The Steamboat Springs Soaring Association (SSSA) is based at the Eagle Soaring airfield just west of Steamboat Springs, in the mountains of Colorado. A non-profit chapter # 525031 of the Soaring Society of America (SSA); we started operations in May 2014. We provide economical access to gliders, winching, training and great soaring opportunities to our growing membership. Some members own their own ships and are seasoned veterans of the sport, others are students in the process of learning it.
Just imagine the possibilities: Soaring high above Mt. Werner, you hook into a cloud street and cruise up and down the Park range, flying into Wyoming and down south, past Kremmling, Silverthorne and back again. Our soaring association has enabled local pilots to achieve equivalent spectacular flights for minimal costs. It also provides a crucial educational and social venue that fosters learning opportunities for all aspects of our sport.
Shown above is SSSA’s two-place trainer sailplane, the LET L-23 Super Blanik. This rugged trainer enables our association to offer complete flight instruction right here in the Yampa Valley. Pilot students and instructors will benefit from the outstanding ground handling, comfort, and the docile thermalling characteristics of the ship.
The associations pilots can now enjoy sharing the excitement of soaring with friends and family as passengers.
Our winch is probably one of the best ones out there. Engineered and built by Craig Freeman while he was with the Permian Soaring Association, it has proven herself in every respect, including safety, power, ease of use, maintainability, and durability.
Loaded with about 7000′ of Amsteel blue synthetic rope, her 1983 Chevy 3/4 ton pickup Big Block 454 Chevy engine can launch the heaviest of gliders at good speeds to well over 1300′ AGL. Compared to a tow plane, our turn around time is excellent and the cost per launch is a fraction of what a tow plane costs.
The winch operator enjoys a full and unobstructed view of the runway, reel drums and sky. Operation is straight forward, with only four levers: Guillotine, throttle, gear shift and brake. The operator is safely separated from moving parts and protected by a spacious steel cabin.
We estimate that each launch consumes about a quart of gas, which gives our operation a tremendous efficiency and cost advantage over tow plane based clubs allowing us to charge members only $10 per snap.
Winching is one of the more exhilarating method to get airborne on a glider. Initially the sailplane at the opposite end of the airfield from the winch, is hooked to the line. Once given the signal, the winch operator starts reeling in the winch line at great speed. Typically, the sailplane will start flying within several seconds of the winch pulling it. The pilot will then angle the airplane to about a 45 degree attitude, resulting in a steep climb and a rapid gain of altitude. Once the sailplane reaches the apex of the climb, the pilot will actuate the release mechanism, thus freeing the sailplane’s tether to the winch. The winch operator, noticing the release, will quickly rewind the remaining line as it falls to the ground, its speed checked by a small drag chute.
Our experience with the winch continues to be very positive. As compared to using a tow plane, we believe the risks are significantly lower, the operations are more efficient and surprisingly economical. We have successfully performed over one-thousand winch launches with zero accidents.
Winch training an operator is less time consuming and requires less skill than to operate a tow plane. Operating costs of a winch are small compared to those of a tow plane. A typical snap that might gain 1300′ to 1600′ AGL consumes less than a quart of unleaded fuel.
Members of SSSA are strongly encouraged to become trained on the winch and become qualified to launch other members.
SSSA owns one single place saiplane. It is a Grob 102 Astir CS (Club Standard). The fiberglass and epoxy ship is durable, docile and easy to fly, making it an ideal sailplane for the more experienced pilot. The 102 has a large wing area, a comfortable cockpit, a T-tail and retractable gear. In addition the wings have powerful top deployed Shempp Hirth style airbrakes. The large wing area gives excellent low-speed handling and thermalling characteristics, with a stall speed of about 32 knots
Our Grob has been extensively flown above the Yampa Valley and is equipped with mechanical and electronic varios, altimeters, state of the art push-to-talk radios and a Mountain High oxygen system.
The requirements for flying the Grob 102 are straightforward. The aspiring pilot must:
(1) Have a glider private pilot rating. (2) Be qualified to fly a tail dragging sailplane. (3) Perform a cockpit checkout of the Grob 102 with a properly qualified CFIG. (4) Have a ground launch endorsement for winching operations that is properly documented.