Walter Rogers

Walt Rogers WX Writings

Mar 29, 2014

Boettger Downwind Record Flight Minden to Rapid City, SD 03-29-2014

Updated 1437 PDT Saturday ..On the ground

On Saturday March 29 I [Gordon Boettger] will be making another distance record attempt along with Hugh Bennett in the Duo Discus sailplane. Our intention is to be towed up by a towplane shortly before sunrise from the Minden Tahoe airport NV (KMEV), release and head in the direction of Rapid City, SD (KRAP), landing near sunset after flying over 850 miles. If we can go beyond that, we obviously will. As most know, we will be making this attempt in an unmotorized sailplane utilizing mountain wave updrafts to stay aloft. The weather is favorable for this intended direction, however excessive moisture is a concern and things can change rapidly. If the flight is aborted, Walt Rogers will post on his twitter account (below). We intend to climb up to 28,000 feet before proceeding east. As most know, there’s no way to tell how far we end up going. It will depend on what the weather allows. It will be cold as the cockpit is unheated and unpressurized. There are too many factors involved to tell how far we end up, which also makes it quite fun to watch from the sidelines on the ground. Our call sign for the flight will be N55LK.

We will also be posting live pictures and video feed (workload permitting) and be in satellite communication with Walt Rogers, our meteorologist and dispatcher. You can follow his excellent twitter feeds with weather updates and our progress and inflight pictures by going to:

You can join us during the flight by following our track which gives position, altitude, speed, and heading. Updates occur every 5 minutes. Click on the blue dots to see our position, speed, altitude, and heading. Click on the following link to access the site on Saturday, 3/29:

Also, we can be tracked on: (not as precise)

One can also follow our live communications with Air Traffic Control by going to: (I believe our first frequency will be Norcal Approach on 119.2 and then for OAK center 127.95 or 134.45)

My goal is to share this wonderful adventure and beauty of unpowered flight with the rest of the world. Without being in the cockpit, this is the best way we know how to share it. Feel free to share this with your friends. Enjoy the ride,

Gordon Boettger N55LK

2030 PDT Friday

Here's some numerical model forecasts at 13Z around 6am PDT from the NOAA RAP and HRRR.

500mb Valid 6am 300mb Valid 6am

700mb RH 1 Hr Precip

Mean Vert Vel Cloud Base

Notice the moist plume coming into the Sierras. We're hoping that this won't kill lower atmosphere stability such as to significantly dampen mountain wave action. Low level winds across Lake Tahoe and into the Carson Valley should be quite strong, however. The HRRR model does show wave over the Carson Valley

2245 PDT Friday

Flight Plan

Flight Plan

0545 PDT Saturday

Mountain wave is working well in Carson Valley with surface wind gusts to 45mph west side of valley. Notice this mesonet map showing surface wind gusts in red.

Mesonet surface wind gusts

Below is the Radar mosaic

Radar Mosaic

The HRRR model is showing strong wave action in the lee of the Sierras here

HRRR Mean Layer Vertical Velocity

0635 PDT

Takeoff at 0614 PST. Here's a photo of our daring adventurers!

PreTakeoff In Dark

0801 PDT

Gordo has reached "top of climb" in wave lift to approximately FL250 about 28sm SW of Winnemucca, NV. Now headed downwind to the north end of the Ruby Mountains.

Here's a 1km GOES satellite photo

GOES 1km 1445Z

HRRR model Mean Layer Vertical Velocity showing two wave areas for last and next climb

HRRR Model valid 16Z

1040 PDT

During the last hour since 0931 PDT, Gordo has been scavenging for a good climb, but mostly find 2kts or so in the lee of the Rubys. As of 1031 PDT he was climbing thru 20872msl 4sm SSW of Wells NV. At around 1000 PDT, he descended through a cloud deck near 16000msl and had to maintain IMC for 2-3 minutes. Thanks god for that new solid state attitude horizon instrument. The plan is to get as high as possible, hopefully near FL280 and make a run to the Logan Valley where there is a nice wave cloud SW of the town.

GOES 1km Vis Photo 1730Z 1030 PDT

1131 PDT

Just reached a "top of climb" near Montecello (NV/UT border) and is beginning a downwind run towards Logan UT with a ground speed of 150mph. Between noon and 1220 PDT N55LK will be crossing the Great Salt Lake and approaching the Logan Valley. Satellite photos show a near solid cloud layer probably 15000 to 16500msl. Still seeing a beautiful wave cloud on the west side of Logan Valley.

