British soaring pilots earn diamond badges |

British soaring pilots earn diamond badges

Staff Reports

Two British pilots recently visited Minden to try their hand at altitude flights they had been unable to accomplish back home – and left with successful flights to their credit.

Both pilots had the same goal: a soaring flight with a climb to over 25,000 feet in order to qualify for the Altitude Diamond issued by the International Aeronautical Federation.

Nick Newton, a retired medical doctor from London, came to Minden with more than 600 hours piloting gliders, but said the diamond altitude flight (requiring a gain of almost 17,000 feet) had always eluded him. He took several dual flights with SoaringNV instructors before setting off on his own, and managed in his solo flight to climb to 27,400 feet, for a gain of 17,500 feet over his release from tow. Newton was delighted with his accomplishment and promised to recommend Minden as a soaring destination to his fellow club members.

Dave Watsham, a retired maritime engineer who maintains homes in UK and Georgia, said he has wanted to fly in Minden for many years, but finally decided this year to fly here when he read of the Wave Camp being conducted by SoaringNV the second week of April.

He too made his diamond altitude flight on April 15, on a particularly good day for mountain wave, climbing to 27,300 feet above sea level for an altitude gain of just over 17,000 feet.

Since he lives and flies six months of the year in the U.S., Watsham has already made plans to return next year with his own glider to try some long distance soaring.

The British pilots both appreciated the flying weather they experienced while here and the resources available to them at SoaringNV at Minden Airport.

The Wave Camp included seminar-like sessions on safe soaring, techniques for flying in mountain wave, and mountain flying. Both pilots appreciated the chance to expand their soaring knowledge as well as to earn the coveted diamond badges.