Glider pilots from around the country spend week in Logan

Glider pilots from across the country spent the week in Logan learning how to fly in the unique conditions the valley’s shape and climate create.

“This area here in Logan is not an easy area to fly. It is a technical area,” said Kim Hall, the sponsor of this year’s Mountain Soaring Camp event and one of the tow pilots.

Gliders are made of fiberglass and carbon fiber and look like small airplanes. Most do not have engines, but those that do can self-launch. A glider without an engine has to be towed into the air by a plane.

During the camp, Hall said glider pilots attended classes on how to fly in the area and practiced the skill as well. According to Hall, the mountains and the cooler temperatures in Logan are what make flying in the area more technical.

“Logan is a pretty special place. It is considered a world-class soaring site, not just because of the mountains here but actually up into Afton and the Tetons,” said Bruno Vassell, the event’s co-organizer.

However, Hall said the area’s westerly winds make for good soaring in Cache Valley.

“If you know what you are doing, you can go to Jackson Hole and back,” Hall said.

On a good day, Hall said gliders can sometimes go over 100 miles per hour.

“That is pretty good without an engine,” Hall said.

Twenty years ago, Hall became involved with the hobby when he was enlisted to tow a friend’s glider. The friend helped Hall earn the necessary credentials, and Hall has been flying tow planes ever since. In his 33 years of flying, he said it is the most challenging aviation he has ever done.

“It is just challenging, being able to be close to another aircraft and get them in a situation where they can stay up in the air,” Hall said.

John Mittell and his wife, Paula, came to the camp from Alabama. John is a retired naval aviator who has been flying gliders for 20 years. After seeing videos of Vassell flying in Utah, he wanted to try it out for himself. Although he has been to Nephi to fly, this was his first time in Cache Valley.

“He made a statement that walking out to his glider made him feel like a 16-year-old boy who just got his driver’s license and a hot ‘55 Chevy,” Paula said.

Kirk Urbanczyk from Draper was also at the camp and compared flying in a glider rather than an airplane to swimming instead of riding in a boat.

“When you fly a glider, you become part of the sky,” Urbanczyk said.