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Aug 13, 2019, 11:04 PM
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NEW WORLD RECORD CLAIM- 346km (215miles)


On August 2nd , 2019, I flew my Xplorer II Glider from an abandoned airfield near Pioche, Nevada, to a pre-designated field in Wells, Nevada. Total distance was 346 km, exceeding the current record of 301 km. My team consisted of Official Observer and spotter Mike Grindle, Official Observer and driver Marquita Ellias, and CD for the record attempt Mike Leggett.
We had been checking the weather patterns in the area of the anticipated flight path for a couple of weeks prior to setting the precise dates of our flights. We wanted to try to fly during the most favorable weather. I felt the most important weather factor was the wind. Given the extreme distance we were planning to fly I believed a strong south wind was essential, at least 15mph, but preferably 20m -25mph. In our past successful record attempts we had always had a strong South wind that helped increase our average speed. We arrived in Pioche on the evening of Monday, July 29th, planning our first flight the next day.

Tuesday July 30
Weather forecast called for a strong South-West wind and temperatures in the mid 80’s. Only minimal chance of thunderstorms were predicted, mainly in the Northern section of our course. It was just what I was hoping for. We declared our goal as a field on highway 93, just South of the interstate 80 intersection in Wells, Nevada. Our course heading would be almost exactly due North. We arrived at the field at 9:00am and the wind was calm. By the time we completed setting up the glider the wind had come up and was blowing about 15mph from the south, exactly as forecast.
We launched at about 9:15 but found no lift and landed soon after. Launching again we still found no lift, so decided to wait a few minutes hoping the lift would build. Finally we launched again at 9:45 and this time found a weak thermal to about 250 meters as the glider drifter to the North. Driving onto highway 93 and heading north the thermals were topping out at about 300 meters at first. They gained strength as time progressed. The wind was also gaining strength and after the first hour was now blowing 20 + mph. The flight was going quite well and with the help of the wind we completed the first 80 miles in just 2 hours. At the 80 mile mark we have to transition from the 93 to the 893, a much less traveled road that heads straight North. The 893 runs up a valley with the Schell Creek Range to the West and the Snake Range on the East. Both ranges have peaks near 12,000 elevation.
The lift was very strong, however so was the sink between thermals. In fact it was the strongest sink I have ever flown through. We went thru sink exceeding 20 knots (2000 fpm) on at least two occasions. Typically it was about 10 knots down between thermals. This meant we had to fly very fast between thermals or we would drop out of the sky. We got extremely low on a few occasions, one time below 50’ agl. But when we found the lift it was very strong and kept our flight going. At about the 115 mile mark highway 893 makes a 90 degree turn to the West going up and over the Schell range. Here we turn onto County Road 31, a small dirt road that winds north thru some small hills and finally dumps onto highway 93A. Here you can either turn right and go North East to Wendover, Utah, or turn left and go South-West directly into the wind where after about 4 miles it intersects the 93 going directly North. We call this section the “Dreaded Back-Track”. Because we choose Wells as our goal we had to fly the “Dreaded Back-Track”. Flying into a 25 mph headwind with a glider that cruises at 35-40mph is pretty difficult. Today we could not fly the 4 miles into that wind before sinking to the ground. Our flight ended here covering a distance of about 233km (145miles). Time in the air was just over 5 hours.

Wednesday July 31

Weather forecast was for considerable overdevelopment and many thunderstorms. We elected not to fly this day and instead drove up to the Great Basin National Park for some sightseeing. On the way back we ran into a large amount of very heavy rain with lighting and thunder. I was happy we decided not to fly!

Thursday August 1

Weather forecast was good except there was a chance of thunderstorms in the North part of the course. Wind forecast was showing slightly less wind than on Tuesday, still from the South. Flight went well until we ran into a thunderstorm at the 169 km (105 miles) mark and was forced down. Time in the air was about 4 hours.

Friday August 2nd

The forecast indicated much drier conditions which was good, but also significantly less wind. I was not sure if it was worth making an attempt, but fortunately both Marquita and Mike Grindle were all for making another attempt. Forecast was showing 5-10mph for most of the course. Again we declared Wells, NV as the goal. We launched at 9:40, immediately connected with a decent thermal and headed out on course. For the first hour the wind was less than 5mph. Thermals were good and sink between thermals was only moderate, so I managed to stay above 500 meters most of the time. At times the wind seemed to pick, but then a few miles down the course it would be back to near zero. Nevertheless we made good time with an average speed of about 28 mph for the first 3 hours. I felt this was good considering the very light wind. I was also anticipating the wind picking up as the day wore on. Encountering consistent lift and very moderate sink we progressed north while increasing our average speed. As we flew past the area where a thunderstorm had knocked us down the day before, there were only small broken cumulus but no sign of overdevelopment or thunderstorms.
After 115 miles we turned onto county road 31 and began the winding track thru low rolling hills. Lift was still good and at the 145 mile mark we were now at the “Dreaded backtrack”. Today was much different than Tuesday. The wind while coming from the South-west was much lighter and we were encountering excellent lift as we headed South-West on the Backtrack. Meeting up with Highway 93 we had excellent altitude. After a few minutes Marquita announced “Only 68 miles to go”. Never did a 100k seem so close!

