Southern Eagles Soaring
Club History

THEY CAME FROM ALABAMA

By Stephen Lindenbaum, life member and former president, and Dr. Henry Baker, founding member and former president, Southern Eagles Soaring Club

Soaring in the early 1990s southeastern United States existed in pockets. There were active clubs east of Atlanta, in the Birmingham and Huntsville areas, plus a well-known commercial operation east of Chattanooga. Most of these were a long drive for the soaring enthusiast at Auburn University so in late 1991 plans were made to form a new club in central eastern Alabama. The three people with this vision were Glenn Lawler, a restaurateur from Auburn, Dr. Henry Baker, a professor from Auburn University, and George Kling, a pilot with the aviation department at the university. Other who helped in the beginning were J. B Stokely, Michael Kamen (the first SES instructor) and Charles Bell.

Glenn and Henry were already active in the restoration and flying of sailplanes. They had refinished an ASW-15 and Glenn was working on an LS-3a. Henry was also building a Woodstock. The group decided they needed a two-seater to start the club. After some searching, they settled on a Schleicher Ka-7 from Oklahoma. They brought the ship back in January 1992. Southern Eagles Soaring was incorporated in the state of Alabama in May of that year. Later that year, they decided to add a single-place Schleicher Ka-8b to the fleet. Glenn and George brought one back from up north.


Well deserved awards for SES founders Henry Baker and Glenn Lawler
presented by Alabama State Governor Rand Baldwin during Spring fling 1998


Ka-8b - A True Soaring Classic

The next issues to address were where to fly and how to launch. Glenn owned a 180 horsepower Cessna 175 he and Glen Adkins were slowly converting to a towplane. With the towplane not yet being ready the decision was made to ground launch using an auto-pulley tow. They had "borrowed" a pulley for auto-pulley launching when they bought the Ka-7. It was obvious that Auburn airport would be unsuitable due to traffic congestion, but just down the road was the little-used 5000-foot runway of Moton-Anderson airport in Tuskegee. This airport was once one of two training fields for the famous Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. Tuskegee appeared to be ideal. They began "experimenting" with auto launching. Glenn taught himself how to fly auto launches while Henry and George taught themselves how to fly the tow car. (Actually Glenn went to Germany for a week and was checked out for ground launch on a winch.) After several heart-stopping episodes, they declared themselves expert and ready to conduct ground launch clinics for licensed glider pilots.


Wally on final landing the K-7 at LaGrange, Photo by Tim McGowin - Click to Enlarge


Rob Amos flying our Ka-8b on tow behing the 175. Click to enlarge, Photo credit Tim McGowin.

This still left one final problem. They needed an instructor to teach new students and qualify members for ground launch. They did not know of a local instructor with a ground launch endorsement. Glenn knew Steve Lindenbaum, an instructor with the Lockheed Soaring Club flying at Chilhowee, who had no restrictions on his instructor's license. Glenn contacted Steve and made arrangements to hold a ground-launch clinic weekend at Chilhowee in November 1992. They would do auto-pulley tows on the 2600-foot grass strip to qualify pilots for ground launching. Designated Pilot Examiner Mike Reisman agreed to sign off pilots graduating from the clinic to have their aero-tow-only restrictions removed. To assist the fledgling club do as many ground launch check-outs as possible, the Lockheed Soaring Club added their L-13 Blanik to the SES Ka-7 for the weekend. Glenn and Steve together flew over sixty launches during the two-day period. Many pilots were approved for ground lunch. One of the first to go through was David McGaughey who later joined Southern Eagles as an instructor in 1993. Under David's tutelage, a formal instruction program was established making SES a true teaching club. The club has never lost sight of the need to have a training program for new members in order to remain a healthy, growing organization. Southern Eagles Soaring was off and flying.



Winch with the designer and builder, Glenn Lawler

More members joined. Soaring was good at Tuskegee. In the pursuit of higher, more powerful tows, Glenn built a truck-mounted two-drum winch to rival the best from Germany. Patterned after the winches Glenn had seen during his visits to Germany, Henry commented, "theirs were Mercedes, but ours was pure Detroit".

One problem continued to plague the club - lack of a hangar. Each weekend the club would trailer their two sailplanes onto the airport and assemble them. Each evening they would take them apart and put them back on the trailers. This was taking a toll on the membership and they realized the need to be able to keep at least the Ka-7 assembled. No hangars were available at Tuskegee but there was plenty of land available, so they approached the airport management about building a hangar. They were refused. They knew they had to move or parish.

