, with 1081 points to his nearest competitor’s 1038 points. Nick could not accept the U.S. Championship because he was not a U.S. citizen.
Toward the end of 1955, MASA began looking for a new place to hold meetings because of the noise problems associated with the Presidential Room at National Airport. My father at that time was associated with the Perpetual Building Association and arranged it so that upon application we could have for our use the meeting room in the Bethesda Branch, so the April 1956 meeting was the first held there. New officers took over at this time. Russel Pierce who had been our Chairman/President since MASA’s beginning stepped aside for Frank B. Lane, Sr. Directors were Lane, Perine, Pierce, Redway and MacLeod.
In 1956, 3 Schweizer 1-26’s were under construction from kits by members. Frank Lane built his in just a few months in his backyard swimming pool with the help of his sons, having drained the water out first. Mine was built in my attic and also in member Herb White’s chicken coop, and Nate Frank’s at Westminster Airport. Nate’s was to fly a good deal later than the other two due to the distance of his working area from his home. Mario Piccagli was making the “flattop” modification to his L-K sailplane to improve its performance. All of the repair and overhaul work on the sailplanes in those days was accomplished by their owners.
In March 1957, Frank B. Lane, Sr. stepped down as Chairman, and Nelson MacLeod was elected to take his place.
A dark cloud began to hover over us at Martinsburg with the arrival of a Air Reserve Unit and their P-51 “Mustangs”, and with them a rumored replacement with North-American F-86 “Sabre” jets. The sky began to get awfully crowded, and the proposed lengthening of one of the runways to accommodate jets was to take a long time throwing all the traffic on one runway, not necessarily into the prevailing wind. So the company who wanted us so badly in the beginning in the previous year terminated our lease. Looking back through the years, it seemed that we were always saved at the last minute by a hungry airport operator looking for someone to fill his empty hangars. So it was that by October, 1956 we had completely moved to the airport at Winchester, Virginia, about 20 miles south of Martinsburg. The airport there was a rocky, narrow runway affair with a single modest-sized hangar. Because of the limited space we hoisted some of the lighter single-place ships just over those on the floor. This worked fine, having some advantages over floor storage.
In August, 1957, through the efforts of member Phil Robinson MASA acquired a winch, and the following month, September 1957, we took delivery of a used Schweizer 2-22 two place trainer from Ed Geller of Hampton, Virginia. Thus the turbulent issue of club ownership of sailplanes was finally settled. Schweizer 2-22, N91830 served us many years and was the trainer for many of MASA’s present members. The 2-22 and the winch made a good training combination. Tows were 50 cents each, and quite a thrill. During the late 1957 and 1958 season the winch was used a lot, but as the novelty began to wear off, and the task of laying out 2000′ of wire before each flight began to diminish our enthusiasm, it began to get less use, ending up a rusted hulk some years later.
Winchester did not seem to be as well suited for our operation as did Martinsburg and Westminster, and the operator, Don Patton, became less enchanted with us when he found that sailplane owners tended to take their sailplanes home with them during the winter to paint and prepare them for the next soaring season. This of course meant that he lost the hangar rent for that period, so he gradually filled our hangar spots with powered aircraft, and by the Spring of 1958, we had only a few sailplanes left at Winchester. We began to look again for a new home.
Entertainer Arthur Godfrey offered hangar space at his field at Leesburg, Va. and at the same time President Nelson MacLeod of MASA announced that he had taken a 3 year lease on Westminster Airport. The May 1958 meeting was a lively one indeed with the members from Virginia pulling for the Leesburg site and those from Maryland pulling for Westminster. Most members felt that with President MacLeod as airport operator, his proposal had offered us more assurance of security than ever before, even though Mr. Godfrey’s offer was generous. There came an inevitable split, and 4 members took their two sailplanes to Leesburg. Before the split MASA had about 22 members who could be considered active.
Saturday, May 17, 1958 was again moving day, and we took our sailplanes and Meyer towplane to Westminster, but not before a one month trial period by 3 MASA members at the Front Royal, Virginia airport (which at that time was also being offered for our use). But with the situation at Westminster apparently working out so well, it was decided to give it up.
Frank Lane, Sr. had been previously replaced by MacLeod as President at the March 1957 meeting. When MacLeod took over the lease of Westminster airport he was then in the unenviable position of being President and airport operator at the same time, putting him occasionally in a rather conflicting position. Blessed with patience, understanding, and a complete indifference to any club politics, “Mac” was ideally suited for the dual task and served us well from 1957 until succeeded in 1962 by Gordon Bogora.