GOES 1km Vis photo

1255 PDT

Cloud coverage 10000 to 18000msl is increasing in arial coverage evrything NE Nevada, Northern UT and into extreme SW Wyoming. There appears to be based on GOES IR and visible imagery a wide spread thickening and coverage increase probably due to synoptic scale lifting and moistening ahead of the front or 500mb trough. I called Gordo at 1245 PDT and we discussed this. At that time, 1245 PDT he was over KLGU climbing through 13500msl. I noted that there is a bigger gap (foehnn gap) on the west edge of Bear Lk with a nice wave cloud. However, for safety reason, we agreed that a decision will have to be made soon on whether to proceed NE toward Bear Lk or downwind.

1312 PDT

Gordo called me at 1305 PDT and we had a long discussion. He attempted to proceed NE toward south end of Bear Lake, but encountered lowering cloud bases and snow showers, thus turned back toward LGU. The Butterfly is giving erroneous ground speed readings indicating static icing. It's looking unsafe to continue the flight, but no final decision has been made. The key factor from my perspective is the widespread increasing cloud cover over Eastern NV, all of UT and moving into extreme SW Wyoming. All signs point to an aborted attempt.

Here are the GOES IR satellite photos for four hours from 1630Z to 1930Z (930 PDT TO 1230 PDT). Note the expanding coverage of cloud cover.


1413 PDT

Here's a photo at 1354 PDT 10sm E-NE Logan showing snow showers to mountain tops and near cloud base at 11500msl

Photo Near Cloud Base

Gordo is still loitering around hoping for best.... unwilling to quit...unwilling to dive toward south end of Bear Lake. His crew, Rick Walters, is already heading towards Logan with an ETA around 6pm PDT.

1430 PDT

On the ground at Logan UT airport

Photo On The Ground

Whoops! Forgot to smile for the camera. Jeesh... we're really having a great time here!

Photo On The Ground with Smiles

Mar 6, 2014

Boettger Zig Zag Minden Susanville Mojave 03-06-2014

Updated 2156PST March 7, 2014

Sixteen new photos from cockpit.

Here's Gordon Boettger's DeLorme InReach track

The SSA Tracker site only shows his Spot.

Jim Payne is also doing his zig-zag out of Minden.

Also, some Sat photos, cockpit Iphone photos, and HRRR model mountain depiction. We both discussed whether or not to conduct a downwind record for today. It was decided that too much cloud cover precip would prevent save VFR flight past Elko, NV. Current conditions from Elko to Salt Lake City and Logan show BKN-OVC 11500-13000 up to 18,000msl with light precip in UT and SW WY.

Folder of cockpit photos, Sat Imagery, and HRRR lee wave data.

Will update blog later with embedded photos and more info.

Follow on twitter @wrogerswx

Walt Rogers WX

1728PST Landed back at Minden

Here's a posting of posting of the flight log

Feb 16, 2014

Boettger Downwind Record Flight Minden to South Dakota 02-17-2014

Updated 1935 PST February 18, 2014

At sunrise on 17 February, Gordon Boettger and Hugh Bennett are planning on launching in the Duo Discus glider from Minden aiming for Rapid City, SD as our goal, a distance of over 933 miles. Below is a link to the map with our position updates every 5 minutes. If you’d like to see the details of our position, you can click on the blue dots on the map to see our speed, altitude, time, and position. Please do not send text messages to the InReach as I will be extremely busy. Walt Rogers will be assisting in weather and communications with us throughout the flight. We just have to hope that the weather lines up properly for this to happen. It should be fun to watch as a lot can happen flying without a motor.

Gordon Boettger is sharing their location at the MapShare web site:

Follow on twitter:

Walt's Blog:

NOTE: Due to the large (70+) cc: address on Gordon's past flights, we must significantly cut back entries on that list. Please, monitor the flight either on my twitter feed @wrogerswx or my blog. Last time, Google shut down my email account late in the afternoon.

2200 PST Sunday

Looking at model data, Gordo has an excellent chance of successfully making way to South Dakota.

First, the wave should be working fine in the Carson Valley at sunrise. Take a look at this HRRR model graphic valid 14Z 6am PST

HRRR model vertical velocity 14Z 6am PST

showing a well formed mountain wave (MW) and trains of them downwind across the NV ID border and eastward.

