An attempt to set a downwind record ended about 350 miles short of its goal when record-setting glider pilot Gordon Boettger and copilot Hugh Bennett landed safely in Gunnison, Colo., Sunday night.
On Saturday, Boettger said his goal was to fly along the jet stream using mountain wave conditions, and climbing to 28,000 feet so he and Bennett could surmount the Rocky Mountains. His goal was Garden City, Kan., which is 1,030 miles from Minden.
He said light ridgetop wind conditions might slow him down in Nevada and Utah.
“A lot of variables exist since what we’re attempting is weather driven,” he said. “Ridge top winds are necessary to trigger the mountain wave.”
Boettger took off from Minden-Tahoe Airport at 6:09 a.m. Sunday and drove east starting at about 8:30 a.m. after climbing to 23,700 feet above sea level. By 9:22 a.m. Boettger was headed east at 132 knots and made it to the Toiyabe Range in central Nevada.
As forecast, it was near Arc Dome Peak that the trip ran into its first rough patch. Boettger flew north looking for a spot to get the lift he needed to climb across the rest of Nevada. It took an hour and a half to get as far as Ely. By 1:10 p.m., Boettger and Bennett turned downwind again at 21,000 feet near Wheeler Peak. That climb managed to get the glider high enough to cross the Wasatch Range in Utah, where several mountain waves would help them get across the rest of Utah and into Colorado.
By 4 p.m. Boettger and Bennett made it to just west of the Colorado border, but an hour later, the winds gave out and the glider didn’t have the lift to make it across the Rockies. Boettger put the glider down in Gunnison after 12 hours in the air and flying 678 miles across three states. Because the glider can’t fly at night, any flight is limited to daylight hours.
In May of last year, the two men attempted a similar flight that moisture, ice and cloud cover halted before they got past Elko. They landed in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Last year, one of Bennett and Boettger’s earlier flights was recognized as one of the most memorable records of 2011 by the National Aeronautic Association in Washington D.C.
They received the record for free three turnpoint distance for multi-place gliders by flying 1,321 miles in Bennett’s Schempp-Hirth Duo Discus along the Sierra Wave. The 13-hour flight beat the previous record of 960 miles, set by the two men earlier in that year.