Sunday, November 9, 2008

Stan Roeske

Stan flying his LS3, Moriarty, NM

Stan Roeske can be described as a “Jack-of-all-trades”. I have never seen him sit still for more than a short moment. He is constantly doing something like making minor repairs on a glider, flying the tow plane, teaching someone how to fly a glider, mentoring new club members or even burning weeds in front of the club hangar.

Stan began building airplane models in 3rd grade, but didn’t experience flight until he was a junior in high school with the Civil Air Patrol (which is where he met his wife Carol.) He started flying lessons after high school, and in 1961 after 2 years of flying on and off he earned his pilot’s certificate. He then took some time off from flying to attend college. He became a member of the Albuquerque Soaring Club in 1974 and earned his instructor rating in 1993.

Stan has just under 1,000 hours in gliders- almost 2,000 flights. He also has another 800 or 900 hours in power-planes, which amounts to 1600 or 1800 tows and about 2000 flights. He has flown several kinds of gliders including the 2-33, 1-26, Lark, Blanik, Grob, 1-34, Libelle , LS3 and the Twin-Astir. He has also flown a number of power-planes including the J3 Cub, Cessna 140, 150, 172 and 182, 90 & 180 horsepower Super-Cubs, Tri-Pacer, Pitts, Decathlon, Citabria, Piper Seneca and Pawnee. Presently he owns an LS3 glider and a 1947 Aeronca “Chief” restoration project.

Stan is a kind hearted soul who has helped many people, including myself. One experience I will never forget is a day when I had a botched take-off in the Grob. I took off too early and found myself in ground effect with little control of the glider. I released and bounced away into the field next to the runway. Before I knew it everyone on the ground ran over to me and told me I need to fly again right away. I was pretty shook-up and not convinced that I should fly. Then Stan rode up on his motorcycle like a Knight-In-Shining-Armor and said “Let’s go fly.” After about an hour in the sky with Stan my confidence was restored.


What kind of work did you do? Were you involved somehow in aviation?

No, I wanted to be but I was in electronics. My degree is in electrical engineering. The closest I got to it was in the 1960’s during the period of time when I wasn’t flying. I was going to college at night and was working at Sandia Labs as an instrument tech at their wind tunnel. They have a supersonic and hypersonic wind tunnel. That was really interesting stuff. That was probably the most fun I had in the almost 40 years that I worked at Sandia.

When did you take your first glider ride?

My first glider ride was with the Albuquerque Soaring Club in 1961. The club had a Schweizer 2-22 that they were keeping at 7-Bar. They had somebody with a Super Cub that was providing tows for them. They were flying off a deserted airstrip called El Rancho. It is up on the bluff in Petroglyph Park; about a ½ mile from the radio-controlled airfield.

The fellow with the Super Cub flew in and was looking around. I was the only one there. He told me that they were flying gliders and they were shorthanded. They needed someone to run wings and attach tow-ropes. I told him I didn’t have anything else to do, so he put me in the back of the Super Cub and flew me out to El Rancho.

I helped him for the rest of the morning. They said, “You have been working and helping us, would you like a glider ride?” I told them, “Yeah, I would like that. That would be neat.” So they put me in the back of the 2-22.

Herman Wente, a former member of the glider club, was my pilot. So we flew back and forth over the bluff there to see if we could find some ridge lift. We didn’t find much and landed. They put me back in the Super Cub, hooked the glider up, towed the glider and then flew me back to 7-Bar. I sort of forgot about it.

In 1974 I joined the club and had my first instructional flight with Herman Wente. We caught up 13 years later. I flew with Herman, with Al (Santilli) and two other instructors in the club to add the glider rating to my power rating.

Did your parents fly?

No. In fact my step-dad thought I was nuts. He said “Why would you want to be involved in flying? That’s silly, that’s nonsense. Go on and do something serious with your life.” He and I had a disagreement about that since before I was in first grade.