Here is the KTVL (Tahoe Valley airport) forecast sounding valid 15Z 7am PST


which shows strong SW winds 42kts at ridge top level (add 6000ft to vertical height) shifting to WNW at around 25,000msl

Second, the jetstream axis (see 500mb - 18,000msl maps) remains somewhat to the north along the OR WA border across Northern ID.

RAP 500MB 15Z 7am PSTRAP 500MB 20z noon PST

This tends to keep the moisture north of the Snake River Valley as can be seen in the 700mb charts (10,000msl) humidity 50pct light green 70pct dark green. RAP 700MB 15Z 7am PSTRAP 700MB 20Z noon PST

Low level winds over mountain tops average W-WSW 40-60kts from Logan, UT eastward into Wyoming ... and this will generate very strong mountain wave action Monday afternoon. Good lenticular markers can be expected. Moisture and precipitation should stay north of the track in NW Wyoming.

Overall... it looks excellent for a great long record downwind wave flight!

0550 Monday

Infared Satellite photo shows a high cirrus standing lenticular from Reno area S and SSE trailing downwind

GOES IR 20140217 1330Z

Minden surface temperature 23-28F at 5am. Slide Mountain 9600ft showing WSW winds 44 gust 54mph... but most wind along lower ridge tops west of Carson Valley SW 7-15mph. The wave is undoubtedly there. Gordo say it will probably take a tow 10-15 miles north into Washoe Valley to connect.

0614 PST

Here's the vertical velocity m/s forecast from the HRRR model 11Z (3am run) valid at 13Z 6am

HRRR 20140217 11Z Valid 13Z


Photos of takeoff and initial climb. Mouse over photo for caption. Click through for large version. All times PST

N55LK Duo Discus Pre Take Off 0626am PST Ready to go! 0635am PST

0648 Aero Tow out of Minden 0713 Looking north cruising by Carson City NV 0744 Lake Tahoe 23800msl almost top of climb

Instrument Panel

0834 PST

Takeoff took place estimated 0643PST. Gordo cruised north and settled on a "sweet spot" near the NW corner of Washo Lake reaching top of climb at around 0806PST near FL280. He turned downwind at 0808 and rapidly settled on 125-135mph ground speed toward ENE.

I received several dropped Iridium satellite phone calls... could hear the pressure breathing. My text messaging is pointing him toward a mountain wave spot just downwind of Mt Augusta 39 34N 117 47W about 110 statue miles. HRRR model vertical velocity indicates the wave at that spot.

Flight aware is now tracking the DUO on their site Flight Aware N55LK

1020 PST

Gordo reached a mountain wave "sweet spot" just NE of Mt Augusta and began climbing 1-2kts at around 0901PST. After reaching top of climb at 0935PST FL219, he turned downwind NE toward Elko, NV (EKO). From a 0925PST satellite phone call... " I've got EKO made by 4000ft and will parallel ranges working lift on the way"

Here's the HRRR model mountain wave forecast valid 18Z or 10am PST. You can see the strong lift at the Ruby Mtns... but he doesn't have enough to reach it. HRRR 4HR Forecast 18Z

Satellite photos from GOES 1km Visible are not very helpful. Lots of high cirrus layers obscuring lower mid level clouds.GOES 1KM VIS VALID 18Z

1040 PST

Photos crossing Central Nevada. Mouse over photo for caption. Click through for large version. All times PST

0902 North Central Nevada Mt Augusta Looking south 18960msl 1122 Ruby Mountains  Looking South 20099msl 1510 Ruby Mountains  Looking South 20099msl

1210 PST

After reaching top of climb of FL242 in the " lift since Minden 4kts..." at 1107 PST Gordo headed ENE at 150mph ground speed. They crossed Snow Lake Peak at around 17,800msl, then flew NE paralleling range downwind... but hit very strong sink descending to 14,500 before finding lift 12nm SSW of Wells, NV. As of 1153 PST they were climbing strong 6-8kts going through 16,500msl.