The chief flight instructor at the light-aircraft fixed base operation at Tuskegee, Jacob Luitjens, decided to move his operation, AirVentures, Inc., to a large empty hangar in LaGrange, Georgia. Through Jacob, the soaring club found out: 1. The airport management at LaGrange wanted to increase their operations count to better qualify for federal airport funding and 2. There was space available in the AirVentures hangar for the gliders. The SES officers met with the LaGrange airport management and a verbal agreement was struck. In 1997 Southern Eagles Soaring moved to LaGrange. They brought Glenn's winch but realized that because of the cross-runway layout, it would be impractical for launching. Local airport management felt that a wire hanging in the air near the powered aircraft traffic pattern was a safety issue. Glenn, in the meantime, finished the towplane for the club to use. Soon that became the method of choice for lunching.

The history of Southern Eagles Soaring would be incomplete without the mention of a silent benefactor. A quiet, unassuming, retired industrialist from Columbus, Georgia, and an avid sailplane pilot and collector, Harold Buck provided much needed capital through the early days of SES. Harold came to Tuskegee for a ground launch in his Ventus in November of 1992. He was so impressed he joined the club and became Vice-President the next year. It would probably be impossible to list all of the support and contributions Harold made to SES and to soaring in general. He was a truly remarkable man. In 1995, Harold made available to SES pilots two sailplanes from his collection - an Italian-designed, French-built M-200 two-seater and a Schweizer 1-26 for the cost of insurance. Upon his death in the late 1990's, Harold bequeathed them to SES. The M-200 was sold to a syndicate of SES members to raise capital. The 1-26 continued operating as a second club single-seater.


Our former Schweizer 1-26

By the end of the decade, the club had reached more than 30 members. Membership was becoming diverse, with two-thirds coming from the Atlanta area. Other members came from as far away as Montgomery, Alabama. As the club grew, it was recognized that it needed to be wean itself off the financial dependence on individual members as much as possible. The club agreed to buy the towplane from Glenn in 2000. Several members worked on it to install a new STOL conversion kit.

The following year it was obvious that a new two-seater was needed to replace the now tired Ka-7. The Ka-7, sometimes called "Mother Goose", had taught a multitude of students to soar including Tim McGowen, the first SES student to learn soaring from scratch in the club back in 1993. To raise capital, the 1-26 was sold to a former member now living out west. After what proved to be an international search by several SES members, an L-23 Super Blanik was located in Canada. With a loan from a dozen SES members, the ship was secured in mid-summer of 2001.

That same year two SES members, following in the spirit of Harold Buck, offered their Ka-6CR to the club for rated pilots to fly in exchange for insuring and hangaring it. The fleet now included a modern trainer, two fun-to-fly single-seaters and a towplane. The club had a solid foundation on which to grow.

In May 2002, Southern Eagles will see its tenth birthday. One of the original members is still in the club. The membership includes five instructors and many tow pilots. The skies above are blue and the future ahead looks bright.


Southern Eagles' Fleet of 1998
photo credit: Chris Ruf


ASK-21 on Winch Launch


Bruce Fox rides the winch in his PIK.

Updates:




Tim McGowin & Chris Ruf at Wright Brothers Memorial July 4, 2003, photos by Glenn Holden
The Return To Kitty Hawk event on the 100 year anniversary of powered flight. For this special occasion the National Park Service allowed the gliders to land on the very gound where the first flight took off.

 

In April of 2005 we put the Pawnee into service as the club towplane. It replaces the Cessna 175, and has a much higher climb rate. Tim McGowin puchased it and went out west to pick it up, then after we got all the paperwork in order Tim sold it to the club. This type of tenacity on Tim's behalf really made it happen for us.


Photo by Steve Kempf

 

In the Summer of 2005 Allan Pargman finished a beautiful refinish of our K-8b. It looks great in bright yellow.





Photo by Chris Ruf



Photo by Jeff DiNucci

In Spring of 2006 Tim Larsen drove out to Morarity New Mexico to pick up our first Fiberglass 2 Seat Trainer - the Scheibe SF-34.

Tim McGowin won the 2006 Region 5 South Cordele Sports Class [again!], darn you 2EZ.

Photo by Chris Ruf



Photo by Chris Ruf

Cordele 2006 - 2 club members were OutStanding in their Fields. 2EZ and H6.



