(in the
Soaring Society of America Growth Area)

Soaring needs young people. Young people need soaring.

Dillon Krapes


  1. Recruit: INFORM youth at large about the sport of soaring, encourage them to join SSA

  2. Educate: DEVELOP the soaring skill of young SSAers with training grants, camps & contests

  3. Organize: INVOLVE young SSA members in an enjoyable community ready to serve the movement

  4. Recognize: REWARD the achievements of young SSAers with awards, prizes & scholarships

YOUTH ADVISORS (under age 26)


^ INTRO   < BACK   * HERE   > NEXT   v LINKS

Goal-keyed Program Committees






Valeria Paget

John Godfrey

Richard Maleady

Jay MacDaniel

John Campbell


Partner & Source Committees








Gordon Roesler

Tim Welles

Wally Miller

John Campbell

Ray Johnson

David Hibbard

Steve Lowry

Head Back List Next End


New Generations are being born all the time, so it is important to steadily supply information about soaring. It would be a shame for newcomers to miss out until they are older, especially since soaring is so well-suited as a person's first introduction to flying. It would be a shame for any competitive sport to miss out on youthful talent and ambition. Sailplane flying is sufficiently labor-intensive and physically-demanding that a pool of young folks makes it run much more smoothly.

The trouble is, soaring is fairly unknown, misunderstood, and counter-intuitive: Who would have thought it was possible to fly all day without an engine? At the turn of the Century, only the Wright Brothers seemed to visualize the possibility. In today's modern age of everyday air travel, glider flying is largely thought of, if at all, as an archaic milestone on the road to commercial and military aviation.

Meanwhile, motorless flight powered by the atmosphere is common in nature. Half of all animals fly, many soar. When humans made their first sustained flights, they did so by imitating the larger soaring birds, riding on fixed wings through upward-moving air. The Lilienthals wrote of storks, the Wrights of gulls and eagles, and humans by the thousands have since joined these birds in the sky. >From soaring flights measured in seconds in 1892, to a full minute by 1903, to the first hour flight in 1922, the process has brought humanity relaxation, inspiration, art, science, technology, adventure, and competition. The sailplane may not lead aircraft varieties in utility or speed (efficiency is its design hallmark), but it enables a cherished mode of flying. Sailing on water is of similar permanent interest, long into the age of motorized boats.

In the 1960s, publicity for youth sailplane flying was naturally rampant. It was the era of the Space Race, of World War Two veterans pushing their kids into flying at the earliest possible age (14 in gliders), before the hang-gliding revival and the ultralight revolution. Paul Schweizer reported in Soaring (1/68, p.19) that "in the last two and half years, (youth) SSA membership has increased 116% whereas the total... has only increased 42%". He also warned that "...the soaring movement has done very little organized work to promote youth in soaring", that youth participation was fortuitous and would not last without SSA follow-through. Sure enough, youth membership (under age 23) went by steady attrition from 1,600 in 1969 (18% of total) to 400 by 1991 (3%). In recent years, it has rebounded to 600 and 5% (2001).

If you are young and fascinated by soaring, there is no good reason you shouldn't be part of a much larger group. Between accessible flight training, an ecological interaction with nature, and mastery of a technical sport, we have a terrific "product" to offer all generations. The day-to-day activity of assembling, moving, launching, and retrieving gliders has great need of helpers with more free time and muscle than money. Many flight instructors find that it takes about as many flights to learn to fly a glider as one is years old--it does not pay to put it off. Spread the word to your young friends!

SSA has a Publicity Committee dedicated to marketing soaring to the general public, against the tides of fashion and public misconception. Creativity is required to catch the attention of contemporary kids. If you have ideas, contact the Committee Chair, Valeria Paget.

