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The Las Vegas Valley Soaring Association

Last updated 06/23/04


By George Powell

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Hang In There Award
Hang In There Award
Hosted by the Las Vegas Valley Soaring Association at Jean, Nevada, Goal Strike XV was scheduled for June 7 – 13, 2004. This was expected to be one of the best Goal Strikes ever. Del Blomquist had ordered over 30 colorful Goal Strike shirts for pilots and crews. As is his custom, he refused to disclose the colors. By the middle of May, sixteen aircraft, eighteen pilots and eighteen crews were signed up and raring to go.

Captain Monkey and the Downed Duckling were out of hibernation and ready to be awarded to the pilots who flew the longest and the shortest distance each day. Wayne Walker created a new trophy: a beautiful golden eagle called the “Hang in There” award, to be presented to the Goal Strike pilot that best exemplified superior airmanship during the course of the week.

Downed Duckling Shirt
Downed Duck Shirt
Back in Nebraska, Rich and Peggy Nicholson prepared a beautiful embroidered shirt, which would be awarded to the (lucky?) pilot who made the off field landing closest to the airport during the meet.

The initial line-up included the following veterans and first timers:

009 Braindead Mike Webb (Team) Bill Vickland
Mr. President Bill Vickland (Team) Mike Webb
024 Two By Four Garry Dickson Jim Leary
029 Hawkeye George Powell Max Moulton
050 Mickey Lane Decker (Team) Steve Whiting
Wildcat Steve Whiting (Team) Lane Decker
142 Yellowbird Rich Nicholson Peggy Nicholson
144 High Gross Del Blomquist Tom Basham
187 One Eight Seven Joedy Gregory Kathleen Gregory
190 One Nine Zero Bob Hurni Jim Armstrong
191 Sparky Mike Wills Tom Hively
194 Champ Bob von Hellens Merle Clements
277 G-Man Al Gough Any warm body
317 Andiamo Jim Zapata Ron Crawford
366 Jay Walker Wayne Walker Bill Knoll
460 Four Sixty Rich Gillock Stephanie Campbell
540 Sun Dog Ray Swartz Carol Yin
622 Max Fly Mark Greenstone Annie

Then the trouble began.

Mark Greenstone’s mother passed away.

Merle Clement’s father suffered a stroke which required Merle’s presence in San Diego. This is the first year that Merle has ever missed a Goal Strike.

Mike Webb had a scheduling problem with American Airlines, which required that he fly 737s instead of his 1-26. As a result, his plans to fly team with Bill Vickland had to be cancelled.

Yellowbird's tail feathers
Yellowbird's tail feathers
Ron Crawford had a family emergency, which took him out of the action as Jimmy Zapata’s crew.

In late May, a wicked windstorm blew through eastern Nebraska, knocking the doors off Rich Nicholson’s hangar crunching Yellowbird’s nose and tail.

Goal Strikers
Goal Strikers
Upon hearing about Rich’s problem, offers to help poured in from fellow 1-26ers across the country, including an offer from Bob Hurni to haul a spare horizontal stabilizer from his hangar in Phoenix to Jean. Unfortunately, Rich had to leave poor Yellowbird at home for the convenience of the insurance adjusters.

Hearing of Rich’s problems and being without a crew, Jimmy Zapata offered to team fly with Rich in Andiamo, so Rich and Peggy drove from Omaha to Las Vegas, sans glider.

Goal Strike Grid
Lined up and ready to launch
In spite of these setbacks, changes and cancellations, by Friday, June 4th, a total of thirteen 1-26s had arrived or were converging on the Jean airport.

On Saturday, the weather reports sounded good:. No cus, but the lift was predicted to reach 14k. Hawkeye, Two By Four, Sparky, Mickey, G-man, 187, and 460 launched about noon, climbed over Mt. Potosi and headed for the top of Mt..Charleston.

Summit: Mt Charleston
Summit: Mt Charleston
Hawkeye and 460 flew to the north end of the Charleston mountain range, turned around returned to Jean. G-Man and Mickey landed at the Calvada Meadows airport north of Parumph.

Garry Dickson and Joedy Gregory made the longest flights of the day, (135+ OLC miles). They pressed north past Jackass and made it to the Cinder Cone near Beatty. There, the wind shifted, and the thermals began to die. They turned south and landed at the Cherry Patch Dry Lake. Later, they joined G-Man, Mickey and Wildcat for Bar B Q. at Sandy’s Pig Place across from the Calvada Meadows airport.

