MID-GEORGIA SOARING ASSOCIATION HISTORY
By Clyde Taylor
In November, 1959, Mid-Georgia Soaring Association was incorporated under the laws of the State of Georgia in Macon, Bibb County, Georgia, by its’ founders, Captain Linford B. Bachtell, USAF, and Van Thaxton, presently retired and living in Warner Robins, Georgia. MGSA sprang from the Warner Robins Aero Club, which was originally organized by Van Thaxton, its’ first president. Interest in soaring in the Aero Club began in early 1958 when Capt. Lin Bachtell was assigned to Robins Air Force Base. An Air Force fighter pilot, he was also an enthusiastic soaring pilot, owned a Schweizer 1-23 and stimulated interest in soaring among Aero Club members. As an informal soaring club, MGSA became an SSA Chapter prior to its’ formal incorporation.
The Aero Club soaring activity at first involved Lin Bachtell’s personal 1-23, which was flown by the members with a soaring orientation. As interest grew in soaring, a trip was made to Dayton, Ohio, where an LK-10A was purchased for the fledgling soaring club. Operations were from Cochran Field, now Macon Municipal Airport. Tows were provided by Aero Club members with towhook-equipped aircraft. Often, North Georgia Soaring Association (NOGASS) members from Parkaire Field in Cobb County, came to Macon to fly. Other original members were Ken Grubbs of Monroe, Bill Brown of Athens, Matt Conner, and Charlie Sparks, all of whom drove from Atlanta or the Monroe / Athens area to participate. By 1960, MGSA had approximately twenty members and was operating three sailplanes, the LK-10A for a trainer and the 1-23 and a newly-built Schweizer 1-26, both owned by Lin Bachtell.
Even in the early years, interest in cross-country and competition soaring was strong, with Lin Bachtell, Van Thaxton and various other members competing in the contests of the era. These involved endurance, altitude gain and cross-country distance. Significant interest was attracted to the club and numbers of pilots were first introduced to soaring by MGSA. Numerous airline pilots were introduced to the sport during two-hour turn-arounds at Macon Airport.
In 1960, Capt. Lin Bachtell was transferred to Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, Georgia, taking his 1-23 and 1-26. Since many members were from that and surrounding areas, the MGSA operation was moved and an association was formed with NOGASS, with whom informal ties already existed. Key NOGASS members in this time period were Ed Barnes, John Karlovich, and Joe Davis. In 1960, Ken Grubbs was elected President of MGSA. After a period of joint operations with NOGASS at Parkaire, the two clubs eventually merged in July 1962. MGSA was the surviving entity. Operations continued from Parkaire using the LK-10A and other private ships, including Lin Bachtell’s 1-23 and 1-26 until he left the area due to a subsequent military transfer. Ken Grubbs continued as President and exerted strong leadership for the growing club for six more years.
In the 1961-62 time-period, explorations of soaring conditions at various remote sites were conducted. The first MGSA soaring operations at Andrews, NC, and FT. Payne, AL, were in this time period. In February 1962, Lin Bachtell climbed to 11,00 ft. in wave at Andrews.
In 1961, Ken Grubbs, Lee Cherry, Walt Harber, and Jim Briscoe, all of whom lived in Monroe, GA, requested and received permission from the City of Monroe to fill and grade the city dump to create a dirt strip for general aviation operations. This was the origin of the current Monroe Airport. After completion of the strip, Ken was made the first Airport Commissioner. At Ken’s urging, the club conducted periodic operations at Monroe, as well as other sites, as suburban development was beginning to encroach upon Parkaire. McCollum Airport in Cobb County was also a temporary operations site, but Monroe showed more promise for the long-term future of the club.
