What is The Adirondack Soaring Association? The Adirondack Soaring Association is a group of (60+) licensed glider pilots, power pilots, certified instructors, and student pilots that fly sailplanes at Saratoga County Airport. These aircraft are not tube and fabric hang-gliders but are rigid wing, fully certified sailplanes that can weigh 1,000 pounds or more. Sailplanes are towed aloft by a powered aircraft then released at approximately 2,000 feet. The sailplane flight can be as short as 15 minutes, but flights as long as 10 hours have been accomplished. The club currently has 8 FAA certified glider flight instructors, 3 FAA power flight instructors, and 8 towpilots.
The sailplane pilot searches for rising currents of air called thermals, then circles in a thermal like a hawk to gain altitude. Thermals may also be used as "stepping stones in the sky". A pilot can "hop" from one thermal to another, and make long cross-country soaring flights. On a good day, a pilot can easily make flights of 100 miles or more, and eventually return to the home airfield. Flights of over 300 hundred miles have been made from Saratoga County Airport! One of our members was the first pilot to fly a Diamond Distance Triangle from Saratoga, to Stowe, VT , Pittsfield, MA, and return without landing. The pilot flew the 330 mile flight and averaged 60 + mph. Not bad for no engine!!!
The first step in obtaining a pilot's license is to become proficient enough to fly the glider solo. While an enjoyable process, preparing to solo can take quite a while, and normally involves many flights with instructors. Once a student learns to fly solo, the next step is to hone his/her flying skills in preparation for a flight exam with an FAA examiner. During this time, students also prepare for and take a written exam covering aspects of soaring flight such as regulations, weather, and navigation. In addition to the considerable time and effort needed to obtain these skills and knowledge, flying in a club environment requires an even greater level of commitment. All members pitch in with the flight line activities and routine maintenance of the gliders. Indeed, it's not unusual to spend an entire day at the airfield helping with ground operations and "hanger flying" with friends while waiting for a turn to fly a club glider. Some people may not be able to make this time commitment and may prefer to trade money for time by going to a commercial glider flight school where they can schedule a precise time to fly.