A slim, graceful, long-winged craft arcs upward smoothly and steeply into the summer sky, accompanied by the faint whistle of air accelerating past its gleaming surfaces. All eyes are on the machine as it dwindles with each passing second, a surging aerial trout playing out yards of taut singing line. A tiny parachute blossoms gently and returns the shining nylon filament to earth. Someone hurries to pluck the blossom before it touches the ground and soon other sailplanes are on their way in a quest to find lift. Flying a pure sailplane requires a modicum of learned skill as having it gain altitude in the heat of a thermal is an art.
Along comes technology. Perhaps some of those sailplanes, accompanied by the quiet whirr of an electrically driven propeller, will leave the launchers hand bound for a predetermined altitude, at which time the motor will stop and the propeller will fold snugly against the fuselage, and where the pilots to will join the hunt for elusive lift.
After the launch, little sound or movement is evident among the small group of pilots who's gazes pierce the sky. Yet there is tension amongst them and knees tremble in anticipation, all are alert for the subtle lift of a wing that signals a bubble of warm, rising air. Now, a turn begins, and then a tightening of the turn and a sweep into the lift, the pilot curves his obedient ship upward, betraying his or her satisfaction by just a smile or noticeable relaxation. Minutes, or perhaps hours later, the sailplane reappears at a lower altitude and is electronically grooved to a perfect landing on the grass at the feet of its once-remote master. Such a scene is repeated thousands of times during the soaring season all over the world by men and woman of all ages and talents.
A call is given by the pilot, "Lads...mount up...I have crossed the starting line and heading on course!". The team of driver, observer, and pilot scramble into the back of a pickup or convertible and head out onto the cross country course. The variometer, plugged into the car radio or pilot headset, is wailing with the telemetry data sent back from the sailplane...telling the pilot to climb, climb until you cant see the tail anymore, and only the wings. Higher the sailplane goes, 300, 400, 600, 800 meters until it is a speck. The pilot is telling the driver to pick up speed, "Up 5 they say, then up 10, then down 5". They are out on the course chasing the glider, trying to get 10 kilometers down the road to the turn point. A command of stop the car is given periodically as the pilot getting low on altitude tries to find another thermal to take him higher, and higher, and hopefully back to the starting point. This is wind in your hair, sun in your face, and a challenge for all to take, a challenge they call cross country.
Another call is given in a different part of the earth. Here the wind is fierce and so is the pilot and his skills. The sailplane rises gently out of the hand and accelerates flying away from the mountain. A turn is given and the dance begins. Circles become smaller and the speed is increasing. A helper with a radar gun yells over the wind, "480mph, 490 mph, 497mph". A record is set, and all on the side of the mountain know and out on the groups...yes this is dynamic soaring at its best!
Now ask yourself...who are these people? What are they doing and why?
Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen...to the League of Silent Flight!