During the mid-sixties, MGSA finally relocated to Monroe Airport, it’s current operating site. A hanger was available at Gunn Field in Dekalb County as that airport was closing for suburban redevelopment. Members acquired and moved the hanger to Monroe, where it was re-erected and became the club’s base. The club now uses this hanger (the Silver Hanger) for it’s operations. Duane Eisenbeiss, a United pilot based in Atlanta, and Jim Satterfield joined the club in this period and added strong enthusiasm to club operations. Both introduced many new pilots to soaring, Duane in his two-seat Pratt-Read, and Jim in the club LK-10A. The GLERC Soaring Club, sponsored by Lockheed-Georgia in Marietta, also recognized Monroe as a good site and relocated there.
Following the move to Monroe, MGSA grew to the point it was able to afford its’ first towplane, a Stinson L-5. Later, the club’s first single-seat sailplane, a Schweizer 1-26, was purchased from T. I. Weston of Columbia, SC. In 1969, the LK-10A was sold to MGSA member Charlie Sparks. With the proceeds, a wooden Schleicher Ka-8B was purchased from the Memphis Soaring Club. Charlie Sparks subsequently converted the LK-10A back to its’ original World War II trainer “bunny-nose” configuration.
The late 1960s were a period of strong growth for soaring in the US, and MGSA was no exception. Bermuda High Soaring was started by Joe and Lucy Giltner in Chester, SC, in the late 1960s, and soaring received a shot in the arm with a commercial training site.
Many area pilots were able to train there as well as at Antique Acres near Griffin, GA, started by Carl Hoffman, who received his soaring introduction and transition from the Giltners at Bermuda High. Numbers of current MGSA members received their training at these sites. National interest in soaring was stimulated by an article in the January 1967 issue of National Geographic. Following that, Walt Disney’s “The Boy Who Flew With the Condors” appeared on television and growth was stimulated well into the 1970s.
By late 1969, MGSA operated the Schweizer 21-26 and Ka-8 at Monroe and GLERC Soaring operated a Schweizer 2-33 and a Ka-8.
In 1970, MGSA dues were $48 per year and the initiation fee for new members was $100. No rental was charged for the gliders. Tows were $4.00 to 2000 feet. In 1969, the Family Membership was developed as a number of members had spouses and teenagers who wished to join and enjoy flying privileges.
During the early 1970’s, stimulated by the new generation of all-fiberglass competition sailplanes, the Libelle and Standard Cirrus, and by several years experience in cross-country soaring, many MGSA members interests turned toward serious competition.
In 1970, a group composed of Dave Culpepper, Woody Woodward, and John Karlovich decided to explore the possibilities for soaring competitions in South Georgia, an area noted for wide-open rural country and many World War II-era ex-military airfields. A survey tour of that area resulted in Crisp County Airport in Cordele, GA, being the top candidate. The airport, an old B-25 training base with three 5000 ft runways and only very limited local and transient traffic, as well as the crop-dusting operations typical of the area, was ideal, with a friendly airport manager, Dub Cooper. Forming an alliance with interested soaring groups in North Florida, MGSA launched into the world of Regional contest sponsorship. The first South Region V Soaring Contest was held in 1970. Since then, every summer has featured a Regional or National contest, all except two held at Cordele. Many MGSA members have served as contest workers and organizers over the years. Some have even retained their involvement with the contests after moving from the Atlanta area and leaving MGSA.
In this period, a group of serious racing pilots, Woody Woodward, Dave Culpepper, Bobby Bridges, Ed Sessions, Ed Barnes, and others, started an informal group, Atlanta Competition Club (A2C), for the purpose of improving their cross-country and competition skills. They met during the cross-country season on weekends at Monroe Airport. The weather was checked in the morning and a competition task was called when the weather was suitable. Many in this group became notable competitors on the national level, with Dave Culpepper winning the Standard Class Nationals in 1979 in his LS-3, flying with locked flaps.
