Soaring to Mt Aspiring with Alex

Soaring to Mt Aspiring with Alex

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

SoaringNZ is Five. Happy Birthday to Us.

The magazine that posted last week is Issue 30. Last night I spread all thirty magazines out on the floor, a block with five rows of six. It covered as much of the floor as a reasonable sized rug and it looked fantastic. In fact, I’m thinking of having a poster made of the thirty covers. Every cover is a stunning illustration of the excitement and adventure of soaring. When you put all thirty of them together, they look amazing. We have photos of gliders in all attitudes - upside down (twice), gliders on the beach, over the sea (three times), over lakes (surprisingly only three times), over mountains (really surprisingly, only twice), places other than NZ (four times) and showing people (six times). Some of my favourites are Issue 8, with young Hugo Miller flying a Blanik with the canopy off (you know he was having fun), Issue 5 with a Dimona over a Queensland beach, and Issue 12 with Piako’s PW6 on the beach at Raglan. It’s a different and pretty picture of a glider, and the fact that it was my own landout doesn’t change that. My all-time favourite is Issue 21, with Toby Read posing beside GlideOmarama’s Duo at Milford Sound, with Mitre Peak in the background. It is not only a very scenic picture but it puts a gliding take on an iconic view. Looking at this photo, I know that these pilots had an adventure. You can’t get a better cover picture than that.

It was pointed out to me that there isn’t a cover with a woman. It is a very good point and sadly, representative of the number of women in the sport. Ladies, if you get any good shots of you flying, forward them to me for possible covers. Actually, any readers out there, send me good, high resolution pictures. We are always looking for exciting gliding photos.

Technically there is a cover with a woman. I was actually P2 in the Dimona on Issue 6, but you would have to look hard to see me.

Only one glider has managed to be featured twice, Dane Dickinson’s LS8, ZN. It was on the cover of Issue 4, back when it had swirly decals and on Issue 25 when it had an equally fancy but more standard, black on white paint job. It features in this issue too, but not on the cover. It was flown by Roland van der Wal in EuroGlide. ZN gets around.

Thirty issues with forty eight pages of text at roughly five hundred words per page equals around 720,000 words. Modern popular novels usually come in between 80 – 100,000 words. We have collectively (because there have been an awful lot of contributors over the years), written around eight novels of gliding words. That is a huge body of work. Have a look on your bookshelf and see how much room that many words take up. And then there are the photos. I have no idea how many wonderful images we have printed.

Which of all those words do I like the best? Reporting on the Grand Prix back in Issue 2 was exhilarating and bizarre. The magazine was all new and then bamm, when we were still feeling our way and working out how to make a magazine, we had an international competition in our patch. It was so exciting. Over the years we’ve had some fantastic reporting on World Championships, from both our own NZ competitors and international writers who were pleased to help out.

We’ve been very lucky with some of our NZ regular contributors. Two in particular stand out in my mind as amusing and informative: Ian Dunkley’s vintage columns are missed, now that ill health is slowing him down and David Hirst’s technical pieces can make me laugh while I learn. The most common query I get from people on past magazines are for David’s columns, ‘An Idiot’s Guide to Tephigrams’ in Issues 3 and 4.

SoaringNZ has covered some incredible world records. We started with a very special one. The feature story in Issue 1 was Fossett and Delore’s, 2007, 1250km 25% FAI triangle speed record. By the time we went to press, Steve Fossett was missing - later confirmed dead. Terry Delore has set another other world record since, a three turnpoint, 2500km declared distance, flown in New Zealand with John Kokshorn, in Issue 14. Doug Hamilton’s ‘Flight from Hell,’ Issue 7, was a hard fought 1500km triangle. It wasn’t a world record but it did win him the honour of being NZ’s last Barron Hilton cup recipient, in 2009. Jenny Wilkinson achieved a 500km out and return woman’s speed record in 2009, Issue 8. We have also highlighted spectacular flights from our sport’s past, featuring Dick Georgeson, Doug Yarrall, Keith Wakeman, Yvonne Loader and others. This issue’s story on Ann Johnson’s 1979 245km goal flight continues in that tradition.

Long flights have, of course, featured strongly in our pages but I’m equally as pleased to have printed stories of first solos, 50 kms and stories of the joyous, happy, local flying contributed by pilots who just want to share their pleasure in our sport.

Back issues are still available at the same cost as current magazines, if you would like to complete your set.

Issue 16 was a little different. It had both a large number of safety articles, including Part One of Arthur Gatland’s ‘Threat and Error Management’, and the finals of our one and only photo competition. It has been a challenge to keep our competition reports fresh and entertaining. I don’t think we do too badly with that. Of course, the people who were there are probably the most avid readers of those, but we hope others are enjoying the coverage too. It has been great to chronicle the inception and growth of YouthGlide and the Youth Soaring Development camp, but that could be my own personal bias.

When I think about what I am most proud of though, it is the fact that you are holding Issue 30 in your hands right now. In September 2010, Issue 18, I wrote an editorial entitled, ‘Random Thoughts on Earthquakes and Their Aftermaths.’ No-one had any idea then how bad things were going to get. Issue 21 came out when our world was completely broken by the February 2011 quake that destroyed Christchurch and killed more than 180 people. I am so proud of the fact that, in spite of everything that has happened since then: the loss of our house, our printer’s factory, the huge damage and upheaval in Christchurch, you have still received a top quality soaring magazine every two months. There have been times where you very nearly didn’t.

Thank you to all the people who have contributed over the years and the many more people who have read and enjoyed our efforts. Please share your love of gliding and of SoaringNZ with your friends. Help us to grow into our next five, ten, fifteen years. Happy Birthday to us all.

Jill McCaw