As soon as we arrived at Westminster Airport, MacLeod began a campaign of repair and cleanup of the hangars and offices. Toilet facilities were improved and a locker room complete with metal lockers for those wanting them was provided. A sign on the hangar which said “Home of the Mid-Atlantic Soaring Association” was a final touch. After our previous years of wandering, many of us felt that we had at last found a home. It was later during this tenure at Westminster that MASA began its growth in membership, and was to begin to develop into the competition-oriented club that it is today. But the rest of 1958 was spent on local flying and passengers-hoping for new prospects, two of which we were to hear more of later. Burt Elliott and Val Brain were to develop into two of MASA’s top competition pilots.
The 1959 aircraft fleet was interesting in that by now there were only 2 war surplus sailplanes operating, and one, an L-K, was by then highly modified to increase its performance. There were:
1 Pratt-Read MacLeod 1 Schweizer 2-22 MASA 1 Schweizer 1-19 Hurt-Elliot 3 Schweizer 1-26 Frank, Pfeiff, Perine 1 L-K “Flattop” Piccagli 1 Wolf Roccati 1 BG-12A Caicuts 1 Meyers OTW Towplane MASA
In February 1959, MASA was re-incorporated, and on the Memorial Day weekend the newly-formed Cumberland group, headed by “Doc” Poling, Bill Holbrook and Gene Aldstadt joined us for a very successful “Open House”. And in May 1959, the first official Maryland State Record was approved. Commander Bob Pfeiff, U.S.N. flew his 1-26 64 miles, with an altitude gain of 4250 feet. The procedures for establishing State records had now been delineated by the S.S.A., and Nate Frank, State Governor for S.S.A. approved Cdr. Pfeiff’s distance and altitude gain as the 1st record.
In 1959 the venerable Meyers towplane was beginning to require too much engine maintenance with replacement parts for its Warner Radial engine becoming difficult to acquire, so it was sold and replaced by a 135 H.P. Piper Super-Cruiser, N2918M.
About M-ASA, a Brief History Continued (1960s)
THE EARLY YEARS OF MASA By Jack Perine (Reprinted from CONVECTOR, February 1978)
In 1960, the newly-formed Cumberland Soaring group decided to hold the 3rd Mid-Atlantic Soaring Meet at the Cumberland, Maryland Municipal Airport on August 5, 6 and 7. Having been contest Director during the 1st Mid-Atlantic meet in 1949, I was pleased when asked to be “Contest Advisor” by the Cumberland group.
Because of the newness of soaring at Cumberland we decided to keep much of the activity localized for spectator appeal, so points were awarded for duration and spot landing, with cross-country on the final day. The meet received good local press coverage. A stable airmass prevented any pilots from reaching the task turnpoint on the final day, so by virtue of a nearly 6 hour duration flight earlier in the meet, Dr. Robert Poling of Cumberland won the contest over 23 other pilots. He flew the same L-K I had used to win it 10 years previously.
By the end of 1960, the Maryland State Records were now:
Single Place Duration – Dr. Poling, 5 hrs, 50 min. Alt. Gain – Holbrook, 9.075 ft. Absolute Alt. – Holbrook, 10,805 ft. Distance – Holbrook, 67.5 miles Goal & return – Piccagli, 28 miles
Two-Place Duration – Frank Hoffman, 4 hrs, 19 min. Alt. Gain – Perine-Selby, 5300 ft. Absolute Alt.- Perine-Selby, 8180 ft.
MASA qualified instructors in 1960-61 were C.F.I. Val Brain, Joe Caicuts, Nelson MacLeod and Jack Perine.
Nelson MacLeod was still President of MASA. Tow charges were $2.50 for a 2000 foot tow.
The 4th Mid-Atlantic Soaring Meet was held again at Cumberland on May 27, 28, 29 and 30, 1961. I was again Contest Director. The aircraft entered were six Schweizer 1-26’s, 2 modified L-K’s, 1 Pratt-Read, 1 Schweizer 1-23 and 2 Schweizer 2-22’s. Because soaring by now was so well established at Cumberland, this was to become the first Mid-Atlantic meet where points were awarded solely for cross country tasks.