With club interest growing in high-performance competition, MGSA sold the 1-26 in 1973 and purchased a Schempp-Hirth Phoebus B, one of the first production fiberglass high-performance sailplanes. Another two-place ship, a Schleicher Ka-7, was purchased from Chilhowee Gliderport in Benton, TN, in 1975. In 1976, the Phoebus was sold and a new fiberglass Grob Astir CS single-seater was purchased. Qualified MGSA members were allowed and encouraged to fly these ships cross country for badges and records and to enter competition, such as the Regionals at Cordele. MGSA’s by-laws encourage these member activities as that was and remains a primary purpose of the club. By its’ twentieth year, 1979, MGSA was well established, with clear ownership of three sailplanes and national recognition of many of its’ members due to both individual competition and cross-country achievements and sponsorship of Regional and National soaring championships.
In the early 80s, MGSA began to upgrade its’ fleet. In 1981, the Astir was sold as it proved unsuitable for club operations. Replacing it in December 1981 was an all-metal Pilatus B-4. In April 1982, an L-13 Blanik was located in California and purchased by the club for training and fun soaring. During this period, Dave Culpepper opened Monroe Flying Service and provided tows for the club with a Cessna 150. MGSA Full Membership dues were $200 per year.
In late 1984, MGSA had the opportunity to purchase its’ first high-performance fiberglass two-seater, a new Grob G-103. The ship had been damaged in a trailering accident while being delivered to a new owner following shipment from Germany. The insurance company totaled the aircraft, and member Dave Stevenson purchased it and offered it to MGSA for $13,400. The repair, new canopies and fiberglass work, cost approximately $5100. By May 1985, the G-103 was in service. To finance the sale, the club sold the Ka-8 and the Pilatus B-4.
In Spring 1987, MGSA purchased a Schweizer 1-34 to replace the Pilatus as a medium performance single-seater. Following delivery, it was repainted a bright red by Charlie Meason. During Fall 1987 and Winter 1988, it was instrumented and tuned by Jerry Miller and Dave Stevenson. This activity led to the first win of a Nationals by an MGSA pilot in an MGSA ship. In Summer 1988, Dave Stephenson took the 1-34 to the Sport Class Nationals at Hobb, NM, and won handily.
In 1988, MGSA sponsored and organized the SSA National Soaring Convention in Atlanta. Bob Grey and Bob Gaines were Chairman and Co-Chairman, respectively of the Convention organization. Bob Davis and Lynn Elliott coordinated the speakers and events. Rhetta Grey and Bill Brown handled registration. Jim Culp coordinated the exhibits and Mitch Deutsch, of Atlanta soaring Club, coordinated the volunteers. This was a major effort for MGSA and a very real success. The club received much recognition for this effort.
In the late 1980’s, developments in Monroe and increased general aviation activity led to pressures on the club that threatened to limit operations and hinder Monroe as a long-term site for the club. A number of members been to explore purchase of open land for development of a club-owned operating site. A site near Social Circle, near the small unincorporated community of Oasis was seriously explored. This site offered the possibility of a grass strip and sufficient land to sell subdivided lots to members as a means of financing. This possibility did not materialize as a local church objected to possible noise from aircraft weekend operations near their location. Another site, the Hogan Airstrip near Washington, GA, was assessed, but members felt it to be too far from Atlanta. With lagging development of the city of Monroe and a sluggish economy, general aviation activity at Monroe Airport slowed in the early 1990s. This and the relocation of the GLERC Soaring Club reduced the sailplane operating tempo at Monroe to the point that pressures on the club to relocate eased by the early 1990s.
