Glider club spends the week in Moffat County

The cumulus clouds in the skies over the Yampa Valley were good markers for the rising columns of warm air that the glider pilots were looking for.

But the thermals weren't quite close enough to the airport to tempt the pilots to chase them. As a result, the flights were lasting only about 20 minutes.

Under the right conditions, a glider can stay in the air for as long as five to eight hours, said Curt Cole, a member of the Colorado Soaring Association.

Club members came to Craig to spend a week flying around the valley, landing and taking off from the Craig-Moffat County Airport.

"We've never been here before," Cole said, taking a break to drink from his canteen after helping several of his comrades push their crafts to the runway.

The club has held similar "camps" in Salida and Taos, N.M.

The pilots align their crafts with the center of the runway and clip in to the towrope that is connected to the airplane that pulls them skyward.

After a series of signals in which the pilots of the airplane and the glider wag their crafts' rudders to signal readiness, the plane takes off. It tows the glider to an altitude of between 1,500 and 3,500 feet.

Then the glider pilot triggers a mechanism that releases the rope. If that fails, the powered craft can release instead.

If both fail, the only option is to break the rope, Cole said.

It's fairly easy to snap the rope by allowing some slack and then speeding up to break it.

Bela Szalai, another club member, was eyeing Cedar Mountain, wishing it was a little closer to the airport.

When the sun falls on such hillsides, it creates the warm air that the gliders rely on to stay aloft. Szalai said if he got enough altitude, he might soar over to the mountain and try to catch a lift.

Even if the weather doesn't cooperate for the club's weeklong stay in Craig, Cole said the members will hang out and have fun together.

Perhaps they'll go fishing, Cole said.

"The flying is fun, but there is a lot of camaraderie and fellowship, too," Cole said. "That's what these camps are about."

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com

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