Very turbulent weather prevailed during the meet, including snow flurries in May! All tasks were either out and return or triangular course events and the competition had become especially keen. Bill Holbrook flying the same Laister-Kauffmann, N2040 which had won the two earlier Mid-Atlantic meets won the championship, the beginning of his contest-winning career. Dr. Poling in his Schweizer 1-23 was 2nd with Mario Piccagli of MASA in 3rd place flying his L-K “flattop”.
Until now the only Silver-“C” earned in MASA while a member was mine, completed in 1960. Mario Piccagli completed his in 1961 as did Val Brain. Others had come into MASA already with them, Nick Goodhart and Floyd Sweet, with the earliest Silver-“C” Badge, number 17! By the middle of 1962 seven members had earned 12 more legs. Things were now beginning to get moving with the Gold “C’s” yet to come.
By December 1961 our membership had now begun to rise with 38 members of which approximately 20 could be considered “active”.
With the October 1961 issue of the CONVECTOR, Arnold Roccati resigned as editor. His first issue had been in March, 1956. He had considerable artistic talent for cartoons, along with a humorous writing style. His CONVECTORS were among the best. I took over as editor again for a while until relieved by Gene Wilburn in June 1962.
At the March, 1962 elections, Gordon Bogara became President of MASA, replacing Nelson MacLeod who had served us so well since 1957. Bogora’s driving style was in marked contrast to that of patient, easygoing MacLeod. But each in his own style served us well.
The 5th Mid-Atlantic Soaring Contest was again held at Cumberland, May 27 through May 30th, 1962 and was marked by poor soaring conditions which allowed only 2 days of soaring tasks. Dr. Ed Byars won the championship with 1250 points. The team competition held that year was won by the team of Poling and Holbrook who had amassed 1725 points. Burt Elliott and Harrison Baird placed 2nd in the team event flying a 1-26 and in doing so also won the 1-26 trophy.
While our towpilot list named 5 by 1955, our August 1962 tow waiver listed 14. And in 1953 and 1954 at Martinsburg MASA had 12 active sailplanes, which finally in 1957, reached a low of 3 or 4 at Winchester. In 1962, it once again was approaching 12.
Badge fever seemed to strike MASA in the spring of 1963, and Mario Piccagli, on Easter Sunday, April 14, 1963 earned his Gold”C” altitude gain. Having gotten down to 800 feet he gradually worked up to cloudbase at a rare 11,500 and soared up to 11,630′ msl for the first Gold leg to be earned from our home field. At that time Mario still held the duration and out-and-return State Records for Maryland. Soon after Harrison Baird earned the next Silver “C” badge.
Late in 1962, MASA had decided to host the 6th Mid-Atlantic on its home field the next year at Westminster and started to prepare early for it naming Joe Varner as Contest Director.
The meet was held on Memorial Day weekend, 1963, and was the biggest held up to then, attracting National level competitors with some of the latest sailplanes.
The 1963 winner was previous National Champion Stan Smith in his Schweizer 1-21, with 2987 points out of a possible 3000. In second place was Lanier Frantz in a Schleicher Ka-6, and in 3rd place was Otto Zauner in a K-8.
And in 1963, the actual championship for the MASA Club Championship began. Two attempts previously at getting them started had floundered. At the end of the year it was announced that Joe Brennan had become the first MASA Club Champion with 426.5 points, George Church was second with 324 points and Mario Piccagli was third with 269 points.
Eleven state record flights were made in 1963, some records rebroken in short order.
In the summer of 1964, MASA had 10 towpilots but only 3 F.A.A. rated glider instructors. In 1961 MASA had 7 instructors who were operating on the previous provision that a Commercial Glider rating would entitle you to instruct, but the F.A.A. changed that to require a Glider Instructor’s rating and to show a certain level of activity which would have been difficult for all pilots to maintain, so a few stopped instructing.
One of the more interesting flights in 1964 was one by Warren Price then the editor of the CONVECTOR. Warren flew the ancient “Wolf” from Westminster to Harrisburg, Pa. for a 50 mile flight that earned him his altitude gain and distance legs for his silver “C” badge. A squall line across his 6000 feet, he was forced to land. A remarkable performance for a glider of such relatively low performance.
MASA for many years successfully operated with only one towplane largely through the efforts of a very capable airplane mechanic, and member, Eli “Joe” Caicuts. Joe was an extremely likeable person who quietly adopted, first the Meyers towplane at Winchester, and then the Super-Cruiser at Westminster. Joe would often be at the field before anyone else, checking and readying the equipment for the coming day’s activities for no other reason but to serve. Joe retired a few years ago from soaring and those of us who knew him knew that he would be hard to replace.