Some tools to communicate the special link between youth and sailplane flying
(a good place to look for more is Johan Larson's site)


Soaring (USA), Sailplane & Gliding (UK), Free Flight (CA),... National Geographic (10/29, 5/63), Natl. Geographic World (5/80), Reader's Digest (5/68), Sport Aviation for Kids (4/94)


Glider Coloring Book (SSA 98), Youth Must Fly (40), The Book of Gliders (30)

TV Shows:

NASA Sci-Files (NASA 07), Bill Nye the Science Guy (Disney 97), Newton's Apple (Discover 97), National Geographic Explorer (TBS, 84, 97), Boy who flew with the Condors (WW of Disney, 68), The Sky Trap (WW of Disney, 78)


A Fine Week of Soaring (Geovision 04), Gliding: Your 21st Century Sport (FAI 03), Discover Gliders! (Niche 98), Wind Born (NZ TV 97), The Living Treasure House (NSM 86)


The Thomas Crown Affair (99), Wind (94)

Head Back List Next End


If you are a young soaring pilot, why not meet and exchange ideas with others? It can seem lonely, sometimes, to be the only glider guider at the field that is too young to drink (21) or even drive (16), or who is not married, or who has homework to do back at home... Look a little wider and realize that, in the USA, there are over 600 SSA members under 23. Some of the 600 young glider pilots trained each year at the US Air Force Academy get to fly SSA Regional contests in an L-33, L-23 or even Discus 2 or drill in cross-country technique in a Duo Discus. Teenage Civil Air Patrol cadets learn to fly gliders much as the Academy students do, attending two-week glider flight academies by the dozens each summer, and they get the bug from year-round orientation rides offered by local CAP and SSA glider pilots at no cost. The Harris Hill Soaring Corporation relies heavily on its 20+ member Junior Organization for line-crew work, and rewards them with cut-rate flight costs. Large Commercial Glider Operators do the same and help prepare dozens of kids for solo at 14 each year. Several colleges have active student soaring clubs (ERAU, Penn Sate, Illinois...). A few 20-year-olds out there own their own gliders, or have Gold badges, or fly National contests...

Want to make some contacts? SSA's US Soaring Team is looking into boosting youth participation in contests and has set up a newsletter subscription and youth registration list. Young Kolstad winner Mike Westbrook has set up a Yahoo chat group for Junior pilots. Some traffic appears in the Youth section of Al McDonald's gliderforum. The Collegiate Soaring Association invites conversation about student soaring at

Head Back List Next End


A little hands-on training or mentoring goes a long way, especially for those aspects of sailplane flying far removed from mainstream FAA licensing. There is an army of pilots out there with teaching skills and resources that can accelerate the transition from basic stick-and-rudder flying to reliable soaring prowess. We are starting to tap their talents and we are very grateful to see them come forward. Some very famous names are involved. Karl Striedieck, for instance, has been especially vocal about doing something to stem the aging of contest pilots. Doug Jacobs, Tom Knauff, Bruce Dyson, Jim Payne, Roy Cundiff, Chip Garner, Mark Huffstuttler, Hank Nixon, Monty Sullivan, Heinz Weissenbuehler, Jason Gregg are among winners of SSA Championships who have pitched in already.

No one has done more to date, when it comes to concrete action, than Eric Mozer. An eight-time member of the USA International Team who won his first National contest at the age of 22, Eric had a hand in selecting the USA Junior Team from 1991 to 2001. When time came for the 2nd European Junior Gliding Championships in 1993, Eric and his father Rudy arranged for both of our team pilots (Erik Nelson, Sean Franke) to fly beautiful ASW-24s, one a demonstrator for Schleicher of France. Eric went to La-Roche-sur-Yon himself and spent the practice week flying with them in a third ASW-24, and showing them the pair-flying techniques he had developed starting at the 1978 Worlds, also in France. His lessons bore the fruit of having Sean be the winner and only finisher on the first contest day, with Erik a close second, and all the Europeans landing far down-course. In 2003, Eric and his siblings (5 glider pilots) went on to fund the National Junior Championship trophy in honor of their father, Rudy Mozer.

