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Earl Menefee

Earl Menefee and Ralph Salisbury, both worked at Ames Aeronautical Laboratory in Sunnyvale, CA, and decided to form a soaring club. In December 1946, they circulated a flyer at the Lab among fellow employees and ran an ad in the San Francisco Chronicle sports section. Both advertisements brought out 12 people; the club was called The Ames Soaring Club. Located at the Warms Springs airport just northeast of Milpitas, the group attracted the attention of other glider pilots who owned their own gliders. Earl had purchased a Bowlus Super Albatross glider, which made him decide to form another glider club since there were more pilots with private ships than those that needed a group to own one glider, so a club for everyone started. The Northern California Soaring Association was formed with Earl as the first President in 1950. Earl did a lot of soaring in the hills to the east of the Warm Springs airport, or Mission Peak ridge. He flew at other sailplane meets such as Torrey Pines, Lincoln Airport east of Sacramento, Oroville airport for contests, towing his glider on a trailer behind his car. Earl would later take his glider to Minden, Nevada to soar the beautiful Sierras during the summer months.

The first issue of the NCSA's newsletter "Hot Air" ran this story, "E.O. Menefee flew his Super Albatross to Gilroy on January 2, 1950 and history was made when he became the first man to land on the Gilroy Grammar School playground. This was the first Silver "C" distance made from the Warm Springs airport". Earl's love of soaring also involved him in the editorship of the NCSA's newsletter, "Hot Air". He wrote and published this newsletter for a long time. Some of the ships Earl owned included a Bowlus Super Albatross, MG-23, Standard Austria, a Diamont, and a MG-23L, which was a high performance ship then. In the later years, the NCSA moved to Hummingbird Haven gliderport in Livermore. Earl would fly all afternoon while his lovely new wife, Nancy enjoyed the company of other soaring families for picnics and swimming in the Nelson pool.

Earl was instrumental in introducing many new people to soaring through the Ames Club. Earl would give introductory rides in one of the Club ships. One such person was Larry Perl, who to this day talks about the kindness Earl gave him by allowing Larry to fly his MG-23 in a contest at Odessa, Texas as a teenager. Earl was a kind, caring person, always willing to lend a hand repairing an Ames Club ship or doing chores around the gliderport. Earl was instrumental in starting the oldest glider club in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is still operating today. Earl passed quietly at home on July 24, 2009 at age 92.

Posted: 8/3/2009


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