Friday, September 28, 2007

Bob Hudson

Photos of Bob in his DG-100 on the runway at Moriarty, New Mexico.

Bob Hudson is a retired Air Force Colonel. He started his Air Force pilot training in 1970 at Big Spring, TX. Then he served in Vietnam in 1972. He served in the Air Force for 28 years and had flown everything from B2 bombers to F-16s. He started flying gliders 4 years ago. Bob has been the president of the Albuquerque Soaring Club for the past three years. He also works for UNITECH, a company that does exercises and training for the government.

How did you get started flying?

I was an airport bum at age 15. Hanging out at the airport and begging flights. I would see someone starting to take off with an empty seat and suggest someone should be in the seat. Then in college I joined ROTC. They paid for my flying lessons in a Cessna 150. I got my license from them, but it wasn't exactly free, I was going into the Air Force.

Tell me about Vietnam.

I was over there flying B-52s out of Guam, then I moved to Uptao, Thailand. I was flying out of Thailand, on 26th Dec. 1972 and was shot down over Hanoi. I was prisoner of war for 93 days. I was in two prisons, the Hanoi Hilton and a prison they called the Zoo.

Everyone has heard of the Hanoi, Hilton and how horrible it was…

Yes it was.

Why did they call the other prison the zoo?

Just, of course they had real Vietnamese names, we Americans nicknamed the prisons. This prison had, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens. Other prisons were called briarpatch, dogpatch, the plantation…

Did you get to eat the animals at the prison?

No, they didn't feed us. I lost 53 lbs in those days.

What happened after you got out of prison?

After prison I came back to the states and was a patient in a hospital in Dayton, Ohio for four months. Then they sent me to Omaha, where I flew T-39s.

Did you get to fly during your entire military career?

Some assignments were not flying assignments but I flew most of the time.

What kind of planes did you fly while you were in the Air Force?

First the B52-H then the B52-D, they sound like the same airplane but they are two totally different airplanes. If you walked up the them you would say they look alike. The H at one time was the fastest airplane in the world, the D model was old and worn out, but it could carry a lot of bombs. I was flying the B52-D when I got shot down.

Then the T-39, which is a small passenger business jet. I flew VIPs, everything from four star generals, senators, congressmen, I flew the director of the CIA, Mr. Casey once, Claire Booth Luce, she was a gabby lady, a nice lady and George Will, the newspaper editorialist.

After the T-39 I flew the FB-111 it was the first fly-by wire electronic flight controlled airplane, the wings moved. The faster you went the wings swept back then the slower they would swept forward. It was rated at Mach 2.2 but you could actually get it going a little faster than that. I went almost 900 miles per hour at 100 feet above ground.

Next I flew the EC-135, it was the airborne command post. It’s code name was Looking Glass. The mission was to be the command post for WWIII until we could establish control on the ground again. It flew continuously for 25 years 24 hours a day. We had 13 of them, one would take off and fly an 8 hour shift, then the next one takes off, we just kept rotating them. I was on the EC-135 on the 25th anniversary. We were sent congratulations messages from all over the world. I give lectures on that mission.
One of the reasons we never had WWIII is because we had this plane. The Russians knew that we could retaliate even if they struck first. We could actually launch the missiles from the plane. I got to launch a minute man missile in 1989, of course it had dummy war head. I launched it out of Vandenberg, CA and it landed in the pacific.

I flew the EC-135 for two years. Then I had a couple of desk jobs where I didn’t fly very much. Then I had the opportunity to command two Air Force bases, one was Brooks Air Force base in San Antonio, TX, the other was classified.

I was the last Air Force pilot to fly the F-100 then I flew the F-16. The mission was fun, I did mostly test work. Most of it was chasing classified packages or missiles. You get about half way out and they launch the missile then 3 or 4 of us try to chase it so that we can film it.

How did you get into flying Gliders?

Unfortunately I lost my medical in 1996. I had an artery close up when I was in Saudi, Arabia. It was from an injury I got when I was shot down in Vietnam. I had a lot of damage to my chest, the left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery was damaged. It finally caught up with me. I had to come back to the States and have surgery. I couldn’t fly power planes anymore, but since you don’t need a medical for gliders I started to fly them.

What was your first glider?

My first glider was a DG-100, I bought it from my ex-boss. I hadn’t seen him in 20 some years. I had dinner with him and he invited me to fly gliders. He died very suddenly about a year later of pancreatic cancer. I bought the glider from his wife.

What was your most challenging flight in a glider?

One day when the stick broke in my hand. I was on tow in my DG-100 when the glider started to pitch up. I kept pushing down and the glider kept pitching up. The tow rope pulled out because of the angle. Then I realized that the reason I couldn't put the nose down was that I was holding the stick in my hand, it wasn't attached. I took the little bit of stick left and did a loop and landed on runway 8. I was scared to death.

