Every Thursday and Sunday in Hollister, members of the South Bay Soaring Society (SBSS) set up camp at Brigantino Park to practice flying their radio controlled gliders.
With flying sites in San Jose, Fremont, Los Banos, and Hollister, the SBSS is an RC glider club with activities in slope soaring, thermal duration, aero-tow, and scale soaring.
The Hollister site hosts an average of eight members on designated days, while the club itself has about 40 people, including members from San Benito County.
Tim Ellis, who is the webmaster and an instructor for the club, is from Saratoga and has been part of the organization for about four years. Though he originally flew powered planes, Ellis switched to gliders and joined the organization after attending a South Bay Soaring Society event.
For Ellis the biggest thrill of flying gliders is the challenge of battling the elements.
“The conditions are always different,” Ellis said. “Some days you can fly the glider for an hour and some days you launch your plane and it comes down in a few minutes.”
The goal for members of the club is finding a thermal—a column of rising hot air—to use as energy to keep the planes flying.
“It’s really satisfying if you launch your plane and get in a thermal so it rises so high you can’t see it anymore,” Ellis said.
In addition to flying gliders for enjoyment, the club also hosts and participates in competitions.
Don McCullough of San Jose has been in the club for five years and comes to Hollister most Thursdays and Saturdays to practice for competitions.
“I do it for the competition and the fun of practicing for it,” McCullough said. “I’ve yet to meet anybody who is not nice. Even though they’re competitors, there is camaraderie.”
That camaraderie is extended to anyone interested in learning more about the organization or flying gliders themselves.
Ellis said that when the club is contacted by someone interested in learning to fly the planes, the South Bay Soaring Society will provide an instructor and a club plane to try free of charge.
“We can arrange a club airplane and teach you how to fly,” McCullough added. “One advantage of a club is the experience of the people.”
SBSS’s experience includes members who have competed internationally as part of the U.S. National Team, including former world champion Bob McGowen, all of whom are willing to share their experience with others.
Richard Spicer of San Jose, who was part of the 1985 and 1987 U.S. National Teams said, “Bring the young kids out. If they come out and watch a few times they may get hooked.”
The South Bay Soaring Society will also come to local schools.
“We have an outreach program where we will talk to schools about planes and will bring small gliders to make,” Ellis said.
As Spicer said, “We would like to get more young people involved.”
For more information on the SBSS, visit the organization's website.