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Midwest Town Meeting Successful -Despite the Weather

Chicago proved once again that February can be a challenging city in terms of weather. However, despite the biggest snowstorm of the season over 100 SSA members turned out for the Midwest Soaring 2000 Safety Seminar and Town Meeting.

Midwest Soaring 2000 Safety Seminar and Town Hall Meeting

There is something about the ChicagoLand Glider Council (CLGC) planning winter events and the weather that occurs as a result of all that planning. True to form, the day before the Midwest Soaring 2000 Safety Seminar and Town Hall Meeting on Saturday, February 19 Chicago experienced a winter storm that dumped more than a foot of snow on the area. The result was over 600 flight cancellations at the two major Chicago airports and surface delays everywhere. The seminar lost the services of three scheduled speakers and a handful of registered attendees. Rejuggling the speaker schedule became organizer Steve Wasilowski's primary focus. He and the remaining speakers managed to repair the damage with a well-received modified program.

With over 100 people in attendance the two hour morning Safety Seminar was laced with subjects such as "Things We Know and Things We Don't Know and Can't Seem To Find Out" presented by well-known Safety Foundation Trustee and past SSA President Gene Hammond. He discussed the most frequent causes of glider accidents and comparison of those accidents by year, type, area, and manufacturer. Looking at the last five years the number of glider fatalities have tended upward and prevention of these accidents continues to need attention. Other topics such as "Things That Go Bump on the Ground When Not Installed Properly" and "Thinking Glider/Tow Pilot Checklist" got everyone's attention, especially with Gene presenting them. He also brought up the transponder debate, equipment available today, and the SSA proactive stance on the subject with the FAA. Everyone wants to avoid mandated transponder installations in gliders and maintain our current exemption and this issue came up a number of times during the day. Collision avoidance, closing speeds, and the critical seconds when one needs to apply evasive action were of particular interest to the area soaring pilots that have to consider jet traffic out of Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports. There were many other points that Gene presented that cannot be presented here due to space limitations but will be presented in a future SOARING article.

John Cochrane, a rising star in the sailplane racing community, reorganized his original afternoon talk "Flying a Little Bit Faster" into a two part discussion on his concepts and interpretations of speeds to fly and MacCready theories. Basically his goals are to go from 800 to 950 points per day in a regional contest, get that extra speed needed for a gold/diamond badge, and perhaps most important - have fun flying cross country. John's presentation is so straight-forward about the decisions that need to be made if a good cross country speed is desired that you sit there and wonder why you didn't think of it in the simple terms he describes. John pointed out that the thought processes needed in flight have to be formulated on the ground. He acknowledges how difficult good speed decisions are but emphasized that the great pilots do it automatically. He also stressed the need for better thermaling techniques including getting the sailplane centered in the thermal as fast as possible. There is nothing like a talk on cross-country flying to get the juices flowing now that spring is getting closer. A copy of John's notes for this session can be found at Cochrane Notes.

Larry Sanderson became the lunch keynote speaker and presented the SSA as an organization in the process of change. A member's limited time as well Internet access has driven the SSA into becoming a knowledge based organization. SSA initiatives for this new century will require the organization to become central to the development of the sport. Larry ticked off the points of bringing in everyone regardless of age/interest, helping others in the sport, growing economically, and expanding membership. His major message: We are the SSA!

The remainder of the afternoon was spent on a new model for the SSA, a Town Hall Meeting moderated by Larry Sanderson with Jim Short (Region 7 Director), Pete Vredenburg (1-26 Association), Simine Short (NSM), David Schuur (VSA) and Curt Lewis (CLGC President) participating. The agenda included some 20 issues solicited from the attendee's registration forms covering seven topics: cross-country/racing, safety, airspace, training, club operations, SOARING magazine issues, and the SSA website operation. Spirited discussions were the norm for the rest of the afternoon as the ideas and comments flowed from the attendees to the panel and not vice versa. There are no simple answers for many of these discussion topics but they need to be put on the table for everyone to think and talk about. Hopefully the "Town Hall Meeting" idea will be carried forward to other functions and gatherings so the dialogue can continue to be a two-way affair.

Following this full day of speeches and discussion many attendees gathered at the nearby Prairie Rock Brewery for adult refreshments and a belly busting family style dinner. Special thanks go to Steve Wasilowski, Jim Short, John Phelan, Tom Johnson, Curt Lewis, Agass Baumgartner and all of the unnamed volunteers for their efforts in making this seminar the success that it was. And thanks also to the SSA, Tim Mara of Wings and Wheels, Jet Aviation at Chicago-Midway, and Breitling for their merchandise donations that were raffled off during the day and helped defray CLGC expenses.

Posted: 2/21/2000 By: General News


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