Do you still own the DG-100?

I sold the DG-100 and have been flying club airplanes. I am going to buy Al Santilli's glider. He had a Libelle.

You have been president of the glider club for 3 years now, do you like this position?

Yes, I enjoy it but there is a lot more work then I realized. Some days I don’t get to fly because I have so much administrative stuff to do. But I love it, I like the people and just love being around the flying. Its just like being in the Air Force but you don’t have the uniforms and people talk back to you.

You can find out more about Albuquerque’s Soaring Club at their website. This site gives information about joining the club and offers links to other sites regarding flying, weather, and glider contests.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

David Sharp

Dave Sharp in the front seat of a Grob at
Sundance Aviation, Moriarty, New Mexico


David Sharp started flying hang gliders at the age of 19. He was a professional hang glider pilot, paraglider pilot and an instructor for 14 years. He got his first sponsorship after only two years of flying. On July 19th, 2000 he broke two world’s records in a ATOS glider (with a glide ratio of 19:1); the longest declared goal of 203 miles and the overall distance record. He flew his ATOS glider for 9 hours and went 311 miles (501 kilometers).

Outdoor Life Network hired Dave and two other pilots from the States to fly hang gliders and paragliders over ancient ruins in Peru. This was the brainstorm of one of the film produces who happened to have a wife from Peru. Dave was the #1 cross-county racing hang glider pilot in the U.S. and went on to become #1 in the world in 2000. The other two pilots Mitch McAleer (the top aerobatic pilot) and Kari Castle (one of the top hang gliding cross country pilots) joined him for a month of hiking and flying over Cuzco, Arequipa and Machu Pichu.

Dave started flying sailplanes in the year 2000 with Rick Kohler at Sundance Aviation. He now works for Rick part time as a commercial pilot and line boy. You can arrange an aerobatic flight with Dave or Rick by calling Sundance Aviation at 505-832-2222.

Dave owns IMG, Inc. which does real estate investment acquisitions. He buys and sells lower income residential properties in New Mexico. He has been married 17 years and has two children, a 16 year old daughter, Danielle and a 13 year old son, Ryan.

What got you into hang gliding?

I was looking for something to do when I got out of high school. I use to watch them fly off of Sandia Crest from my house when I was a kid. Of course my parents would not have anything to do with that. In January of 1985, when I was 19 years old, I took my first hang gliding lesson.

What was your most memorable flight in a hang glider?

The world distance record.

Tell me about the trip Outdoor Life Network Sponsored for you to fly your paraglider in Peru. What was it like there?

Peru has a magic feel about it, like: desert with red, yellow and white sands that meets the ocean, giant volcanoes near Arequipa, jungle, glaciers , Alpine. You really feel like you on another planet. Oh and the Andes have awesome soaring !!!

What were you hired to do there?

The Mission was to fly the Nazca Lines, Machu Picchu, Arequipa, Cusco and Pisco. We climbed Mount Misti, a volcano that is 20,000 feet above sea level. We were hired to paraglide off the top and land in the town of Arequipa below. It would be a 13,000 foot decent. We also flew over the ancient city of Cusco.

Tell us about the hike up. Did you have a guide ?

Franz was our local guide (Swiss born) he ran a paragliding school from his apartment on the beach at Lima. He had us take some sort of drug that allowed our blood to do a better job holding on to O2 molecules. We were supposed to take it 12 hours before the hike. We all did except Kari who took it the day of the hike and ended up getting swelling of the brain. We just about ran up to the first base camp, 14,500 feet. None of us slept much that night. Kari had a bad headache all night. The next day Franz was just gone he never slowed down except for smoking breaks. All the slow local hands passed us around 17,000 feet.

With less than 3 hours before sunset at about 18500 feet we just ran out of energy. Each step felt like a major effort. So I took off my 50 pound pack and pulled out 2 large oxygen bottles. I offered one to Kari but she had some sort of ego challenge going on and declined. I shared the Oxygen with Mitch which did not really snap us out of it. We slogged our way to the top with
1 hr and 20 minutes to spare.

Paragliders stall at about 12 mph and at 20,000 feet it could not have been slow enough. It took Mitch and I three attempts to get off the top but we did it. Poor Kari would only have enough energy to watch. Kari, Franz and the film crew spent the night sleeping outdoors in 6 inches of snow. They would not launch until 10 am the next day.

The Glide out was un-eventful except for a light head-wind which meant that I just cleared the foot hills and made it to the edge of town. We would enjoy pizza and beer that night and a warm toilet (as I had some problems for most of that trip.) The film crew had ran out of water during the hike and pissed orange for two days (dehydrated).

That event was something I have no desire what so every to repeat, too much pain and not enough joy for a big sled ride.

