LONG DAY AT ODESSA

It was August of 1975 when my son, Steve, and I went down to Odessa, Texas to fly gliders with Wally Scott and other soaring pilots around there. Wally had just gotten a new Blanik two-place glider and he suggested that since no Texas state junior multiplace records had been set, Steve and another young pilot from there, Gary Evans, attempt some in the Blanik. One of the first things needed to be done was, since Steve had never flown a ship of that type, he had to be checked out by an instructor. So the next morning I was to fly with him to satisfy the insurance company.

The Blanik was designed for a somewhat smaller pilot than I am so to make room for me in the back seat, the cushions were left out and I'd sit directly on the canvas seat, which wasn't the most comfortable thing to do but we would be up for perhaps an hour at most.

We took a tow, it had turned into a very good soaring day and Steve was having fun learning the new ship. At the end of an hour, we were skirting cloudbase at 12,000 feet over Monahans, some thirty miles west of Odessa. We could see a huge cloud forming between us and Odessa so he turned the radio on and called to find the conditions at the airport. They told us to hang out for a while as it had started to rain and winds were gusting at 40 to 50 mph at the airport.

Cloudbase looked higher to the north so we worked our way up to Kermit where we joked about it being named for a green frog. We were now able to cruise along under the clouds at 15,000 feet. A second hour had clicked by and we could see the storm parked over Odessa had grown in size. A call on the radio let us know it was raining hard at the airport and if we had good lift, to stay away.

We started moving toward Odessa to check the area covered by the cloud and could see dirt blowing on the ground at a place aptly named for that area, it's called Notrees. We also found strong lift along the face of the cloud and soon found ourselves at 16,000 feet, well above the tops of clouds to the west. We turned away toward Monahans, flying as fast as possible to blow off altitude to get us back down to where we could breathe better. In addition to feeling the effects of hypoxia, the bar supporting the back seat was really painful against the back of my legs. I kept shifting my weight to get the pressure off that area.

When the storm finally moved past and we were able to land, five hours had gone by and I was barely able to walk. Someone asked what was the matter and I found that I'd not only rubbed blisters just below the cheeks of my butt but had broken them and the back of my pants were soaked.

Next day Steve and another young pilot named Gary Evans as his passenger flew the Blanik from Odessa to McCamey and back for an out and return Texas Junior Multiplace record of 114 miles. The flight took them nearly four hours during which they said they almost had to land at least a dozen times.

A year earlier Steve with Brian Bird in the back seat flew a two passenger training sailplane to 13,382 feet altitude with a gain of 8,482 feet for Texas Junior Multiplace altitude and gain records.

These records have stood for over thirty years.