I remember going to the news reels with my parents. This was right at the tail end of WWII. You would go to the movies back then and in between the double features you would get the news reels. And here were these pictures of the war going on in Europe with fighter planes and bombers. Boy that was cool stuff to this little pre-first grader.

That was in Chicago. When we moved out here we lived under the landing pattern for Kirtland/Albuquerque International. My dad swears that I wore out two or three screen doors because every time a plane would come over our house I would be out the door to see what it was. That was in the days when I was in grade school and the National Guard was flying P-51’s, retreads from WWII. I remember watching the air-guard move from the P-51’s to the F-80 Jets and on through the entire sequence that they had.

You instruct and you are also a tow-pilot for the club. Do you ever get to fly your glider?

Rarely. That is probably the most popular joke amongst me and my friends. The LS3 has not been out of the hangar this year. It flew once last year. My partner Harry Saxton flies it less than I do and I only flew it once.

What was your most exciting-scary flight in a glider?

Probably the one exciting-scary flight, and it is just that it sticks in my mind, was one of these funny days. We actually had thermals, scattered cumulus clouds and the cloud base was about 10,000 feet (MSL.) I worked my way up to cloud base and went over to South Mountain and all of a sudden there was this big hole right there. And I wondered if there was a wave working. So I noodled out in there and there was a weak wave and I got up to about 16,000 feet (MSL.)

So here I was up at 16,000 looking down at the clouds. That was cool. I headed south down towards Estancia then turned East to head back towards Moriarty. Then I hear jet noise…and I am saying to myself, “That’s awful loud, that’s awful close. Which way do I go?” I don’t see anything. Well, it was a 727 and it was only about ½ mile away and above me. But I was where he would have least expected me to be, several thousand feet about cloud base, out there all by myself. That was a little scary.

Did you have a transponder?


Do you have one now?

No, but I am saying to myself, we really need to put one in the LS3. I think transponders are needed.

Of course the new technology, we are talking about the ADSB system, the electronics in the airplanes talk to each other instead of talking to center. Which I think is better. But we’re not there yet.

Yeah, I think you need some kind of active collision avoidance.

If somebody were to give you the money to buy any plane in the world, what would you buy?

An Aviat Husky (2nd choice a Citabria) AND a Salto.

What do you think is the difference between flying a power plane and flying a glider?

The analogy that I have used is it is the difference between jumping in a ski boat and driving across the lake and jumping into a sail boat and looking at the weather and working with it to get yourself across.

I find soaring much more fun and challenging than power overall. You’re always flying the airplane. I am terribly impatient and I get bored easily. I enjoy flying power planes, I’ve got around 400 hours and something like 1600 or 1800 tows in the club’s old Super Cub and both our Pawnees. That’s fun because you’re doing something constantly. But to take a 172 and go cross-country is okay. I enjoy the views as they go by. But it doesn’t have the challenge that soaring does.


xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxStan and Mary Hawkins

What is it that you enjoy about teaching?

I find teaching rewarding. I like to coach new pilots and offer them some of the things that I have learned. I see them improve their skills to the point that they don’t need me along.

I enjoy the one-on-one interaction. I enjoy sharing something that I do with someone else. And it really gives me a sense of satisfaction to see someone else develop those skills. And maybe I did something to help them along that road.

I am a facilitator. Teachers don’t teach. They provide the information and they provide an environment that makes it possible for that person to learn.

What is the most exciting-rewarding flight you ever had in a glider?

To me the most rewarding thing is the flying I have done working someone up to a solo. That is exciting and rewarding.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Stan congratulates Cliff after his solo.

Today you were able to solo someone. Tell us about it.

Cliff Goldman. Cliff has been fun to fly with. He is power rated so I jokingly said that the thing we have to work on is un-learning some of those bad habits he learned flying power planes. And that is sort-of true. That is sort-of tongue in cheek but there are some very serious differences that you have to instill in a person so that they can fly a glider safely.

Cliff was a delight to fly with. He has been a good student and actually we probably could have soloed him last weekend but there was enough cross-wind that we said no, let’s wait.