Why did you make the transition into gliders (sailplanes) from hang gliders and paragliders?

I wanted something interesting to do after retiring from hang gliding. Soaring seemed like a great substitution. I have a family and the traveling and maintaining the sponsorship took a backseat to my family. That led me to pursue flying sailplanes in my backyard.

What is your most memorable flight in a glider?

Doing the Diamond Distance (500 Kilometers) in Dior’s Ventus with water ballast in the wings.

Does any one else in your family fly?

My wife use to fly hang gliders, she got her intermediate rating and flew off the Sandia Crest a few times.

During a family vacation at Zion’s this July my daughter, Danielle and I ran up to Salt Lake to see my friend Chris Santacroce. Chris works for Super Fly, Inc. and is my old partner from the days of running the SOARING CENTER, a hang gliding and paragliding school. While we were there I arranged for Danielle to have her first paragliding lesson. It was fun to watch.

I think she has the knack as I watched her learn I can see little things. Like the way she tucks her arms in before the tandem launch (reduces the center of mass) making it easier for Chris to ground-handle the glider. Or during one of her bunny flights the way she twists and turns facing the PG. This is the correct technique as facing forward means you can get pulled over backwards. Little things like that make me think she could be a great pilot.

However you know how kids are, they have their own plans. Next summer I think both Ryan and Danielle may take the whole course.

You can see a video of Dave performing aerobatics in a Grob and a video of Danielle’s first hang glider lesson at:

If you are interested in learning how to fly hang gliders a great place to start is Super Fly, Inc. at:

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Howard Banks

Howard Banks in his new ASW-27, Moriarty, New Mexico

Aviation History

Howard Banks was born into an aviation family. His father flew in WWI and was in the manufacturing business all his life as a designer. Howard became an apprentice at the same firm (de Havilland, maker of all sorts of famous stuff such as the ill-fated Comet). He worked in a lab investigating failed aircraft parts and systems.

How did you get started in aviation?

Grammar school in those not long after WWII days had a cadet force (was typically militaristic at that time), ours was associated with the Royal Air Force (RAF) of Britain. I won a prize at school, only one ever and no idea why, and was told to turn up at RAF Halton on a Sunday morning. Did and found I was to learn just enough to solo a glider – T-31 (I think) open cockpit two-seater, fabric, wood and string; one is in George Applebay’s Soaring museum in Moriarty, New Mexico. They were all winch launching. Before my 16 th birthday I made three solo flights and thereby have a British A and B badge. (The RAF, like most air forces, uses gliding as a quick and fairly cheap way to discover suitable people to recruit as air crew. I never went into the RAF, so it was money down a small hole.)

What types of aircraft have you flown?

Mostly gliders of various sorts. I was also a partner in a J-4 Piper Cub (side by side coupe), that was nice but was mashed by one of the partners and I was bought out eventually. Nothing too exciting.

Why did you decide to start flying gliders again?

I didn't decide to start, but it was my “wifie” who got me restarted. I stopped flying, because I was involved in sports car racing and could not afford both. The family, and lots of work, blocked any thought of gliding. But when Joan and I were first married in CA she bought me a ride at Calistoga. Some time after that I was interviewing the governor of Nevada and we had a ride at Minden (not very successful). Soon after I found a glider port just down the road from our house in the east bay and I haven't looked back since.

What kind of glider do you own?

After having an ASW-20 for many years I now have an ASW-27.

Why did you purchase the ASW-27?

I bought it because a friend was going to sell it and we did a quick deal, no negotiating, no nothing just 'sure I will buy it' and he gave me a break on the price. Unplanned, serendipity.

What is your most memorable flight?

Most memorable – anything which has scared the living bejeesus out of me. Perhaps my first land-out. July 4 th back east, haze that made it “sort of” VFR (visual flight rules) and I got lost (all visual in them thar days, no such as GPS). Flying a rented 1-26, landed the wrong side of a stream without doing any damage – but the retrieve was from hell partly because this commercial 1-26 was always tied out in the open and hadn't been apart in decades and it took massive amounts of hammering etc to get it on a trailer that was a disaster. We were all late for a major Chesapeake Bay crab cookout and I was in deep for months.

You can see several vintage gliders, including the T-31 (the same type Howard flew) at the Southwest Soaring Musuem located in Moriarty, New Mexico. More information can be found at:

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Geoffrey Aiken

Geoff in the cockpit of a Grob at the Albuquerque Soaring Club in Moriarty, New Mexico.


Geoff Aiken has competed in various sports. He earned several medals in five different Junior Olympic games. He trained at the Colorado Springs Olympic training center. He has held regional, national and professional road racing licenses. He instructed for a variety of road racing organizations. He ran Gator Motorsports for two years with 383 members in college.