In turn, Sean Franke passed the age of "Junior" FAI competition (25) and was keenly involved in preparing the 1997 USA Junior Team for its appearance in Freudenstadt, Germany. He managed to distill advice from his three trips to the EJGC (1991, '93, '95 -- each featuring a daily win). He looks forward to giving back to the movement as a Youth Coach, as do more recent Junior Team members such as Mike Robison and Garret Willat. Tim Hanke (EJGC '97, '99) put a lot of effort into designing successful fund-raising schemes. More recently, Bob Leve, an academic sports psychologist, signed on to coach the Junior Team and ably managed their appearance at the 2005 WJGC in England.

As of 2003, The US Team has set up a committee to promote Junior pilot racing development, and this has resulted in exciting concrete progress, including US Team Junior Camps with 2-seaters and US Team mentors. Sign up for the US Team Junior e-newsletters or contact Junior development leader Tim Welles for details.

Head Back List Next End


In the general scheme of things, SSA recognizes Competitive Awards (Contest results), Non-Competitive Awards (judged recognition for service, achievement, or desire), Badges (achievement to set standards), and Records (landmark achievements). So it is for youth awards:

Competitive Awards



Non-Competitive Awards


FAI & SSA awards



NATIONAL Bronze Medals

Century III (300km)

State Junior singleplace


REGIONAL Certificates

Century II (200km)

State Junior multiplace


JUNIOR Ranking

Century I 100km)



The Rudolf W. Mozer JUNIOR NATIONAL CHAMPION Trophy is awarded at the SSA Convention each year for best percentage performance in any SSA-sanctioned USA Nationals (Open, 18m, 15m, Standard, World, Sports).

NATIONAL Bronze medals go every year to the highest placing pilot under 26 in each SSA-organized National Championships: FAI Open Class, FAI 15-meter Class, FAI Standard Class, Sports Class. Some winners to date: Sean Franke, Tim Hanke, Liz Schwenkler, Joe Walter, Danny Sorenson, Chris Saunders, Garret Willat.

REGIONAL Certificates go every year to the highest placing pilot under 26 in each SSA-organized Regional Championships, with different Classes compared by percentage of winner's score. Some winners to date: Rob Cluxton, Dan Cole, Danny Sorenson, Joe Walter, Liz Schwenkler, Mike Robison, Ryan Vihlen.

JUNIOR NATIONAL contests are a developing forum, held in conjunction with 1-3 existing SSA Regional contests each year, leading to a national ranking of pilots under 26 and consideration for the biennial USA team to the World Junior Gliding Championships. At present, the SSA Contest rules provide for the Junior Nationals to be a pseudo contest of mathematically combined scores from all SSA-sanctioned National Championships (Open, 18m, 15m, Standard, World, Sports).

The Century Badges, I, II, and III, open to SSA members through age 20, may be applied for to SSA, using the same form and simultaneously with FAI Badges. One badge per flight, please.

Every State has Junior record categories, open to SSA members through age 25. Many of them are now very old, dating back to the boom in youth participation of the late 1960s. Tim Hanke of Upstate NY set 5 Junior records, Liz Schwenkler 11, Ira Phillips III 13 (in several adjoining States).

The KOLSTAD, BULTMAN, and CADET Awards recognize Achievement, Service, or just Desire, and are described further under GRANTS. CONTEST grants are available for training camps or contest entry fees.

Head Back List Next End


Since 1994, SSA has had a full range of grants to support youth activity, ranging from a learn-to-fly welcome open to the general public, to an incentive to progress in soaring that rewards ground-crew work, to college financial aid for accomplished soaring pilots under the age of 21. As of 1999, we can even offer financial relief for contest work.