Good weather prevailed for the 7th Mid-Atlantic Meet in 1964, held again during the expanded Memorial Day weekend. 31 pilots competed four tasks. Westminster was again the contest site. Ed Byars won first place and the Kelly-Springfield trophy followed closely by Otto Zauner from New Jersey. 3rd place was won by Ben Greene. The team champions were McGonigle-Nash making it a clean sweep for our Cumberland neighbors.
Westminster had become by the mid-60’s the scene of many MASA parties, crab feasts, beer feasts and picnics seemingly reviving the tradition of the earlier Martinsburg days. Unique to Westminster’s airport was the little grove of trees at the North end of the field laced with picnic tables, and sheltered from the sun which enabled the families to picnic together, and to be just a few feet from Dad before he took off to combat the forces of nature.
At the March 1965 general membership meeting, after serving 3 years as MASA’a President Gordon Bogora declined to run again, so genial Joe Brennan became President. Warren Price continued to edit the CONVECTOR with Gordon Bogora’s help. The towpilots now numbered 12, and for the first time O.D.’s were scheduled along with towpilots.
Cumberland was selected to host the 8th Annual Mid-Atlantic over the 1965 Memorial Day weekend as usual, with five days of competition scheduled. Fickle weather allowed only 3 to be contest days, of which the first was a free distance, the second a 149 mile triangle, and finally a 68 mile goal-and-return. George Church was the highest scoring MASA pilot, finishing in fourth place. The Cumberland group again clobbered us, with Bill Holbrook winning the Championship, and the Kelly-Springfield Trophy. In second place was Col. Bob Litle, and in 3rd place was Dr. Bob Poling. The Team event was won by McGonigle/Moore, and Nash of Cumberland making Cumberland’s win conclusive. The roster of sailplanes in the contest showed one of the war-surplus Laister-Kauffmanns still being flown competitively by MASA members Bogora and Price as a team, 22 years after it was built.
The MASA task season ended on September 26, 1965 with George Church in top position, Bogora in 2nd place and Burt Elliot in third place. A fellow named Cal Walker appeared in 5th place; a name you were soon to hear of again. In winning the championship Church had soared 170 miles into the far reaches of Pennsylvania for his top flight. By the end of the year, completed Silver “C” badges in MASA numbered 22, with 5 gold legs and two diamond legs earned. Things had really picked up, with a fourfold increase in Silver Badges in 3 years.
With the increase in the interest toward competitive flying with MASA in ’63, ’64, and ’65 new higher performance sailplanes were gradually being added to the fleet, with the older sailplanes finding ready buyers in most cases within MASA itself. This led to the old problem again of outgrowing the hangarage available. So, during the first months of 1966 the move from Westminster to our present site at Frederick Municipal Airport was completed. The new hangar for our sailplanes which we leased was just immediately to the south of the terminal building – heated, lights, and with a smooth cement floor, which using dollies made sailplane removal easy. Cement runways provided year around operation.
Aided some years ago by a fine National Geographic Magazine article on soaring, and by a somewhat fantasy-filled Disney Productions movie called “The Boy Who Flew with the Condors,” or something close, soaring membership all over the country has continued to rise, MASA buildup at Frederick, the contests held, and the negotiations with the City of Frederick which resulted in our lease and the hangar construction, would best be left to someone for closer to it than I. It is a newer chapter in our history. The wonderful, masterful acquisition of Fairfield has given cause for us who have been around since the beginning 27 years ago to wonder how far will MASA go. With the leadership and enthusiasm that has been displayed these recent years, I think that we are just seeing the beginning of MASA’s history. With the membership now at over 100, and a two-site operation, apparently only the sky’s the limit.
M-ASA’s Early Region IV Contests
Our Editor has asked me to write something about our Region IV contests in the early days, so here goes.
The first Region IV contest I attended was in the early 1960s, held at Westminster Airport, then owned by M-ASA president Nelson (“Mac”) McLeod. It was a simple grass strip with a barn-like hangar we scrounged from another site and reconstructed at Westminster. It housed our Meyers biplane, a Pratt-Read two-place owned by Mac, a Schweizer 1-26 home-built by Nate Frank, and another by Jack Perine, which was suspended by a hoist from a roof beam (Jack wrote a history of M-ASA that is on our website.) There was also a “Double-Bubble” L-K (Laister-Kaufman) converted by Mario Piccagli, which I had a share in for a short time before joining a threesome that purchased the Perine 1-26.