His past hobbies have been fishing, IPSC and IDPA pistol competitions, cross-country running, scuba diving, surfing, kayaking, sailing, road bicycles, alpine skiing, riding dirt bikes and street bikes, building engines, salsa dancing, full contact martial arts, rock climbing, skate boarding, basketball, baseball, tennis, soccer, racquetball and swimming.

How did you get started flying gliders?

I moved out to New Mexico from the East Coast and wasn't sure what my hobbies were going to be. Since I was in a new location there were only a few road racing teams that would still fly me out to do their races. A good friend of mine, Tommy Johnson, a co-driver, told me that I had to go soaring since I was in the best part of the country for it.

So I drove myself down to Moriarty one day and Jimmy Weir did a loop with me, then I pulled out my check book. I commuted from Los Alamos to Moriarty every weekend and slept on a couch in the hanger.

How does flying gliders compare to your previous hobby of racing cars?

Perhaps the most important difference is that I get to sleep in later. Tommy Johnson told me that his favorite difference was the fact that it wasn't such a dirty occupation.

What do you mean by dirty?

You always had oil, coolant and wore three layer fire-retardant suits soaked in sweat.

Getting back to the comparison...

I suppose that the common ground between the two involves the fact that they both require so much of your attention that you achieve a mental quiet that most people aspire to with meditation. Perhaps the best difference between the two that I find is the fact that you have the option to choose who you surround yourself with.

Are you saying that in racing you were sometimes surrounded around people you didn't like?

I wouldn't say that. I think the people you share those experiences with are the closest to you out of anyone. However, if you find yourself needing to work through the pack every weekend you're bound to have incidences that unfortunately always seem to involve the same personality types.

What is the difference between the personality type that flies gliders and the personality type that races cars?

I can't say that I see much difference at all. Especially when it concerns aerobatic or contest pilots.

What has been your favorite flight experience in a glider?

The last one that I did. And that's perhaps my favorite aspect of doing anything new.

You can find out more about Geoff on his myspace account at:

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Bill Hill - Thoughts on Cross-Country Soaring

Bill in his Discus 2 flying over Moriarty, New Mexico

This is the first in a series of interviews with the pilots of Moriarty, New Mexico.

Aviation Experience

Bill Hill has been flying gliders since 1963. He is an instructor and an accomplished cross-country glider pilot. He has been in numerous glider competitions and is a mentor to many of the younger glider pilots at Moriarty.

Bill retired from Air Traffic Control as an Assistant Air Traffic Manager in 1993. He has been employed as a commercial pilot ever since. He has flown for Sky West, Seven Bar Flying Service, Rio Grande Air, Westward Airways and presently flies for Cutter Aviation in Albuquerque.

How did you get started flying gliders?

While on a flight from the Frederick Municipal airport in Frederick MD, I spotted a glider circling near the town of Leesburg VA. As I approached the area in which it was flying, the glider started a descent toward the Leesburg airport. Fascinated by the prospect of engineless flight, I followed it to the airport, landed, tied down my trusty Piper Super Cruiser, and took a glider ride. Three flights later I soloed in a Schweizer 2-22 Utility glider and was hooked for life.

What is your most memorable flight?

Since memorable need not equate with pleasurable, I would have to pick the mid-air collision between myself and another competitor during a national soaring championship in 1984. I was hit from behind by the pilot of another sailplane which did substantial damage to my glider. Rather than bail out of my crippled craft, (which in retrospect I should have done), I elected to fly it back to the airport of origin. I had the good fortune to make a successful landing and was able to have the glider repaired. The other pilot who’s sailplane sustained only minor damage also returned for landing.

Why do you think you are such a successful cross county pilot?

Assessing the subtle nuances of change in the atmosphere and making adjustments in tactics enables me to maximize my time spent in cruise and minimize the time spent climbing in thermals. The net result is a higher average cross country speed combined with a greater number of miles flown.

An additional part of the tactics involved in cross country flying is determining how close to the ground you are willing to fly before accepting a weaker thermal in order to keep from landing. This in turn is a function of knowing when to fly slower and when to speed up which is all part of the tactics of assessing change and applying the best technique in order to maximize the entire soaring day.

What usually causes pilots to land away from the departure airport?
Generally the lower time glider pilot tends to get tunnel vision and therefore loses his focus and ability to assess conditions. As he gets lower, his ability to center a thermal is compromised by his level of anxiety which in turn increases as he gets closer to the ground.

The novice pilot becomes distracted by such things as his desire to get home regardless of the conditions. He fails to realize that in order to get home, he must first keep flying. This may require a deviation from his intended route to his destination in order to avail himself of soarable conditions.

Bill’s two favorite books on cross-country flying are:

Cross Country Soaring by Helmut Reichman


Winning on the Wind by George Moffat,_Jr.