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Club offers $50 flights on air
Terry Ketron/Special to The Explorer, Glider pilot Tony Smolder is one of some 110 glider pilots and enthusiasts at El Tiro Gliderport, the base for Tucson Soaring Club. His reflection can be seen in the highly polished canopy of the PZL sailplane as he follows the tow plane to 5,000 feet above the desert before releasing his tow rope. Smolder is helping to organize the open house the club is holding Nov. 14-15.
Terry Ketron/Special to The Explorer, Flight instructor Richard Barnes guides a wingtip on a Grob 103 sailplane that belongs to Tucson Soaring Club as he prepares to go up with a student pilot. When Barnes isn't teaching at El Tiro Gliderport, he teaches jet jockeys to fly multi-million dollar business jets. The soaring club will be holding an open house this Saturday and Sunday.
Terry Ketron/Special to The Explorer, Pilot Ron Olson helps out on a launch as he hooks the tow rope to the release hook for a waiting pilot as the tow plane waits for the signal to tighten the rope for the launch.
Terry Ketron/Special to The Explorer, Tow plane pilot Andy Durbin takes off from El Tiro Gliderport with a glider in tow. Once at the predetermined altitude, the glider pilot will disconnect the tow rope and each of the aircraft will turn in the opposite direction from each other. The sailplane pilot will then look for lift from thermals, which are rising columns of warm air, or ridge lift, rising air generated by wind blowing up the side of a mountain ridge, in an attempt to stay aloft longer. Some pilots have flown hundreds of miles by means of these naturally generated sources of lift.
Terry Ketron/Special to The Explorer, Glider instructor Randy Acree soars over and around the rocky pinnacles near Ragged Top Mountain while demonstrating the Grob 103 sailplane to a prospective member of the Tucson Soaring Club. The view from a sailplane cockpit is virtually unobstructed, and the near silent beauty of glider flight is the stuff of poetry.