The wind Tuesday afternoon blew steady and not too strong, not too weak — just right for the Soarheads, an impromptu club of radio-controlled (mostly) glider enthusiasts who have been meeting on the western slope of Cesar Chavez Park for more than twenty years. Among them was Vance Cearley, whose 125-inch wingspan racing glider was the biggest plane present, though not the heaviest. Vance said he was tuning up for a competitive race two weeks from now. His glider is an F3F racing model named “Secret” built for slope racing. He’s looking forward to doing “DS” — dynamic soaring, a technique copied from sea birds where the plane makes great circles from moving air to still air, gaining speed with each crossing of the boundary. According to Wikipedia, specialized radio-controlled model gliders built for DS have reached speeds in the hundreds of miles per hour, with the current world record at 519 mph. Yes, a glider!
With the good breeze, launching a plane today was mainly a matter of throwing it into the wind. Five craft were in the air at the same time, mostly on the western slope, over the hilly area, or over the water. Ron, another soarhead, admitted that sometimes, though rarely, planes have been lost in the water. Two weeks ago there was a midair collision and a plane crashed in the woodsy area. Despite several people looking for an hour, it could not be found and presumably is still there, stuck in the middle of a dense bush.
Radio-controlled gliders built for racing can run into money, Vance related, but basic glider outfits can be had for not much over $100, including the radio control gear. Because gliders by definition have no motor, there’s no noise. Even the one propeller plane present this afternoon managed to be so quiet that it could not be heard above the wind. These aircraft do not generate the buzz or whine of drones. “It’s a great hobby,” said Greg, another member. After the boys get tired of flying, they usually retreat to a local restaurant for companionship.