1327 PST

Gordo is just crossing the north end of the Great Salt Lake FL190 heading toward Logan, UT with glide margin of 8000ft. Plans are to connect to wave from the range west of Logan (7nm WSW), climb and then transition NE onto the River Range to a point near the NW edge of Bear Lake. A good climb will be needed there to near FL280 before making a 145 statue mile glide to the BIG ONE...Wind River Range. It's still difficult to make out any wave clouds due to the mix if cirrus layers. We are relying on the High Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) 3km model to locate the wave spots. Here's one:

HRRR 20140217 18Z Valid 22Z 2pm PST

1428 PST

Gordo got a short climb 7nm SW Logan, UT topping out around 17600msl when lift weakened to 1kt. He turned NE and at 1424 PST was over the center of Bear Lake still searching at 12800msl. Bear Lake County airport is a good alternate. I've already talked to the airport manager, Hank Medford. Runway lights, unicom, manager lives on airport; rental car available and town of Montpellier 5mi away. Sure hope that he connect soon... and goes to FL280 !

1530 PST

Photos vicinity Logan UT and Bear Lake. Mouse over photo for caption. Click through for large version. All times PST

1357 Logan UT Looking NNW 17300msl 1358 Looking SE Near Logan UT 1531 Looking North toward Afton 26450msl

1550 PST

BREAKING NEWS! After dithering around over the center of Bear Lake, Gordo connected to the wave! Topped out at 1518 PST FL280. By 1525 PST he called to say "...I've got Riverton, WY made by 8000ft margin; Winds 283/75kts. UPDATE: Gordo called at 1540 PST. ATC requires that he land at Riverton because both Mode C transponders are not reporting altitude (only location). Still has an 8300ft margin above glide. "... sure is cold up here... and I'm over no mans land". Sunset Riverton 1648PST. Here's a satellite photo 2330Z or 1530PST GOES 1KM VIS 2330Z

HRRR Model Vert Velocity valid 00Z 1600 PST

1605 PST

Photos just before crossing Wind River Range. Mouse over photo for caption. Click through for large version. All times PST

1558 Looking North Wind River Range 18200msl 1601 Looking North Wind River Range 18200msl

1617 PST

GOODNEWS! Going up 10kts thru FL190; Transponder warmed up and working. Just downwind Wind River Range; Next alternate Casper, WY. After crossing the Wind River Range and encountering "bodacious" sink, suddenly 5NW Lander, WY... 10kts (1000fpm) up. He topped out at FL265. After turning downwind toward Casper, WY, it was a 235mph race to get on the ground before end of civil twilight (Gordo does have navigation lights).

1708 PST

Gordo is about to land at Casper, WY in a few minutes. Final glide ground speed 235mph. I've coordinated with Atlantic Aviation field manager to assist in pushing glider into a huge hangar. He can land on RWY 21 taxiway ... turn left onto ramp and roll to within a couple hundred feet of a hangar. Thanks to "Jen"

Here's what the surface winds look like in the area

Mesowest Winds 01Z 20140218

1823 PST

Landing confirmed at around 1707 PST. Talked with Gordo at 1750 PST on his cell. The ship and crew are safe and warm in the big hangar at Casper Natrona International airport, WY

Gordon Boettger Hugh Bennett - Victory Pose - Casper Wyoming

This flight will be a new National Open Multi Place free distance record of around 743 statue miles... perhaps 5sm more if he released SW of the airport). The previous record of 701.45sm was also set by Gordon and Hugh, last year on Apr 15, 2013.

Good night and evening to all... It's been a 14 hour day acting as your glider dispatcher, correspondent, meteorologist and concierge... much like last years effort.

Walt Rogers WX

Jan 24, 2014

Why Did California City Become a Glider Unfriendly Airport?

Updated January 24, 2014

On January 17, 2014, Marty Eiler, the Fixed Base Operator (FBO) of the glider operation at California City Airport (L71) solemnly announced the end of his glider towing operations beginning February 3, 2014. This will end over 35+ years of soaring and recreational flying... the "End of an Era" at Cal City

Decisions precipitated by the City Manager, Tom Weil, have created economic conditions that make a viable business for Martin Eiler Aviation unworkable. Earlier blogs discuss this: October 25, 2013 "California City Airport Unfriendly to Glider Operations" and January 19, 2014 "Cal Trans Responds to SSA Letter - Where Do We Go From Here?"

You can read Marty's announcement email and explanation of his decision here.

Why has this happened and what lead up to this situation?

This was the question we, the California City Glider Pilots Action Group (CCGPAG), took on back in August 2013. After over five months of investigation, examination of Cal Trans permits, letters, correspondence and freedom of information requests, the picture has become clear.

