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Peter Masak's Final Glide

Peter Masak died May 22, 2004 while flying the Simitar II out of Mifflin County, PA.

Peter and I tested acoustic active boundary layer controls, winglets of various types, conducted flight tests of many types, and made occasional record attempts out of FLF. Peter was among the most gifted and multidisciplinary engineers involved in soaring--ever. Never content to make use of the best equipment and ideas, Peter invented stuff and a lot of it worked better than anything available.

Matching his ingenuity were his skills as a competitor. Peter was twice US National Champion (Sports and 15-meter). I do not remember his Canadian wins.

Peter made winglets. In 1989 (when they were Not fashionable, his was the only ship) he flew them on a Nimbus 3 in the World Championship in Weiner Neustadt, Austria for team Canada. I team flew with Peter there and the world was just starting to realize that the weird tips might work, in spite of a deep held bias against the idea. He met his future wife, Adrienne there also.

He manufactured the original Simitar wings and took them to Omarama, New Zealand where we flew in the World Championship for team USA.

Peter manufactured a line of electric variometers (LD-100). They were very responsive and steady. The electronics are simple and robust. Peter had about 100 of them not too far from completion.

I can only begin to reveal his contributions as an employee of Numar, an oil exploration tool company. A fellow employee spoke at his funeral last Friday and it was clear that they have a vast chasm of inventiveness, ingenuity, leadership, and accomplishment at that company and the industry in general.

Perhaps - no certainly - the most palpable void is felt by his family. Adrienne, Mathew (10), the twins Geneva & Gabriella (9), Magdalena (his Mom), brother Tom, and Ingrid (sister and ally) and the entire extended family have only memories, the shadow of the real thing. Peter was the real thing to his family. And I know because he was de facto family to me.

I had a chance to review the flight log from the May 22 flight. He did nothing foolish. Hammered by sink while trying to penetrate to the upwind side of Tussy mountain, he fell behind that ridge, but there was a small ~ 1/2-mile long knob on the lee side that provided a positive bump (~70 foot gain after loosing 500 feet in the last mile). I think he was about 250 to 300 feet above the trees and about 1,000 feet over the valley about 2 miles downwind. There was an "out" if needed. But Peter was in a race and he tried to work the knob with figure-8s to gain enough to slip over to the west side and to more-or-less a guarantee of ridge lift. He needed another ~250 feet to make the attempt, maybe a 1/5 or 2 minute investment he was willing - or obliged- to make. It had to be very rough air in the lee of Tussy. On the beginning of the first swithback turn, the flight terminates. Peter was killed instantly in a vertical impact and it seems as if a spin is the likely cause. The log shows only good airspeeds, but it is an angle of attack that matters and the air was probably pretty stirred up.

A stone wall separates me from an inspiring summary.....I miss him.

To all, fly safely, please.

Ronald S. Tabery (SS)

Posted: 6/1/2004

Final Glide 

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