Sometimes when you go soaring you meet Royalty, such as Cordele's Watermellon Queen. Chris Ruf, 2006

2006 was a good year for SES members to set Georgia State Soaring Records. 9 new records were established between Ray Cornay, Dieter Jaegar, and Chris Ruf.

To be continued...

In May 2014 the club moves to Warm Springs, Roosevelt Memorial Airport., below from Wally Berry:

The move to Warm Springs is our opportunity to put SES in a place to become something special. We are actually well on our way as far as flying equipment goes, with a great Pawnee tug, two excellent (well used but serviceable) trainers and an excellent high performance single seater. Of course, we need to fly our stuff more and take more pride in it, but we are doing pretty well with the flying part. Club officers, instructors and tow pilots have done as well as anyone could.

There are other clubs who have taken the next step. If you have spent a day with a club like Caesar Creek, Mid-Atlantic Soaring, Texas Soaring Association, Memphis Soaring, Blue Ridge Soaring Society, or any of the other clubs that have their own place, then you know what a wonderful place a glider port can be. Having a place where people can relax and be comfortable transforms a club from a few sweaty guys standing around in a field, to a place where whole families spend every weekend flying, having cookouts, planning social functions, etc. When my wife and I were members at Caesar Creek, that is how it was. Of course CCSC had a great fleet and an efficient operation, and that has only gotten better. However, CCSC has the comfort facilities that help make the club a great place to be. A big heated and air conditioned clubhouse with kitchen, bathrooms with showers, and an attached picnic shelter. A large campground with camper hookups. Mary Jo and I had a camper that we kept there and lived in nearly every weekend. To me, though, the single big factor that really makes CCSC, or any of the other clubs great, is that they have their own place. They are in control and can relax and feel at home. CCSC has many members who are 4th generation with the club. That tells you what a loved, family place it is. The club puts on a lot of parties and cookouts. They even host events for local groups like the famous CCSC “Ox Roasts” for the Waynesville Chamber of Commerce. Even when there is no planned event, there are parties and cookouts nearly every weekend, impromptu club groups get together to go to events like concerts or shows. My favorite was the night a bunch of us got a private tour of the U. of Cincinnati observatory and even got to look through their giant antique refractor scope. My wife developed her closest friendships at CCSC. How much better would you feel about spending your time and money with the club if your family got as much out of it as you do?

We will finally have a comfortable place with the huge hangar with heated and cooled bathrooms and even a shower! There are offices/classrooms/bunkrooms. We can even have a shade shelter and chairs at the flight line. Mary Jo and I are looking forward to bringing our RV out on Friday nights and maybe staying on the field for the whole weekend. 

I hope the move to Warm Springs is generating some renewed enthusiasm among you all. We will have a lot of work ahead to figure out the best way to operate at Warm Springs and to develop the facilities to our liking. However, the absolute best thing any member can do to make the club succeed is to come out and fly. We can also do some other things at Warm Springs to benefit the club. We can be more involved with Civil Air Patrol. SES has a long history with CAP and it has always been a good thing for us, for the kids, and for soaring in general. I am particularly hopeful that we can get back to something SES was once famous for: ground launching. We used to do ground launch clinics once or twice a year.

Here’s some historical background on the club just to let everyone know how far the club has come. SES originated with members from Auburn, AL. The primary club founder was Glenn Lawler. Tim McGowin, Henry Baker, and Harold Buck were also founding members. The club’s first home was Moton Field at Tuskegee, AL (famous for the Tuskegee airman, but they actually did not fly there much, if at all). We had two gliders (on which we were paying loans) and did not own the towplane. We had a big role of Dacron rope and an auto-launch rig to launch the gliders. We did not have a hangar at Tuskegee so we were having to transport the gliders from a warehouse to the airport and assemble them each day before flying. We often operated both Saturday and Sunday, so we had to disassemble and assemble all the gliders twice every weekend. We were hard core. Jacob had his flight school at Tuskegee as well. We wanted to build a hangar and grow the club but the town of Tuskegee did not want us there. In fact, they did not want any flying activity there as they were expecting a federal windfall to turn the place into a museum. Jacob, and I think maybe Henry Baker, found the empty hangar at Lagrange that had been built for a business that ultimately did not show up. When the club decided to move to Lagrange, we only had about 10 active members. Neither, Jacob or SES could have afforded the hangar separately, so we all decided to move to LGC together and share the hangar. 

They came from Alabama with a banjo on their knee?

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Last modified May 23, 2014 10:03 PM by CR