SSA Convention 2023sbaircraft
The SSA Convention was snow much fun! The convention was held in Reno and snow storms made it difficult for many to get to/from the convention. I was fortunate to slip through the mountains while I80 was open.
Overall, this was exactly the experience I needed! Despite flying sailplanes for most of my life, I’ve taken a hiatus in recent years to focus on work, paragliding, and other pursuits. The convention reminded me that it is time to put my sailplane back together and return to the big air!
Span – Sailplanes keep getting larger! Today’s production gliders generally have spans of 18m or more, compared with 15m when I was growing up.
Self-Launch – Self launchers seem to make up around 90% of new glider sales. In addition, there is a wider variety of propulsion, including many electric and turbine designs. Hopefully I’ll be happy with my older Pik-20E.
Super Ships – There are a few one-off sailplanes that are pushing the limits. For example, the pressurized Perlan sailplane recently soared to 76,000ft in wave lift. After careful testing, they hope to expand their envelope to 90,000ft. At those altitudes, the sky is dark and the pilots can see the curvature of the Earth! The Nixus is the first fly-by-wire sailplane and is intended to break records. It has a wingspan of 28m (92ft) and Jim Payne recently flew it more than 2,400 km on a Sierra wave day.
Community – I grew up as a young person in aviation. At 41 years old, I still feel like a young person in aviation! Unfortunately, we haven’t been very successful at recruiting young members to replace our aging population. I’d love to volunteer some time to this cause.