A few miles up the road I heard Mike say something about a Flagman up ahead. Road construction! Two years ago we had declared Wells as our goal and had flown 183 miles when we ran into road construction. There was a flagman there and traffic had been halted. The glider was in sink and within just a few minutes was on the ground. It looked like the same thing was going to happen again! There was a line of cars backed up as we approached the construction zone. Miraculously just as we got there the flagman started letting the line of cars proceed. We were the last car they allowed thru, but we made it! Still in good lift we were able to proceed northward. Visibility was quite bad because the highway was just a rough base and all the cars ahead of us were creating a great deal of dust. I momentarily lost sight of the glider a few times but I have become pretty good at reacquiring it. Finally we were past the construction zone and now we were really able to rack up miles quickly. Marquita indicated there was about 15 miles to go. At this point the glider was about 300 meters agl and I was desperately searching for a thermal. We were all thinking we simply cannot landout after having come this far! We found a thermal and immediately began calculating what altitude we would need to make the final glide to Wells. I typically use 80 meters per mile for final glide which would mean we would need 1200 meters agl to make to Wells. After flying for 7 hours my eyes were not able to focus on the glider at that altitude so I had to keep the glider at a max of about 1000 meters. That was just a bit lower than what we needed to make Wells, so we knew we would need at least one additional thermal to make it. We glided for almost 10 miles with no thermal and I was getting real nervous. Finally we 5 miles to go we connected with a strong thermal that got us more than enough altitude to make to Wells. We made to Wells with about 700 meters of altitude. This gave me plenty of time to get out of the Jeep and set up for a landing. Landing at the field I managed to snag an unseen wire fence and damaged the flap, but at least the glider made it back in one piece and we had a new record!

This flight had a duration of 7 hours and 20 minutes covered a straight line distance of 215 miles. Below is a Google Earth file of the flight.

As usual my crew proved to be the best! Driving and spotting for such long distances is not easy. Without their enthusiasm I would have not attempted to fly this third flight. We were all pretty exhausted after 3 days of intense flying, covering almost 750 km in those three days! Also thank you to Mike Leggett for acting as CD. Mike was with Bill Chase’s team. They had a great flight going when after 90 miles they had a battery malfunction which caused a crash. Bill’s Appersonic is designed and built so well that although the glider hit the ground at a very high speed, it suffered only minor damage.
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Aug 14, 2019, 04:16 AM
Balsa breaks better
Thermaler's Avatar
Woohoo!! Fine job gang!!


Balsa Breaks Better
Woodies Forever
Aug 15, 2019, 12:39 PM
Professional Lurker
Magician's Avatar
Well done John and crew!

As an east coast resident I had to put that distance into perspective. It's the equivalent of going from Washington, DC to New York. Just wow!

Aug 15, 2019, 01:09 PM
Duane, LSF IV
Wazmo's Avatar
Did you make any modifications to the Xplorer2 for XC (other than painting the bottom black)?
What receiver battery did you use?
Aug 15, 2019, 05:36 PM
Registered User
Thread OP
Thank you Joe and Chris. Chris its good hear hear from Team Aloft!

Wazmo, I did make modifications to the X2. I extended the fuselage about 7", made provisions in the wing center section for a large amount of ballast and re-arranged the battery location to under the wing in the fuse. The batteries are (3)- 3400ma lithium ion packs. I actually did a thread on the modifications :

Aug 16, 2019, 02:40 PM
Registered User
Thermalator's Avatar
An amazing accomplishment and success for a team that doesn't take "landing out" for an answer! Well done!
Aug 16, 2019, 02:44 PM
somewhere in South America
ShredAir's Avatar
I knew this would happen! That’s why I kept checking whenever there was an internet connection.
Congratulations from Chile!
Aug 16, 2019, 03:35 PM
Registered User

Congratulations and Well Done

Aug 17, 2019, 04:43 PM
Registered User
Jim Deck's Avatar

A job well done!!

Congratulations on the new record and a hearty thanks for the very fine report and pictures.
Oct 08, 2019, 02:05 PM
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aeronaut999's Avatar
Originally Posted by XC soaringpilot

On August 2nd , 2019, I flew my Xplorer II Glider from an abandoned airfield near Pioche, Nevada, to a pre-designated field in Wells, Nevada. Total distance was 346 km, exceeding the current record of 301 km. My team consisted of Official Observer and spotter Mike Grindle, Official Observer and driver Marquita Ellias, and CD for the record attempt Mike Leggett.
Congratulations and thank you for sharing the detailed write-up. What an inspiration to every soaring pilot of every kind.

Oct 09, 2019, 11:07 AM
Registered User
Congratulations! A real achievement. I really enjoyed the detailed write-up.
Oct 14, 2019, 05:47 PM
Way to go!!!! Just out of curiosity, is Mike Leggett the same gentleman who flew a World Record Inverted flight in a Bellanca Decathlon from Palm Springs to Deer Valley (254+ miles) in May 1974?
Last edited by Bell47G2; Oct 14, 2019 at 08:53 PM.
Jan 08, 2020, 05:46 PM
DS Junkie
Screamin' Eagle's Avatar
This is awesome! I'm very interested in the modifications made to the airframe, and will check them out.
Jan 20, 2020, 04:36 PM
Registered User
Jim Deck's Avatar
A hearty well done. And thanks for an excellent blow by blow (no pun intended) description.
Feb 17, 2020, 11:10 PM
Registered User


Really great accomplishment! Very inspiring!!! Thank you for sharing your journey with us! I am so impressed!

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