CADET Youth Flight Scholarship. Ages 13-22. Deadline: June 30. 2 $600 yearly grants, textbooks, SSA memberships. Grants are for learning to fly gliders (only) at a sponsoring Club or Flight School. No SSA membership, no flight experience required. Application is on a form available at most gliderports in the USA, witnessed there, accompanied by a brief essay on soaring. Principal judging criteria: Desire to become a pilot, appreciation of the nature of soaring, financial need, talents or promise in other areas of life.
JUDGING COMMITTEE: Bernard Gross, Frank Whiteley, YCOM chair

BULTMAN Youth Flight Scholarship. Ages 14-22. Deadline: April 30. Up to 3 $200 yearly grants, for expenses in pursuing advanced aspects of soaring flight such as badges, records, cross-country or wave flying, contests (not FAA licenses). SSA membership, student (solo) glider license required. Application must be on a form from the web, accompanied by a nomination letter from a sponsoring Club or Flight School. Principal judging criteria: Service on the ground to a Club or Flight School, advanced soaring plans
JUDGING COMMITTEE: Jane Bultman, Frank Whiteley, YCOM chair

KOLSTAD College Scholarship. Ages 14-20. Deadline: September 30. 1 or more $1,500 yearly grants, for tuition, fees, and books at an academic institution. USA citizenship, SSA membership, FAI Silver badge or Kolstad Century I award required. Application must be on a form available from SSA Office and the web, accompanied by applicant documentation and 1 or more nomination letters from members of a sponsoring Club or Flight School. Principal judging criteria: Personal achievements in soaring, service to a Club or Flight School, academic study plans.
JUDGING COMMITTEE: Ralph and Marg Kolstad, AWARDS chair, YCOM chair.

COMPETITION Grants. Young american glider pilots that have yet to fly an SSA sanctioned contest can accesss wonderful coaching for the asking. Numerous sailplanes have even been loaned to young pilots for contests, ranging from 1-26s and ASW-15s to ASW-27s. We can help beginners make contact, but we recommend that they first have an FAA Private Certificate, an SSA Bronze Badge, and that they be prepared to scrutinize guidebooks such as John Good's SRA Guide to Soaring Competition and Bill Bartell's Start Racing. A first taste of X/C decision-making can even be explored interactively on the web. Lest costs be a deterrent, we offer the "Junior Entry Grant" Program and the "Junior Training Grant" Program under which SSA-member "Junior" pilots (age 25 or less) can apply to SSA for matching funds.
JUDGING COMMITTEE: Aland Adams, Steve Northcraft, Jim Payne, YCOM chair.

Tax-deductible donations to "SSA" to support these programs (be sure to specify by name)
may be sent at any time to the Soaring Society of America, Inc.

PO Box 2100, Hobbs NM 88241-2100. (505)392-1177,-8154(FAX)
Credit Cards are welcome

Potential Sponsors of similar grant programs are urged to contact John Campbell. The Youth Committee is especially interested in providing further aid in the intermediate experience range between solo and badge flights, where many young people drop out for lack of funds or access to equipment.

Head Back List Next End


SSA has signed formal partnerships with many National Organizations, some Aviation Groups, some Youth Groups, to address common promotional goals:

Within SSA's membership of Affiliates (related groups), Divisions (special interest subgroups), Chapters (Clubs), Business Members (Flight Schools), and Committees, numerous grass-roots efforts have managed to bring young people together with the opportunity and adventure that soaring represents:

Head Back List

Please feel free to visit this grab-bag of other Youth-in-Soaring Links

 |  Kolstad College Scholarship |  Bultman Flight Scholarship |  Cadet Flight Scholarship  | 
 |  Sailplanes & Youth |  Glider Flight Training | Kolstad Century Badges | USA Junior Soaring Team | 
| Karlsson Soaring Camp | Collegiate Soaring Association | Idaflieg | National Flight Academy-Glider | 
 | A Soaring Fact Sheet |  Brief History of Gliders |  What is Soaring all about? | 
| Soaring Society of America | Site Directory | Sailplane Directory |

John H. Campbell
SSA Youth Chairman
Last revised: 12-May-09