Soaring History Part 2
AMA Thermal Soaring Part 2 Foundations
The availability of reliable radios combined with the solution of the
launching problem led to the explosive growth of thermal soaring in the
late 60's. Naturally, the first order of business was to hold a
contest. Rules were necessary to hold a contest and several groups were
formed to promote R/C soaring. The most influential were the League of
Silent Flight (LSF), the East Cost Soaring Society (ECSS), and the Silent
Order of Aeromodeling by Radio (S.O.A.R.) club. There were many other
clubs and regional groups who made significant contributions to R/C
soaring, however these organizations were primarily responsible for the
development of thermal soaring as we know it today.
In 1970, a group of soaring enthusiast from the Northeast began thinking
about an organization to coordinate soaring activities in the region. Thus
the East Coast Soaring Society (ECSS) was born in January, 1971. The
founding members included such R/C pioneers as Dr. Walt Good, George
Durney, Howard McEntee, and Don Clark. The stated objectives of the ECSS
were to advance the art of design, construction, and flying of radio
controlled soaring planes. Rules were formulated for contests and an ECSS
Championship program was established. The most significant action by the
founders was the recognition that an active board of directors was required
in order to provide continuity of action and that a technical journal was
required to keep members informed about the latest developments in soaring.
I became a member of the ECSS in 1972 and became ECSS 72-361. The main
reason I joined was to receive Sailplane, the Journal of the ECSS. At that
time, Sailplane was the best source of technical information about soaring.
Many clubs have contributed to the advancement of R/C soaring, but none
have done more than the Silent Order of Aeromodeling by Radio
(S.O.A.R.). In particular, they established a truly national championship
soaring contest that set the standards for all soaring contests. It all
began when Dan Pruss, Dave Burt, and the S.O.A.R. club offered to help
organize an unofficial R/C soaring event to be held in conjunction with the
1970 AMA Nats held at Chicago. The contest grew rapidly and became known
as the SOAR Nats even though the S.O.A.R. club preferred the title "R/C
Soaring Nationals". Dan Pruss and the S.O.A.R. club did such a good job
that the SOAR Nats remained the acknowledged national championship soaring
event even after soaring became an official AMA event included AMA
Nats. By 1976, the SOAR Nats had become so large that the S.O.A.R. club
felt that they could no longer sponsor the event. The 7th and final R/C
Soaring Championships held in 1976 drew 190 contestants competing in 2
classes and scale. As far as I know, no AMA Nats has ever attracted as
I was fortunate enough to fly in the last three SOAR Nats.
The League of Silent Flight was founded in 1970 by a group of west coast
modelers led by Le Gray. The Primary goal of the LSF is to promote R/C
soaring and to recognize individual proficiency and accomplishment. The
LSF began holding an annual R/C soaring tournament in 1970 with 85 members
competing. Since entry in the LSF tournament was restricted to LSF
members, it became the largest Class B contest in the United
States. Tournament growth was limited by the number of available
frequencies and by the fact that all contests were held in California until
1977. In 1977 the tournament was divided into 10 regional contests held at
sites throughout the country. As a result, the 1977 tournament drew 487
contestants from almost every state in the union and several foreign
countries. In 1978, The LSF tournament was held at Lockport, Illinois and
entry was restricted to LSF members who had qualified in one of the 1977
regional contests. The LSF ran into hard times in the 1980's and the
tournament was suspended until it resumed in 1992 at Vincennes, Indiana
under new leadership. This time, the contest was open to anyone with an
AMA license. In 1995, the Nats stopped rotating around the country and
moved to the new AMA site in Muncie. At this time, LSF took over running
the Soaring events at the AMA Nats.
I joined LSF in 1972 and became LSF 583 for no particular reason other than
it seemed a fun thing to do and didn't cost anything. I eventually
achieved Level IV in 1976 and completed all the contest requirements for
Level V in 1996. At the present time, I have no interest in standing on a
slope for 8 hours so I will probably never achieve Level V.
AMA establish a Soaring Advisory Committed (SAC) 1973 to advise AMA and the
R/C Contest Board on Soaring Rules and problems. Each District VP
appointed a representative for his district. By 1974, the SAC decided that
a Special Interest Group should be formed to represent Soaring and a call
for proposals on forming a SIG was issued . A open meeting of SAC was held
at Lewis College in Lockport, Illinois the day after the 1974 SOAR Nats to
review the proposals. Many SOAR Nats contestants stayed for the meeting
and offered many suggestions about the new SIG.
It was hoped that the LSF would submit a plan, however the only proposal
offered was by the ECSS. The ECSS proposal was accepted and the National
Soaring Society was formed to be the SIG for soaring.
A joint meeting of the SAC and the new NSS was held in Silver Springs
Maryland on Thanksgiving weekend, 1974 to work out proposed AMA rules for
Soaring. Most of the rules in the current AMA Rules book were set up at
that time. Neither the NSS or the SAC had the authority to set rules so
the proposals from the Silver Springs meeting was submitted to the RC
Contest board for approval. I attended the Silver Springs meeting as the
District V NSS vice president and the District V SAC member.
.. The SAC was disbanded after AMA approved NSS as the SIG for soaring.
The next installment will cover the meeting at Silver Springs Maryland.
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