There were no glider classes in those days and no handicaps, so very often the winner was the pilot flying the highest-performing glider. Our meets attracted pilots from other states, bringing with them a variety of K-6s, K-8s, and Schweizer 1-26s and 1-23s. All tasks were based on distance, and some were straight-out or dog-legs, resulting in landings well over 100 miles away followed by an all-night retrieve. Retrieve crews tried to keep close to their pilots by radio using private codes – “Alpha Alpha proceed to checkpoint B and hold.” Philip Wills’ books describe numbers of flights like these, where his wife Kitty would be waiting with the trailer beside the field he eventually landed in. Often the outcome was less organized, with crews calling in for landing information and having to navigate from wherever they were to wherever their pilot landed. Some discovered they had gone many miles in the wrong direction!
In the ‘sixties M-ASA alternated contest sites with the Cumberland group, flying out of Cumberland Airport. I remember flying from Cumberland in my 1-26 across the Chesapeake Bay and landing beside the Delaware Ship Canal. I had reached the edge of the Bay when there was a loud explosion and, looking down, I realized I was over the Aberdeen Proving Ground munitions testing site and concluded they must be shooting at me! I turned across the Bay in a hurry and never looked back.
The difference in glider performance was brought home to me in one contest in which Ben Greene brought his new Austria. I climbed up over Westminster Airport with this glider and on reaching the top of the thermal, we both headed west. While I was sinking like a stone, I watched Ben apparently maintaining altitude until he disappeared.
About that time the straight-out distance tasks were modified by establishing turnpoints, so tasks could be made around triangles or out-and-return courses, followed by free distance in a certain direction. Before cameras were used to verify turnpoints, teams were sent out to mark them with big yellow plastic sheets (actually Slip-n-Slide water shutes for kids). They tried to locate these yellow strips in different formations behind hangars where they couldn’t be seen unless the pilot was right overhead. Pilots had to note the position of the markers and the time of day.
The influx of newer higher-performance gliders at these contests motivated us to upgrade our own gliders. Mario Piccagli brought in an Italian M-100 with performance similar to a K-6, and two groups upgraded from 1-26s to Schreder HP-10s. Then the first of the fiberglass gliders made their appearance, the Libelle 301, the Phoebus As, Bs, and Cs, and the Open Cirrus, which some pilots modified with extended wingtips. These had as much performance advantage over the K-6 and M-100 as the Austria had over the 1-26. Soon after, competition classes were introduced – Standard and Open – and then a new flapped class, the 15 Meters – after some Standard class gliders introduced landing flaps. Closed circuit races with photo turnpoints followed in the 1970s, and crews were able to lounge by the pool until they learned their pilots had landed out – though they did so far less often.
Contests in those days were far more adventurous, in that off-field landings were accepted as inevitable and could be anywhere, hundreds of miles away.
Today GPS and in-flight computers have taken much of the stress out of flying tasks, such as finding and photographing turnpoints within the proper sector. And now in Europe, motor gliders which aim to make off-field landings a thing of the past are outselling gliders without motors. What Philip Wills called a “vulgar downwind dash” followed by a distant off-field landing and a long wait for the crew to find you in the dark, is a dim memory that most of us are content to forget.
When I joined M-ASA in 1958, my gliding license issued by the BGA (British Gliding Association) was accepted by the FAA under an international agreement. Gliding practices here were apparently similar to those in England. The training manual being used was The Joy of Soaring, together with a few booklets published by the SSA. But the SSA didn’t control gliding in the U.S. the way the BGA did in the U.K., which was delegated by the Civil Aviation Authority to issue licenses to pilots, instructors, and gliders.
My first encounter with the FAA came when an examiner showed up to conduct Private and Commercial tests and refused to fly in our Schweizer 2-22 training glider, saying “you won’t get me up in one of those things without an engine.” Instead, he indicated a mark on the grass runway and asked candidates to land as close as possible to it. If you landed within 50 feet, you got your Private Glider ticket. I landed spot on, and got a Commercial Ticket, so becoming a gliding instructor. I did not have to pass any written exams, and instructors used their own materials, if any. I got the impression that the FAA was not very interested in gliding at that time. Some years later the FAA came up with an Instructor, Glider category, and I was grandfathered in.*
I think I was among the first M-ASA instructors to develop a formal syllabus, or rather a printed checklist of maneuvers required before a student was sent solo, although others also developed their own checklists. Much later the Club asked Cathy Williams to develop a training log to keep as a record of training received, primarily to guard against lawsuits in case of death or injury. M-ASA instructors were conscientious and did a good job, although at one time a big row erupted when one instructor soloed another instructor’s student the latter did not think was ready. As a result it was agreed that each instructor should have students assigned whose progress they alone supervised.
