Dad did his fair share of dreaming big. Particularly when it came to his kids.
On a whim in the summer of 1976—no doubt in part because he wanted to drive his shiny silver Alfa Romeo on the twisty and dangerous road through the mountains—my father suggested I have a stab at the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada National Championships held that year in Calgary, Alberta. This was on the strength of some spotty success at similar local model airplane competitions. Dad did his fair share of dreaming big. Particularly when it came to his kids.
For my part, I thought it was a perfectly fine idea, and duly registered to compete in the ‘Standard Sailplane’ category. These were models of around eight foot wingspan, without any sort of motor, controlled by the pilots located safely on the ground and connected to their plane by radio link. The gliders were towed aloft by a winch which spooled up the towline and the small, graceful aircraft rose into the sky like a kite...
Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. They key image for this episode Barron Shurn preparing to launch his model sailplane at a Seattle Area Soaring Society contest in June of 2008. This would have been very similar to the competition described in the essay. (photo credit: Bill Kuhlman / RC Soaring Digest)