Blue Ridge Soaring Society at WeatherFest

A group of BRSS members made a strong showing on October 19th and 20th at WDBJ7’s Weather Fest, to educate the general public on soaring and our club. Initiated by Peter Pfortner and organized by JP Stewart, the event was held at WDBJ7’s news studios with over 2,500 school kids on the first day and around 3,000-6,000 people on the second. The club brought X8 and a glider simulator (Condor) for people to try their hand at simulated flying. On the first day, I arrived with X8 at around 8:30 and was met shortly after by Chuck King, Whit Gravely, and Andrew Kriz who helped setup our display. Andrew had to run back to Blacksburg for class at about the time the tour groups began arriving! We all moved out to the glider and began to talk with the groups of 20 - 100 kids at a time. Together, they all were given a quick introduction to soaring and what not to touch, then they were ushered in smaller groups of 10 to look at the cockpit and ask questions. Once the first group arrived, it was non-stop for nearly three hours and we ended up missing the provided lunch because of the volume of people and the interest in our exhibit. At some point in the chaos, Zach Sevison and Li Yang arrived. Both were a welcome sight as “herding cats” (as Chuck King put it) became very tiring for us all. We ended the first day worn out and ready to head home for some rest. Day 2 began around the same time with Collin Anderson, and Peter joining Zach, Whit, and myself. Day 2 was intended for the general public and gave us much more flexibility in how we handled the crowd. For organized groups, we followed the same plan as on day 1.   However, when individuals and families came by, they were usually greeted individually by one of our members and thus had a much more interactive discussion. Because of the smaller numbers, Zach was able to open the flight simulator, and it was a huge hit! The kids seemed to enjoy the hands on nature of it and we all enjoyed watching them fly (quite a few could give us a run for our money!). We handed out fliers and old copies of Soaring magazine to interested guests, and highlighted BRSS to them. Many were surprised that it was only $35 for a flight and others simply had no idea that we existed. At the end of day 2, we felt like we had succeeded in breaking some public misconceptions about soaring and hopefully gained interest in and possibly new members for the club. Again I cannot thank enough all who came out to help: Chuck, Whit, Zach, Collin, Li, Peter, Andrew and all of the WDBJ7 staff for their assistance. We feel it was a great experience for the club and we should consider taking advantage of other opportunities like this again. I can say that I’m already looking into improvements for next year! For some highlights of the event, see the official WeatherFest page:,0,4543371.story

JP Stewart

Zach Sevison, JP Stewart, and Collin Anderson prepare for the rush of people on day 2.

Zach Sevison (far left) gives first glider lessons in Condor.


The BRSS crew from the roof (Photo by WDBJ7)

JP Stewart

JP is a junior contest pilot and the training officer of the Blue Ridge Soaring Society.He recently became SSA Virginia Governor and Record keeper and received the Kolstad scholarship at the SSA convention in 2014. He currently studies Aerospace Engineering at Virginia Tech and spends most of his time working on gliders and UAV's.

Latest posts by JP Stewart (see all)