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About the USA Soaring Teams

Each year soaring pilots from around the nation come together to compete for the title of National Champion in their respective classes. These events have all the drama, intrigue and competitive challenge of more widely recognized sporting events. National competitors are ranked by class with typically the top two pilots being selected by the Soaring Society of America to represent the United States at World Gliding Championships.

World Gliding Championships

Photo #5880 | 1976 coverWorld Gliding Championships (WGC) are considered to be the highest expression of competitive soaring with the best sailplane pilots from around the world coming together to determine a champion of champions. Championships can last for ten days or more with victory coming by only the thinnest of margins in many cases. Some have compared the competitive challenge of WGC soaring to America’s Cup yacht racing or World Cup Soccer. All World Gliding Championships are held under the auspices of the Federation Aeronautique International (FAI) and the International Gliding Committee (IGC).

U.S. Soaring Team History

The history of United States Soaring Teams is a rich one. Since 1950, the Soaring Society of America has fielded pilots to World Gliding Championships with honor and distinction. Five United States pilots including Paul MacCready, Jr, A.J. Smith, George Moffat (2), and Doug Jacobs have returned home as World Champions. The Team Archive is the place to find the original accounts of world championships from the pages of Soaring magazine, view the historical team images and see the team patches. As part of the overall archive tour see the U.S. Team History for a chart listing all U.S. Soaring Teams since 1950 and the WGC Champions page for a historical listing of World Champions since 1937.  

More Opportunity

Exciting changes to world level competitive soaring have been occurring over the last several years. New classes, new events and even new championships have been evolving. Currently there are eight classes active in competitive soaring. These are the Open, 15-Meter, Standard, 18-Meter, Club, 20m 2-seater, Junior and Feminine classes. These changes have opened up WGC participation to new segments of the soaring community fostering new enthusiasm in the emerging classes.

U.S. Teams are Important To Soaring

Our soaring teams represent our nation and our soaring community internationally. Competitive soaring, the prospect of team membership and international competition builds participation in the sport, provides motivation to achieve at a higher level and pushes the boundaries of pilot skill and technology. Competitive soaring rewards excellence while supplying some of the spark that keeps our sport going. Competitors tend to be among the most active in the sport on the local and national level while generally giving back to the community as club presidents, instructors and supporters.

U.S. Team Selection

Photo #5883 | 1991 TeamUnited States Soaring Team pilots are chosen by the Soaring Society of America (SSA) based on recent performance in National and World-level competition. After each of the U.S. Nationals, competitors' scores are compared to the winner's score. Each of the national winners receives a ranking score of 100 with the rest of the field ranked based on how close their scores are to the winners. The pilots current and two previous years performance are considered when selecting U.S. Soaring Team members with the current year being weighted more heavily.

U.S. Soaring Team rankings can be very close with only a fraction of a point separating competitors. When U.S. pilots do well in world level contests they earn bonus points that count toward their selection to future U.S. Soaring Teams. The number of team members who represent the United States at a World Soaring Championships is ultimately determined by the World Championship contest organizers and the SSA. The complete description of the U.S. Soaring Team Selection Method is available at John Leibacher's excellent Soaring Server site under contests. See the U.S. Team Selection page for more.

U.S. Team Structure

United States Soaring Teams are managed by the U.S. Soaring Team Committee Chairman as established by the Soaring Society of America Board of Directors in 1995 and modernized in 2003. The six-member committee includes the Contest Committee Chairman, the U.S. Team Chairman, the SSA President, plus three members elected by the members of the SSA. The procedure for selecting the three elected members is nearly identical to that used for the Rules Committee elections: nominations from SSA directors, SSA-conducted election and staggered elected terms with one position up for election each year. The establishment of this committee provides some much-needed institutional continuity to U.S. Team management as individual volunteers come and go. Operational aspects are handled by the U.S. Team Chairman and the various Team Captains. See the U.S. Team Committee page for more.

For more on how U.S. Team are organized see the Team Organization page. For more on the U.S. Team Committee see the Team Committee page. See the Team Funding page for more information on how the US Soaring teams are funded.


Posted: 6/1/2010

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