The City Manager decided that commercialization and business development was to take precedence at the cost of soaring and other recreational aviation activities. This involved an over 11 year secret campaign he devised in 2002 to have Cal Trans depermit the glider landing strips and eventually force all flight operations, powered and unpowered to be combined on the main runway, inefficient for all and hazardous for sailplanes. If the city had conducted this campaign properly, it would have worked with the gliding and business airport community to come up with a Master Plan (ALP) that would have been mutually workable by all

So, what is the problem with that? Why not develop the airport in the way the city manager would like?

The answer is that California City is a public use airport developed with FAA funding. Or, more precisely... Federal Grant Assurances. Putting it another way... they are obligated to abide by the law.

Title 49 U.S.C. § 47101, et seq., provides for federal airport financial assistance for the development of public-use airports under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) established by the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982. Title 49 U.S.C. § 47107, et seq., sets forth assurances to which an airport sponsor agrees as a condition of receiving federal financial assistance. Upon acceptance of an AIP grant, the assurances become a binding contractual obligation between the airport sponsor and the federal government. The assurances made by airport sponsors in AIP grant agreements are important factors in maintaining a viable national airport system.

You can read more about the complaint to the FAA filed by the glider FBO, and other interests including the Soaring Society of America (SSA). Attachments 1-2

But there are other good reasons to promote recreation and glider activities. General aviation activity is declining and threatening the supply of enough trained professional pilots. One recent article on, "When it comes to promoting aviation are we on the right track?" January 14, 2014 Brent Owens:

By using a gateway drug that’s fun, relatively inexpensive, and teaches the fundamentals of flight, we come away with a new crop of pilots who have a solid foundation upon which to build.

Imagine having “fun flying centers” around the country where you can learn to fly gliders, ultralights, hang gliders, etc. Putting more energy into setting the hook this way will garner more folks who graduate to the big iron later on.

Besides violating the Federal Grant Assurances ... Martin Eiler glider business is the LAST active flight operation on the airport. Glider pilots and crews buy gas, eat at the restaurant, stay at local hotels and create financial benefits to the city. Airport operations will drop by 2/3rds without glider and tow plane activity. Why would the city sponsor want to turn the ramp space into an extension of the Mojave Desert? Soaring is an environmentally green activity... the purest form of flight. And the skills developed and taught are an invaluable resource especially for professional pilots like Sully Sullenberger. His "dead stick" landing on the Hudson was greatly aided by a background in glider pilotage.

Yes But... Cal Trans Department of Airports will not permit legacy glider operations!

FAA safety determinations pursuant to the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) take precedence over any airport sponsor views, state interpretations of FARs or local ordinances pertaining to safety. The final ruling from the complaint filed to the FAA will determine the legitimacy of "legacy" glider operations and/or the need to develop a new glider friendly Master Plan (ALP).

The really sad part of this story is that an airport plan COULD HAVE BEEN DEVELOPED that accommodated both business commercial interests AND recreational flying so that all parties mutually benefit.

With the value and knowledge of 5 months of study and perfect hindsight, let me address points brought out at an August 6, 2013 city council meeting as described in Jill Nelson's Mojave Desert News article "New Plans Unveiled for Cal City Airport" (Aug 16th 2013):

CALIFORNIA CITY – The California City Council approved a request to install a temporary taxiway at the City > > Airport at a recent Council meeting.

Norm Hill Aviation made the request for the taxiway to be used for towing purposes to Taxiway A, which is on the company’s leased property. It would be used to take planes and other things to its hangers.

The proposed taxiway would be 30 feet by 225 feet. Hill Aviation will fund the project, but asked the City to do the grading. A grind compound will be added later to control dust.

“We’ve been trying to do something like this for years,” said City Manager Tom Weil.

Hill noted that the City’s Airport is a ‘diamond’ of place.

“It’s not looked at enough as a viable place,” he said. “I think more businesses would come here if they if looked into it further.”

REBUTTAL: The FAA requires the airport owner or sponsor to keep its Airport Layout Plan (ALP), which is a planning tool for depicting current and future airport use, up to date. Grant Assurance 29 prohibits the airport owner or sponsor from making or permitting any changes or alterations in the airport or any of its facilities that are not in conformity with its FAA-approved ALP. The last airport Master Plan (ALP) approved by the FAA on 01/06/2006 does not support such a taxiway without building a new "glider runway". In any case, the ALP has expired after it's 5 year term and requires another approval by the FAA.