G-Man over Mt Charleston
G-Man over Mt Charleston
On Sunday, the weather began to deteriorate. A few hard chargers were able to make it to the top of Mt Potosi, but no one could get out of the Jean valley. After much scratching around in the weeds around Goodsprings, Wayne Walker demonstrated his affinity for landing on gravel by landing on Haul Road, approximately 5 miles short of the Jean runway. Had this occurred on or after June 7th, when Goal Strike was officially underway, Wayne’s amazing feat would have qualified him for the Downed Duckling award.

Jaywalker with casinos in background
Jaywalker with casinos in background
Then, on Sunday afternoon, tragedy struck: The tow plane crashed.

After releasing Hawkeye near the field, LVVSA tow pilot, Jim “Mad Dog” Madson, entered the pattern. As he approached the airport on the downwind leg, he suddenly discovered that he had no lateral control. An aileron control cable had snapped. Except for the rudder, he had no directional control. Jim immediately did the right thing. He eased the stick forward, cut the throttle and landed straight ahead in the sagebrush. The Pawnee was slightly damaged and the pilot was only bruised.

At the Monday Morning pilot’s meeting, the assembled Goal Strikers unanimously decided that Jim Madson deserved to be the first pilot to receive the newly created “Hang In There” award. Bill Tisdale accepted the trophy on behalf or Jim. Later, Bill said,

“Many can not even begin to comprehend the emotions or thoughts that Jim was presented with at the time, and his level-headed approach to getting himself safely on the ground with no risk to others. He may have been peddling like crazy on the inside, but calm on the outside prevailed.”

Gravel Gertie and Crew demonstrate the ‘Quick Draw’ emergency landing kit.
Gravel Gertie and Crew demonstrate the ‘Quick Draw’ emergency landing kit.
Another special award was presented to Wayne Walker. Over the years, Wayne has demonstrated a propensity to avoid paved runways and open fields. He seems to prefer landing in gravel pits, on gravel roads, and gravel piles. Because he has landed in more gravel pits than any other Goal Strike pilot, he has earned the esteemed title, “Gravel Gertie.” In commemoration of his spectacular performance at Haul Road on Sunday, Wayne was presented with a Goal Strike Emergency Landing Kit, which consists of a plastic Gatoraide bottle filled with gravel and a leather holster. With this handy kit, Wayne can now create his own gravel pit anywhere he chooses.

As the pilots meeting progressed and Del and Tom passed out the tee shirts, the wind began to blow. Because we were without a tow plane, we adjourned for the day.

By Tuesday morning the wind was blowing 20 to 30 mph with gusts to 40. Even if a tow plane had been available, it would not have been safe to launch gliders.

For all intents and purposes, Goal Strike XV was over. Gale force winds continued to blow in the Jean valley through Wednesday. Some 1-26ers went home. Some went fishing. Three drove to the Owens Valley to prove that, if you hang in there long enough, it is possible to make lemonade out of lemons. On Wednesday, 2x4, Sparky and 187 drove to Bishop. On Friday, Doug Levy, #042 and crew, Greg Sperbeck joined up.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the White and Inyo mountains were producing cloud streets and thermals to 17K. By running up and down the Owens Valley, Garry, Mike, Joedy and Doug scored more than 6,000 OLC points for the 1-26 Association. On Saturday, Hangman flew #042 north from Bishop to Boundary Peak, east to Goldfield and south to Fran’s Star Ranch.

To top things off, on Friday, Mike Wills earned his diamond distance in #191. He flew just a few kilometers more than the 500 km needed. However, because he took off at Bishop and landed at Manzanar, an altitude penalty was assessed. After crunching the numbers, Mike’s official FAI distance was seven tenths of one kilometer over the required 500km. It has been suggested that we should have an award for the pilot who comes the ‘closest to not making it.’ Congratulations, Mike! Now, all he needs is a diamond altitude flight in #191 and he will have earned all three diamonds in his 1-26.

Many thanks to Bill Tisdale, Jay McDaniel, Jim Madson, Al Gough and all the hard working members of the Las Vegas Valley Soaring Association who put Goal Strike XV together. We have enjoyed flying with you for the past fifteen years, and this was no exception. You can’t control the weather and accidents happen. We are looking forward to flying with you again next year!