Deor Jenson flying his old LS-4 over hwy I-40 between Cedar Crest and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Deor Jenson is a part-time glider pilot instructor and tow pilot for Sundance Aviation in Moriarty, New Mexico. During the soaring season he lives in New Mexico and winters in Arizona.
On meeting Deor I walked away with the thought that this is an incredibly nice person. His speech and mannerisms convey that of a kind and gentle soul. This is not what you would expect from someone who spent most of their career as military fighter pilot. The stereotypical image of an arrogant, aggressive, hot-shot pilot doesn’t fly here (pun intended).
Deor began his career as a charter pilot and flight instructor to help pay for college and family expenses. After graduation, he entered the Air Force as a second lieutenant and attended pilot training, also known as "the week of 52 years." There he flew the T-37, T-38, A-7D, AT-38B and A-10. After he retired from the Air Force he worked full-time for Rick Kohler at Sundance Aviation.
Deor’s other interests have been bicycle road racing and time trials. He participated in the US Cycling Federation Masters National Championship in 1987.
How did you get interested in aviation?
I can't remember not being interested in flying. However, I can point to something specific that turned me toward a career focused on aviation. The year was 1968. I was serving in North Carolina as a missionary for the LDS Church. I became acquainted with some of the Air Force fighter pilots that were assigned to Seymour-Johnson AFB. These guys were extremely enthusiastic about their "work" and were constantly telling exciting flying stories.
When I learned that it might be possible - even for me -to fly fighters for the Air Force, I decided to pursue the goal when I returned home from my mission. College and AFROTC lead to my career in the Air Force.
You fly both power planes and gliders, what did you learn first?
My first flight training was in a Piper Cherokee 140 in 1969. I didn't earn glider ratings until 1973.
Does anyone else in your family fly?
My younger brother got his private airplane license before I started flying. He now has a "real" job and hasn't flown for quite a few years.
If you could purchase any plane, what one would you choose and why?
The first thing that came to mind was some sort of fighter like a P-51 or F-5E. But, to be honest, my 59 year old body is past the point where high sustained "G" is a good idea. Besides, flying sailplanes has been the most satisfying recreational flying I've ever done. I'd pick an ASH-26E sailplane.
What type of glider do you own?
I've had a DG-400 for a little over a year and a Standard Libelle (my second Libelle) for about a month.
Why did you purchase those particular gliders?
The DG-400 is a motorglider. That makes it very convenient on busy soaring days when a dozen other gliders are in line for a tow. I simply extend the engine, take off under my own power and find a thermal, shut down the engine and go soaring. I can also fly from airfields where a towplane is not available.
I purchased the Libelle as a winter project and also because it's such a pleasant glider to fly. The Libelle is a good value - reasonable performance and not terribly expensive.
You are both a tow pilot and an glider pilot instructor, which job do you like better?
I enjoy the variety of both jobs. It's rewarding to help a student develop safe aviation skills and attitudes and to catch the soaring bug. I also love it when Rick at Sundance asks me on a busy day to climb into one of his towplanes and help get our waiting glider pilots into the sky.
What is your most memorable flight in a glider?
It was a Veterans Day Monday on Oahu.
All the military restricted airspace was cold because of the holiday. I took a tow in my Libelle out of Dillingham Airfield (northwest tip of the island) to the nearby ridge and released at 700 feet in good ridge lift.
I gradually worked east along the ridge climbing up to the 4000 foot summit of Mount Kaala and then crossed the normally hot and hazardous mortar firing range just west of the Army's Schofield Barracks. With the restricted airspace now available, I continued south along the eastern crest of the Waiane Mountains.
The trade winds provided good ridge lift and a street of big black-bottom clouds indicated nice thermal lift.
It occurred to me that my flight path covered the same route as the Japanese attack some 60 years earlier. Soon I had a fantastic view of Peal Harbor, Hickam AFB, Honolulu, and the famous Diamond Head. What a spectacular sight! I could see a steady stream of airliners and military jets flying over the beautiful south shore of Oahu on final approach to Honolulu International.
I continued downtown to the edge of the Class B airspace before starting the return trip to Dillingham. What an enjoyable flight!
What is your most memorable flight in a power plane?
Since three-fourths of my flying time is in powered planes, I've had lots of memorable flights in aircraft with burnable ballast. It's hard to pick just one but I certainly have lots of stories to tell.
What advice do you have for new pilots?
Keep your priorities straight. In order, this is what they should be:
1. Maintain aircraft control.
2. Never hit anything in the air or allow anything in the air to hit you.
3. Never hit the ground or anything attached to the ground.
4. Always be in a position from which you can make a safe landing.
What advice do you have for new glider instructors?
Be kind and patient. Figure out how the particular student learns best and teach in such a way that you meet the students needs.
If you want to learn how to fly gliders check out Sundance Aviation.