By gaining this new taxiway, another entity loses. Because of updated FAA rules, the two glider runways that parallel Taxiway A must be deactivated.

REBUTTAL: The city cannot deactivate the two glider runways because the airport Master Plan (ALP) does not support it. The city needs to prepare and update their Master Plan (ALP) and conduct sufficient public debate with all aviation interests and get it approved by the FAA

“We had been working with the FAA to try and devise a revised plan for the runways,” Weil said. “All our plans were turned down because of its non-standard design. The FAA will not fund any future construction projects to the airport if we do not conform to its standards.”*

REBUTTAL: Yes, Mr Weil may have been working with the FAA to devise a revised plan... but he did not involve glider interests nor conduct any public debate. In fact, changes to the airport permit by the state, Cal Trans Department of Airports, were hidden from the glider operator for over 11 years!

Martin Eiler, who had run the glider operation, disagreed with the findings.“There are always exceptions for small airports,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and asked to be part of the discussions. If I had, it’s possible things could have been different with the FAA. I was kept in the dark.”

SUPPORT: Not only was Martin Eiler kept in the dark about discussions of airport infrastructure, he was NOT told by the airport manager or city manager, Tom Weil, that the glider state permit dis-allowed towplane glider takeoffs on the taxiway. This activity continued from March 2002 until August 2013. Had there have been an accident the city would have been vulnerable to legal action.

Mayor Pat Bohannon reported they had to go with the FAA recommendations. “If someone has a accident or crashes, the City would be liable,” he said. “We have to be in compliance.”

REBUTTAL: It was the Cal Trans Department of Airports interpretation of the safety of glider operations (May 13, 2013 letter to city) that lead to the depermitting of the runways and an order directing the city to destroy them. The FAA made no such recommendation. FAA safety determinations pursuant to the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) take precedence over any airport sponsor views, state interpretations of FARs or local ordinances pertaining to safety.

The City also has to be in coordination with CalTrans to implement an operations plan. It will require a 60-day implementation schedule to allow coordination and communications with based airport users.

REBUTTAL: There is no evidence of any coordination with CalTrans to implement an operations plan. Martin Eiler the most impacted airport user was given only 10 days before the city council meeting to respond to a city order directing a radical change in glider operations.

So How can all this be fixed and/or resolved?

After a favorable safety determination by the FAA evaluating the previous glider operations at Cal City it is the request of the California City Pilots Action Group (CCPAG) that the city sponsor immediately re-instate a return to "legacy" operations. These legacy glider operations should be allowed by the City, until all necessary improvements to infrastructure are made that support the safe and efficient use by powered and unpowered aircraft. These improvements must be included in a new Airport Layout Plan (ALP) approved by the FAA.

The California City Glider Pilots Action Group (CCGPAG) consists of:

  • Martin Eiler, FBO Martin Eiler Aviation
  • John Shmoldas - SSA Liason and Principal Investigator
  • Walter Rogers - Cal Pilots liason
  • Andy McKittrick - AOPA liason
Jan 24, 2014

"End of Era" - Cal City Glider Celebration - Saturday February 1, 2014


Glider Friends of Cal City...

The California City gliding community wishes to have an "End of Era" celebration Saturday Feb 1, 2014 at L71 marking Marty Eiler's last weekend of tow operations. We hope to fill the skies with sailplanes on Saturday and Sunday. Plans are to invite the media on Saturday for this an of era event which includes a parade of trailers through downtown California City beginning at 415pm. An extra Pawnee towplane will be available on Saturday from Santa Ynez

If you can't fly, come anyway whenever you can as we will gather at Foxy's Restaurant both mornings, Dinner at Foxy's around 530pm on Saturday and at Glorias Mexican Restaurant around 5pm on Sunday.

Marty as the glider FBO and tow pilot will be the preflight coordinator of our launch/recovery procedures and once we begin, with Chuck Griswald's help, and with a handheld radio, John Schmoldas will manage ground ops and run wings. I'm sure there will plenty of help from guys in the que on the taxiway.

I have checked with the airport manager, Robert King, and he has given us his blessing with no special problems for airport access.

Here's a great video from the cockpit of John Shmoldas flying his Discus B over Cal City (204MB).