You have soloed three people this year?

Well within the last 12 months, yeah. Cliff, Mary Hawkins and Kevin Bielek.

How old is Kevin?

We soloed him on his 14th birthday.

Stan with Kevin Bielek after his first solo.

This is the second time I had a teenager solo on their 14th birthday.

The first one, I hadn’t been instructing that long and I was still learning how to be an instructor. We had a young teenager who was brought out by a mutual friend, a power pilot. She got involved with the glider club very shortly after her 13th birthday and we soloed her on her 14th birthday.

A mutual friend, Phil Philips (a pilot and realtor in Albuquerque) had the media out here. It turns out it was the same day that John Glenn flew the shuttle for his second space flight. That evening on the news they talked about John Glenn making history going into space, the congressman and former astronaut doing it again. Then they said we have another story here of a young lady making her own history here in aviation and they showed footage of her flying her first solo flight out here.

How cool!

That was cool. To me that probably was the most exciting thing relating to gliders.

Has a student ever scared you?

Actually no.

Once or twice with a student I have had to grab the controls and say “I’ve got it.”

Once one of our club members who was a rated pilot but who was terribly rusty flew with me. He wanted to give a ride to a friend but he hadn’t flown in months. So we were going to do three pattern tows together. I wasn’t happy with his landing so I was suggesting that he do his pattern a little different.

On his second flight he overshot final and started to pull the Grob too hard. If you have ever done any spin training the airplane does a funny thing. It is like you are sitting on a chair and you are about to fall off the side of the chair. If feels like you are on the verge of falling off. Here we were at 300 feet and he was trying to suck the thing around because he overshot final. I had the controls faster than I could say “I’ve got it.” I straightened it out a little bit and then said “It’s your airplane, finish the landing.” That really startled me. It was partially my own fault because I wasn’t expecting it.

Spin Training

Back when we had the Lark I offered spin training to anyone who wanted it. The Lark was an honest airplane, it would spin. It was recoverable, well behaved and very predictable.

I had taken one of our students up. What we would do is climb up high, 12 or 13,000 feet. We did a lot of briefing ahead of time. I would demonstrate a one turn spin and then I would let them try it. Then we would head back to the field. On the way back to the field I would have them slow the airplane and keep the wings level while purposely feeding in rudder. I wanted them to feel what it is like just before a stall when the plane was getting ready to spin. And that had worked well with a number of students.

On this particular flight I did a spin. He did the second one and when he stomped opposite rudder and relaxed back pressure on the stick the canopy popped open. That was exciting. Fortunately the canopy lanyard caught it and I was able to grab it and pull it back down. But it got sprung so we couldn’t latch it. We just had to hold it all the way down. The first reaction was, “Well you guys must not have locked the canopy properly.” We got it into the shop and the mechanic looked at it and said, “No, it wasn’t their fault. Those latches were pretty badly worn.” It was just the inertia of the spin. You would go ahead and spin that thing and when you put in opposite rudder and relaxed pressure on the stick, it would stop (Stan click’s his fingers) almost like that.

You mentor just about everyone who joins the club. What is your advice to new club members?

Wow, I didn’t realize I was looked at as a mentor. To me that is one of the highest compliments that you could pay somebody. I enjoy doing that.


You have to be patient. You are learning a new skill. It’s like the difficulty you had when you were a kid trying to learn how to ride a bicycle. You have to have patience and you have to stick with it. You have to have confidence in yourself that this is something you can do.

You have to invest the time and energy into it. Learning how to fly a glider is basically pretty easy. Learning to fly it well is a challenge.

I make the comparison to learning how to play a guitar. Yeah, learning to play the guitar is pretty easy. Learning how to play it well…it can be one of the more difficult instruments.

Learning to soar is pretty straight forward, it’s easy.

Bill Hill, Jim Cumiford and anyone you read about in soaring magazine that are national champions like Chip Garner, could reach that level because of a tremendous amount of dedication and practice.


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