The Carolina Soaring Association is a not-for-profit club with about 30 members. Many of our members own a single seat glider and are very active in cross country flying, and even compete in soaring contests. We fly almost every Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting, and occasionally during the week. The club owns a high performance two seat glider for training and rides, as well as a high performance single seat glider. Additionally, CSA owns a tow plane and a winch to get the gliders into the air.
CSA has certified flight instructors available to members for training. Students can take lessons in the Grob 103 Acro trainer and later transition into the lighter, sleeker single place Standard Astir. Members can take advantage of the club's Pawnee 235 tow plane, or opt for a launch using the winch.
We hold a monthly meeting at the Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport every second Saturday of the month at 10:30am. Anyone may attend the meetings and they are a great way to meet our members and get information on joining the club.
The Grob 103 Twin Acro is a high performance two seat sailplane. We use it for flight training, introductory rides, and members can fly it with friends and family. It has a comfortable and roomy cockpit with excellent visibility from both the front and rear seats. It is an ideal trainer because it is rated for aerobatics, making it robust and forgiving for new pilots to fly. Thanks to its performance however, it is also capable of long cross country flights.
The Grob 102 Standard Astir was manufactured by the same company in Germany as our two-seater. The "Standard" in the name refers to the competition class that the glider was designed to fly in. It is a good transition for students from the trainer to this glider because it is also quite easy to fly. Besides only having one seat, it has a retractable landing gear and is slightly better performing. Pilots are encouraged to take the Standard Astir on cross country flights for badges and records.
This is a picture of a G102 hanging in the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum
The Carolina Soaring Association if proud to be one of the few clubs in the nation that uses a winch for launching gliders into the air. Our winch is capable of paying out 4,500 feet of Specra line, spanning the entire length of the airport's runway. We can routinely achieve release heights of 1,500 feet, and under favorable conditions even over 2,000 feet. The winch launch takes the pilot from a stand-still to release in about 45 seconds, making it about the closest thing to being catapulted from an aircraft carrier a civilian can experience! It is quick, exciting, and significantly cheaper than using a tow plane. This makes it ideal for primary flight training, when a student needs repetition and landing practice.
CSA is active in promoting winch launching as an alternative to aero-tow. We are using our expertise and years of experience to host winch clinics, where glider pilots can come for instruction and earn their winch launch endorsement. Our winch and several key members in its design and construction have been featured in Soaring Magazine, and this sequence shot of a launch even made the cover!
Photo by Scott Thomason
The winch is a brilliantly simple design; it is nothing more than an engine, a drive train, and a drum to spool the cable onto. All this is mounted on a frame with wheels so we can tow it around like a trailer. It doesn't command much respect until you see and experience what this machine is capable of. The 460 cubic-inch V8 is modified to produce 310 horse power and 460 foot-pounds of torque. It can accelerate the glider from 0 to 60 mph in about 2 seconds! After a little over 30 seconds the pilot will be almost a mile away at the opposite end of the runway, and over 1,500 ft above the ground. From this altitude a skilled glider pilot can find a thermal and soar away, not returning for several hours.
Our winch is also being used in a grass-roots research project, aiming to measure and log the forces in the cable during a launch. The data being collected may some day lead to a fully automated winch launch.