10am - Foxy's Breakfast
11am - Pilots Meeting; Weather; Airport Manager and Airport Briefing
1pm - Approximate Launch Time
415pm - Parade of Trailers through California City
530pm - Gather at Foxy's for Dinner


10am - Foxy's Breakfast
11am - Pilots Meeting; Weather; Airport Manager and Airport Briefing
5pm - Gather at Glorias's for Dinner; Superbowl begins 3:25pm PST

Please let us know:

1) Will you be needing a tow and flying? Which Day? 2) If attending for the morning breakfast or dinner... indicate which days or time periods

Just need to get a rough head count to help our restaurant friends. No special arrangements have been made for the dinners other than to give them a idea of the size of parties.

Walter Rogers - WX POC for Airport Manager and Restaurants

cell: 805-573-5726

Martin Eiler

cell: 661-400-4914

Jan 19, 2014

Cal Trans Responds to SSA Letter - Where Do We Go From Here?

JANUARY 19, 2014

Late in November 2013 the Soaring Society of America (SSA) received a response from Cal Trans over a request to "... immediately authorize a return to prior operations including the two glider landing strips and towed departures from the parallel taxiway, until an FAA-approved change in glider infrastructure, supported by an aeronautical study, is in place". Here is the original request letter submitted by the CCGPAG and SSA with attachments. Cal Trans re-affirmed their stand to NOT permit a return to legacy glider operations. A summary of the legacy glider operations can be viewed in my early blog post "California City Airport Unfriendly To Glider Operations".

The original reply letter from Jeff Brown, Chief Office of Airports, California Department of Transportation, can be viewed here, one to the Soaring Society of America, Cindy Brickner and the other to California City manager, Tom Weil

Suffice it to say, Cal Trans has "thrown the book" of FAR Part 77 full airport runway regulations at glider landing and takeoff operations. The Cal Trans ruling is a gross over reach of airport design rules that have not applied to glider strip operations for over 35 years! Why now all of a sudden? Perhaps the airport sponsor wanted it that way...

Few people, even us, the California City Glider Pilots Action Group (CCGPAG) truly understand Cal Trans' explanation and interpretation of the rules. Such things as the Runway Safe Zone (RSA), Taxiway Safety Area (TSA), Runway Protection Zone (RPZ), Obstacle Free Zones, Obstruction to Navigable Airspace by the south fence encroaching into an FAR Part 77 "imaginary surface". Take a look at the reply letter. Their analyses will make your head spin!

These are some other points of contention:

  • Cal Trans did not accept the concept of Dependent landing/takeoff operations. Gliders and aircraft never tow off or land simultaneously on parallel surfaces
  • Safety Issues were cited in a 1996 letter from a disgruntled airport manager along with "near miss" incidents. No documentation or NTSB reporting has ever substantiated legacy Cal City glider operations as being a causal factor of any accident or incident
  • Cal Trans gave the airport Sponsor, California City, 10+ years of temporary permitting to come up with a compliant safe and efficient glider operation. Yet, they did nothing... other than add a drainage ditch which is hazardous to emergency landing surfaces
  • Cal Trans cites glider operations from other public use airports with taxiway light as being safe. Yet, concurrent airplane glider operations on one runway is LESS SAFE than the legacy Cal City operations with parallel dependent takeoff/landings
  • Runway lights on the main runway 95 feet apart are hazardous to sailplanes taking off with cross winds or ballast

So Where Do We Go From Here?

California City as a Federally Funded Airport is obligated to meet it's FAA grant assurance. As a result the Sponsor, California City, will be the subject of a Part 13.1 complaint that was filed with the FAA on January 17, 2014. Here is a copy of the complaint with attachments


Oct 25, 2013

California City Airport Unfriendly to Glider Operations


On August 6th, 2013 the city council meeting of California City passed an ordinance directing that all glider take offs and landings be conducted from the main runway.

After more than 35 years of glider operations, on May 14, 2013, Cal Trans directed the City to discontinue use of the glider runways and taxiway towing operations. Gliders were to combine operations with powered aircraft on the main runway. The glider runways were "to be permanently disabled so they were no longer discernible as landing surfaces." Furthermore Cal Trans stated that "Any landings or takeoff operations from these unpermitted surfaces would be a violation of State law."

Cal City Airport Glider Operations

As you can see in the above airport diagram, glider operations used to be completely separate from the main runway. Now, glider tows require staging one glider at a time on the main runway before takeoff. Glider landings require a full stop on the center line because of nearby runway lights. It takes additional time for the pilot or assistant to move the glider clear of the main runway.

