Blog Archives

II. GPS

GPS is the most obvious change. GPS made navigation much easier. There was a lot of grumbling, “real pilots know how to look at a map.” To this day, there’s lots of grumbling that “pilots will just stare at their GPS all day,” ignoring how much head-down time map navigation and glide planning took, and…

III. The future of Technology

GPS only the start. Here are some things I see on the horizon. 1. Weather information. In-cockpit satellite weather is now available. It can be extremely valuable in a contest. The visible satellite loop and radar loop in particular can help with the agonizing decision, do I go on in this turn area or go…

IV. Two Demographic Developments

I have so far focused on technology. Most soaring pilots are analytic, engineer types, and a story line that focuses on technology is natural to us. But in tracing this story, already we’ve discovered that the technology per se was not the central part of the story; it was how technology changed the “soft stuff,”…

V. New Races

The last 25 years have seen a huge structural change in how contest flying is organized. I start with two whole new race formats, the OLC and Grand Prix 1. OLC The OLC (online contest) is a big development. Pilots send their traces in from around the world, and are scored on various formats, most of…

VI. New Classes

We not only have two new race formats, we have an abundance of new classes. 1. Handicapped racing One of the biggest innovations of the last 25 years has been the introduction of handicapped racing. As in all other sports that have handicapped racing, such as sailing, there’s a lot of whining over the winter…

VIII. Rules

To some rules are boring. But rules make the race! The only difference between a glider race and a tiddlywinks contest is the rules! The character of racing has changed a lot as rules change, and it will continue to evolve. 1. Measurement vs. incentives. The Big Picture of rules evolution in the US is…

IX. Safety

The final trend I will comment on is safety. Contests are getting slowly safer. If you watch the spectacular “Sunship Game” from 1970, you’ll not only be struck by how much everyone smokes, and how little they wear in the sun, you’ll be struck by the amazing amount of glider carnage, and the casual attitude…

X. A Vision

Let me close with a vision for contest soaring; perhaps reversing my charge to talk about the past with facts and instead talk about the future with hope. I love contest soaring. Selfishly, it’s very time-efficient – you go and fly on days you wouldn’t get out of bed on a safari. And those weak…