In 1993, MGSA was faced with the need to acquire its’ own towplane. Ed Sessions had been providing tows to the club with his Cessna 180, but that aircraft was destroyed in a ground fire. A high-powered towplane was required due to the number of high-performance fiberglass ships owned by members and by the weight of the Grob G-103 with two passengers, with resulting adverse impact of initial climb performance in summer temperatures. A Pawnee in good condition was available from Art Mattews. The price, $30,000, was far in excess of club resources at the time. Contacts with other clubs, particularly Mid-Atlantic Soaring, had made the club aware of a financing method. The sale of capital units, NIRCUs and IRCUs( None Interest-bearing Capital Units and Interest-bearing Capital Units), was quickly developed and adopted by MGSA. This approach involved a requirement for each Member to purchase a NIRCU for $500. Members not desiring to do so could pay an additional $50 per year to pay interest on IRCUs, which could be bought by members who had already purchased their required NIRCU. Any number of IRCUs could be purchased by willing members. MGSA now had a capital-funding scheme in place to deal with aircraft purchase and other financial requirements. The Pawnee quickly proved to be a cash-generator for the club, and repayment of members IRCUs began as financial reserves were accumulated. Towing in the Pawnee was so attractive to towpilots that a numbers of members aquired a Cessna 140 in order to build the tail-dragger time required by the insurance companies.
In March 1994, a major event occurred that would greatly alter the scope and future of MGSA. The Atlanta Soaring Club had been based at Etowah Bend on an airstrip owned by MGSA member John Karlovich. This club was an outgrowth of the series of commercial operations and clubs which sprang from the original antique Acres and Peach State Gliderport. It had moved to John Karlovich’s strip in 1988 and enjoyed a period of growth and strong activity, many members acquiring fiberglass high-performance ships.
However, personal and operational conflicts developed that led ASC to seek a new home.
Not being able to successfully relocate their operation, ASC realized they needed to merge with a larger club in order to preserve their assets and to protect their members’ access to a soaring site. This led to a decision by MGSA to acquire the assets and equipment of ASC, based upon an offer by the ASC membership. Most ASC members moved to join MGSA. They brought two sailplanes to the combined club, a Grob G-102 single-seat fiberglass ship and an L-13 Blanik. Following the merger, MGSA’s fleet consisted of the G-103, the G-102, two L-13s, the 1-34 and the Pawnee towplane.
Many ASC members quickly became active and effective members of the MGSA organization. Mitch Deutsch assumed his long-time role of Treasurer, working behind the scenes to keep the finances well-organized. Other former-ASCers moved into leadership positions in the coming years, and several ASCers were President during the latter portion of the 1990s. Organizationally, the merger of the two clubs proved to be a great success and the growth and activity level of the club was greatly stimulated. The availability of the new Pawnee was a factor in this favorable situation, as a towplane purchase would have become necessary to support the increased level of activity.
PAST MGSA PRESIDENTS
1959 Linford B. Bachtell 1985 Jerry Miller
1960 Dr. Kenneth Grubbs 1986 Jerry Miller
1961 Dr. Kenneth Grubbs 1987 Louis Aull
1962 Dr. Kenneth Grubbs 1988 Louis Aull
1963 Dr. Kenneth Grubbs 1989 Clyde E. Taylor
1964 Dr. Kenneth Grubbs 1990 Clyde E. Taylor
1965 Dr. Kenneth Grubbs 1991 Clyde E. Taylor
1966 Dr. Kenneth Grubbs 1992 Jon D. Berndsen
1967 F. Edwin Barnes 1993 Charles H. Dewald
1968 Carl Ed Sessions 1994 Allen H. Douglas
1969 Carl Ed Sessions 1995 Charlie Meason
1970 James D. Satterfield 1996 George Nuse
1971 Phillip Mayeux 1997 Dan Nugent
1972 Elbert T. (Woody) Woodward 1998 Dr. Hartley Falbaum
1973 Elbert T. (Woody) Woodward 1999 Gary Carter
1974 Richard R. Tilgren 2000 Gary Carter
1975 Joel M. (Hatch) Hatchell 2001 Mike Rossi / Ivan Kahn
1976 Joel M. (Hatch) Hatchell 2002 Ivan Kahn
1977 Thomas M. Hulings
1978 Thomas M. Hulings
1979 H. Gilly Smith, Jr.
1980 H. Gilly Smith, Jr.
1981 Bob Grey
1982 Bob Grey
1983 Bob Edmonds
1984 Bob Edmonds