Here is a photo showing gliders staging for takeoff on taxiway 060 degree heading TaxiwayCalCityStagingTakeoff

Pilots like myself and others from the California City Glider Pilots Action Group (CCGPAG) are trying to remedy this unreasonable and unjustifiable situation created by Cal Trans and the city.

What does this mean for for the aviation, business and public community?


  • Gliders now conflict with airplanes on the main runway.
    • Staging from the taxiway for hook up with a tow plane and pre-take off check lists take between 5-10 minutes
    • Landing gliders require a full stop near a taxiway and manually pushing the glider off the runway
    • Tying up the runway requires close coordination with airplanes on the unicom frequency, possibly preventing their landing for a short period
    • Safety is compromised when compared to landing gliders on a parallel glider strip or takeoffs from the taxiway
  • Collision with runway lights by "weather vaning" gliders in crosswinds and dropped wings during takeoffs is a big safety issue for gliders

  • Glider operator, Martin Eiler Aviation, cannot operate a viable business due to the man power required for launch/recoveries and inefficiency of the operation. This will directly impact the California City community with a loss of income to a variety of small business owners.

  • Airport improvements from FAA, although providing a solution, are costly and still decrease the efficiency of parallel glider take offs and landings

Why did this happen? Why is the government forcing this change to a less efficient less safe operation?

These are the question the CCGPAG is trying to fathom. There is a long story of airport permits from California Department of Transportation (Cal Trans) Airports, communications with California City and the FAA. Here is a write up: "Why is California City No Longer a Glider Friendly Airport?"

  • Lack of communication and coordination between Cal Trans and California City with the glider operator
    • Airport Permit 2002 directed glider operations only from glider runway. This was never communicated to glider FBO
    • Cal Trans inspection of 2006 directed closure of glider strips. This was never communicated to glider FBO
  • Glider strips and taxiway takeoffs have traditionally been operated as a variance from FAA standard runway procedures. Cal Trans ended this variance WITHOUT PROPER ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW including all aviation stake holders
  • Cal Trans inappropriately applied FAA AC 150 runway standards to glider strips. Our review (SSA) concludes that the glider strips ARE compliant with these standards
  • Cal Trans did NOT give due consideration to the safety compromise and inefficiencies that result from conducting mixed airplane and glider operations on the main runway

What is the current status and action to end the unfriendly and unsafe glider operations?

CCGPAG has prepared and the Soaring Society of America (SSA) has just submitted an urgent letter to Jeff Brown (Chief, Office of Airports Division of Aeronautics California Department of Transportation), documenting these ill conceived changes:

"The SSA requests your urgent review of the legacy glider operations at Cal City Airport and to immediately authorize a return to prior operations including the two glider landing strips and towed departures from the parallel taxiway, until an FAA-approved change in glider infrastructure, supported by an aeronautical study, is in place."

This letter and the associated attachments show a history of the permits along with various inspections, compliance reports and a runway use operational analysis spreadsheet. The California City Airport metrics diagram shows runway taxiway clearances.

One possible infrastructure improvement to Cal City airport that would replace taxiway glider takeoffs is to add a wide ramp (1000 feet wide) mid field for angled tow departures.wide ramp photo Currently, city management of California City supports this idea along with flush landing lights. However, it may take many years to reach this level of airport modification. In the mean time, returning to the 35 years legacy of taxiway takeoffs and glider strip landings is essential to the continued existence of glider operations at California City.

AOPA and Cal Pilots has taken a "hands off" approach to defending against these transgressions of Cal Trans and their airport permit changes.

What Can I do to help!

First, while we wait for a formal response from Cal Trans, we ask that that you add a comment at the end of this blog showing your support. Please identify whether you are a glider pilot, power plane pilot, or just an interested party from the community at large. Your suggestions and recommendations are welcomed.

You may also notify your representatives with Cal Pilots, AOPA, and the SSA Government Liason, Steve Northcraft.

Political representatives in this region:

State Senator - Jean Fuller - 18th Senate District
State Assemblyman - Steve Fox - District 36
Kern County Supervisor - Zack Scrivner - 2nd District

The California City Glider Pilots Action Group (CCGPAG) consists of:

  • Martin Eiler, FBO Martin Eiler Aviation
  • John Shmoldas - SSA liason
  • Walter Rogers - Cal Pilots liason
  • Andy McKittrick - AOPA liason