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Ken Kolstad

Ralph Kolstad has announced that his father, Ken Kolstad, passed away yesterday, June 18th, at the age of 96. Services will be at the Sons of Norway in Colorado Springs on Saturday, August 11, 2007 at 2:00pm.

Ken and his family have had a long involvement with Colorado soaring. Ken and Mid Kolstad received a Paul Schweizer Lifetime Achievement Award at the SSA Convention earlier this year

As newlyweds, we read the book written by Lewin Barringer: Flight Without Power where we learned about the Airhoppers Gliding and Soaring Club. So, we drove from Brooklyn to Wurtsboro, NY. The glider field was a grass strip at the Helms farm. We sat on a blanket and watched the operations there. Not long after, we joined the Club, and participated in the pilot training.

The glider was a single place utility plane, good for training. It was towed by an old Ford very slowly. As we gained experience the tow went faster, gaining better flying speed. Eventually we were towed to 800 feet or more, where the possibility of catching a thermal was better. At this point we released the tow rope and started free flight.

We remember some of the other members: Alex Dawydoff, Emil Lehecka, Ted Pfeifer, Ben Shupack, Alan VanName, Gus Raspet, Ginny Bennis (now Ginny Schweizer) and her father. The designer of the Franklin Utility Glider, R.E. Franklin, visited frequently.

During the winters the members met at Ken and Mid?s home for hanger flying and planning for the summer flying. For the meetings' refreshments, Ken made doughnuts. The members lined up to grab the doughnuts directly out of the hot fat!

When World War II began, our gliders were sent to Mobile, AL for training military glider pilots. Our glider participation was abandoned. The meetings were still held monthly at our home. When Mid and Ken became parents of the first two boys of our five children, Ken continued. But Mid had to abandon flying gliders.

Moving to Colorado Springs in 1956, we sought others who might be interested in gliding. We found David C. Johnson, brother of Dick Johnson of Texas Soaring Association. Dave stored his glider at his home, and flew from a nearby field owned by Mark Wild.

Meeting at our house for planning the new club, the Pike Peak Gliding and Soaring Club was formed, later merging with the Denver Club to form the Black Forest Soaring Society.

The Black Forest Glider Port became known worldwide for its excellent wave-soaring conditions. One day in 1965, during Christmas week, twelve pilots earned their Diamond Altitude rating, including Neil Armstrong, first to land on the moon, and two teenagers: Paul Kolstad and Jeff Yund.

The next summer Paul flew 208 miles from Colorado Springs to Scottsbluff, NE, setting a Colorado state record. Three weeks later, Paul died in a glider accident at the Black Forest Gliderport. He is honored by the Paul Kolstad Youth Soaring Pilots Awards which was established for pilots age 14 through 20. Since 1968, over 50 youth soaring pilots are Kolstad Winners.

To be eligible to apply for the college scholarship grant the pilot must have one of the following: Silver Badge or Century One: a cross country flight of 100 miles or Century Two: a cross country flight of 200 miles or Century Three: a cross country flight of 300 miles.

Chicken barbecues, held on Sunday of the Labor Day weekend, serving supporters for many years at the Black Forest Glider Port were fund raisers for the Kolstad Awards. Ken used a recipe developed by Cornell University for the chicken sauce (no tomato).

Maps, furnished by Jeppesen of Denver, were sold. The many other contributors along the way have really helped keep the coffer full.


The Colorado Soaring Association administered the fund until 1980 when the Soaring Society of America assumed the sponsorship of the Kolstad Awards. Many soaring enthusiasts have donated to SSA for the Kolstad Fund and still support Youth in Soaring. The first award in 1968 was $250.00, and is now $1500.


In the early days of the Pikes Peak Gliding and Soaring Club, the Schweizer 2-22 was dragged from David C. Johnson's garage to Mark Wild's field and launched by winch tow with a 7000 foot cable and powered by a Buick Dynaflow engine.

Members graduated from the 2-22 to the 1-26, 2-32 and to aerotow to discover the wave over Pikes Peak, increasing the activity at the field.

As word spread, pilots came from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Norway, India, the USA, and from other far away places to earn their Diamond Altitude Badges.

During this period (starting 1967), Ken was SSA Colorado State Governor for 6 years He instituted the springtime banquets when members of the Colorado clubs coordinated their plans for special events for the summer traveling to Aspen, Westcliffe, Buena Vista, Crede, and other sites in Colorado and to Saratoga in Wyoming.

This was the time four of five children joined in the sport enthusiastically. The fifth was more interested in academics. Andy has a doctorate in Social Studies and is now involved in Adult Literacy Marge learned to fly aerobatics under the tutelage of Ivan Jaszlics but abandoned it when she found she was too different from her teenage friends at school.

We appreciate the interest our children show in keeping active and growing the Kolstad Youth Soaring Awards and College Scholarship Grant.

Presently, Mid is setting up an award for recipients who belong to the Womens' Soaring Pilots Association. This photo is Mid in the center, as president of the Womens' Glider Club long before she met Ken.

Marge Kolstad

Posted: 6/27/2007

Final Glide 

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