CORDELE, Ga. (WALB) - Beginning Saturday, June 5, 2021 the Cordele-Crisp County Airport will host the week-long 50th annual Soaring Society of America sanctioned Region 5 Southglider competition.
The Cordele-Crisp Chamber of Commerce and Cordele and Crisp County offer a venue for glider pilots from all over the country to race over the beautiful fields and woods of Middle and South Georgia where the thermals are plenty, and the mostly motorless gliders can fly far.
Glider pilots race high-performance fiberglass gliders, also known as sailplanes, covering distances over 200 miles, by studying the sky and determining where the best rising air currents will be found to keep them aloft. Normally the warm rising air in high cumulus clouds provide the best indicators of lift for glider flight, however, days that are blue also provide many lift opportunities.
The racing course, known as the “race task” differs every day based upon the predicted weather conditions. Pilots will be required to race around specified “turn” GPS validated points within a set period of time with the fastest competitor winning the day. Occasionally, a pilot will be unable to return to the starting airport when lift is lost due to changing weather during a flight. In this case, the pilot will seek a landable site, most often another airport, or sometimes safe fields as gliders are light and can land in short distances.
When this happens Middle and South Georgia’s residents show their real hospitality in assisting the pilot and their crew. Often landowners and pilots become new friends in sharing the adventure of cross country soaring.
The public is invited to watch the take-off and return of gliders at the airport. Depending upon weather conditions the launch starts daily between 12 – 1 p.m. and gliders return between 3-5:30 p.m. The launch starts with the 40+ registered planes so far this year lined up on the runway. In an hour, very powerful airplanes will tow each glider to an altitude of 2,000 feet above the airport where the glider then releases from the tow plane to loiter in a designated start area awaiting the opening of the “start gate.”
The launch is exciting to watch as tow planes are departing and returning to the airport to pick up the next glider.
Monica Simmons, President of the Cordele-Crisp Chamber of Commerce says “this is an event that our entire community looks forward to having every year. The locals come out to the airport to see them depart and land and it’s so enjoyable to see them gliding the skies of our county. The pilots and their families have been coming so long that they are like family to us.”
In addition to being an enjoyable event for soaring, the event is also beneficial to the City and County as businesses and residents receive an influx of additional revenue and tax dollars when pilots spend their vacation dollars in many of the local establishments.
Each year Cordele, with assistance and coordination from the Cordele-Crisp County Airport and Cordele-Crisp Chamber of Commerce, provides a friendly soaring site, local activities, and demonstrates to the contestants the meaning of southern hospitality. As pilots often say “when Cordele is working and the soaring is good” it’s doesn’t get much better than that!
“We are very excited to have the gliders back in town this year after having to cancel out due to COVID last year,” said Eli Tinsley, Chair of the Cordele-Crisp Tourism Committee. “This is a great tourism project which brings over 40+ gliders, pilots, and teams to our community to stay for approximately two weeks. The economic impact of this event is over $400,000.”
Contact the Cordele-Crisp Chamber of Commerce at 229-273-1668.