Although the FAA was normally an agency very remote from the practice of gliding on the flight line, I recall two incidents in which they became more closely involved. In the first, an FAA examiner appeared at Frederick to conduct license examinations, and took it on himself to go over the documentation of all the Club gliders and the one available towplane. It was the hottest day of the year. He found the Frederick towplane had been equipped with a seaplane prop and could not be used for the test, so a party was dispatched to bring an approved towplane from Fairfield. Another occurred when one of our instructors drew attention to the FAA rule that solo student pilots may only fly solo in the model of airplane in which they soloed. This conflicts with international gliding practice, where student pilots who have soloed in a two-place glider are later checked out to solo a suitable single place glider – for instance, to solo a 1-26 after first soloing in a 2-33; or to solo in a K-8 when first soloing in an ASK-13. In clubs and schools this frees up the training ghders to be used primarily for two-place training. (I was trained in a Slingsby T-21 two place and sent solo in a Slingsby Tutor, with no ill effects.) I undertook to get a ruling from the FAA in Washington and was told in no uncertain terms the rule meant exactly what it says: If as a student pilot you soloed in a 2-33, you can only solo in that glider until you attain your Private license. This ruling may make sense if it relates to Cessnas and Pipers, but the FAA did not consider its relevance to gliding and its international conventions.
Another issue emerged after we had adopted the Knauff training system and learned that the FAA no longer requires spin training – as distinct from identifying the signs of impending stall. The FAA said they lost more pilots in spin training than in accidental spins. However, stall/spin accidents remain the leading cause of gliding accidents, and the consensus of world gliding opinion is that actual spin training is essential and life-saving. When I became editor of the internet journal Gliding and Motorgliding International, I pulled together all the articles on spin training that had appeared in English-language gliding magazines, all by very experienced instructors, and they confirmed how important practicing spins and spin recovery can be.
M-ASA used to conduct spin training at one time and made use of a privately-owned Blanik to do so, which would spin convincingly, whereas the 2-33 does not. Neither does the Grob 103. (Howard Banks once told me the Grob 103 will spin well enough inverted, but will not recover.) The ASK-13 will spin willingly, but ours had a placard which said “SPINS PROHIBITED). Neglecting spin training in gliders again shows how the FAA makes rules applicable to general aviation and, like all bureaucracies, is reluctant to make exceptions.
However, recently the FAA has published several texts on gliding which are quite acceptable, but read like “as told to” accounts rather than books by experts. The best gliding manuals I know are the BGA’s Instructors Manuals, which were compiled by a big committee of BGA instructors. After visiting Derek Piggott some years ago, I obtained copies to be available at Frederick and Fairfield, but they are specific to laws in the U.K. and not to FARs here.
At our recent Flight Review seminar conducted by Cathy Williams, it was evident how much closer the FAA has come to gliding in the past 50 or so years. Intending participants were asked to download two FAA documents, one to record certificates held, flight time, etc.; the other a listing of Personal Limitations. They were also told to visit www.faasafety.gov and download three more courses on Aeronautical Decision Making, Airspace, and Avoiding Loss of Control, and bring their completion certificates. How closely these documents relate to gliding safety is moot; there is no FAR requiring pilots to obtain a control check signoff after putting their gliders together, which is required by SSA contest rules. Instead, they tell us the minimum sleep time we should have before flying and the maximum amount of alcohol within the last eight hours – all good sense, but rather remote from our experience.
A couple of years ago I invited an FAA designee to conduct a flight test at Fairfield to extend my Instructor’s license, and he questioned me on the form of words to be written in a student’s log book to allow them to solo. I didn’t know this exact formulation, since my own log book said “Cleared for solo.in Tutor” and I haven’t sent anyone solo for many years under current M-ASA rules. But I am a creature of a different age, I and I told him to forget it and quit instructing right there. Fifty years was enough, and I haven’t looked back.
* I have checked my logbook to validate this account, but documented evidence is lacking.