West Michigan Soaring Society


The West Michigan Soaring Society is a low key group of RC pilots with a passion for all forms of RC soaring. Whether your interests lie in winch, high start, electric launch, hand launch or aerotow, have never flown, or are an experienced contest flier, WMSS has a spot for you. Our members come from all walks of life and ages. We all enjoy the challenge of finding lift and soaring. Come join us to fly, learn, or just watch. We are open to anyone with an interest in soaring.

If you find yourself daydreaming under the clouds and marvel at hawks and eagles mastering the rising air currents, come join us at WMSS. Spread your wings and soar!

The appeal of RC glider flying is plenty of fun even if you are a new pilot to soaring. Imagine learning about the "river of air" Dave Thornburg writes about in his classic and difficult to find book, "The Old Buzzard's book on soaring". Dave begins to shed light on the more difficult nuances to RC gliding - recognizing the tale tale signs of finding rising warm air, sinking cool air and the way thermals form, travel in the wind and dissipate. This is just one intriguing aspect of the hobby. Understanding the characteristics of good performing gliders for different purposes is a continual subject of education.

To some, recognizing the well sought after signs of thermals (lift) is much like fishing but without the smell of bait and fish. Good fishermen know to read the environment and the conditions in which fish may be caught but generally the fish remain allusive.

Now imagine yourself soaring an RC sailplane for 10, 15, 30 minutes to an hour and longer after a short launch time lasting maybe 20 – 30 seconds.

2020 Woody Contest

We held our annual Woody contest on August 15th after a postponement of the original June 27th date. As far as woody contest weather goes, it could only have been better had it been slightly cooler. The winds were low and the clouds were few, and although that makes for great flying conditions for our lightweight woodies, it also meant little respite from the mid-day heat.

We had at least 11 contestants, including four from the Greater Detroit Soaring and Hiking Society. This is a ladder format contest which means no waiting for the next round to start. People were able to fly as much or as little as they wanted. We had two winches and two hi-starts set up, and they were in almost continuous use. At one point I counted 5 planes up in the air at the same time, and there may have been more.

There were plenty of thermals to be found, but they weren’t hat suckers. You really had to read the air and your sailplane, and be patient to get to the higher altitudes. Tim Gess had a flight of 50 plus minutes with his stretched wing Sagitta 900, which earned him the award for longest flight. Jim Martin managed a 30 plus minute flight with his Bird of Time for runner up status in that category. John Winstanley took home 1st place honors with his trusty Windrifter sailplane with nothing but elevator and rudder. He managed to complete the 15 minute rung of the ladder, which means he put in over 63 minutes of flying time. 2nd place went to Mike Wade, and 3rd went to Barney Bauer, both from the Detroit club. Both gentlemen made it through the 13 minute rung, but Mike earned a few landing points to give him the edge.

A big thank you to everyone that helped, and to all of the contestants that participated. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Happy New Year!

Club member Tim Gess started the year 2020 off right by putting in some flights on a sunny new year’s day!

WMSS Woody Contest – June 29, 2019

WMSS is planning their annual Woody contest for June 29th at our Clarksville, MI location. This is a laid back contest where the participants can fly as much or as little as they want. We will be using the Ladder format, which is a series of increasing flight times that have to be met in order, such as 3 min, 5 min, 7 min, 9 min, etc. Pilots may make multiple attempts at each time if necessary. Once a time is met then attempts may begin on the next time on the “ladder”. The person who makes it highest up the ladder before the contest ends is the winner. We will have awards for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places as well as an award for longest flight of the day.

August Contest Calendar Update

Our August contest has been moved from the 19th to the 26th in order to avoid a conflict with the Traverse City soaring club (LIFT) contest. Our calendar page has been updated.

Woody Weekend 2017

The 2017 version of our West Michigan Soaring Society Woody Contest was a success for sure, albeit a very windy one. Morning broke with several campers having overnighted at the field and the wind building. The sun shone upon us as 17 contestants turned out on Saturday for the contest. “Downwind” was once again our CD for this AMA Sanctioned event which was held at Walter RC Park in Saranac, MI. This is a dedicated RC park operated by Dave Walter and should be the envy of everyone in any aspect of the hobby.

The pilots meeting began at 9:30 am with many pilots eager to get their planes up as soon as possible as the winds were in the teens already and promising to build under a beautiful, cloud dotted sky. Launching was fast and furious with a lot of folks lining up for the high start given the conditions, although the club winch and a OneWinch were also in use. With the “Ladder” starting at three minutes, given the wind no one was guaranteed making times. Throughout the day as the winds continued to build no one was able to get more than their 9 minute task although there were a few close to the 12 and the longest flight of the day being a little over 11 minutes. Dave Walter fired up his grill and prepared some burgers and dogs along with all the trimmings, sides and beverages for lunch. After the impromptu lunch people continued to launch with the wind building and gusting into the low 20’s. Around 3:00 we shut down for the day and awarded trophies (pretty cool if I do say so myself, with thanks to Randy Johnson for his help in providing them) for the day with winners in both Open and Senior classes as well as longest flight. At that point lies were exchanged and planes were packed for the day.

Sunday morning dawned and was particularly cool for the end of June, definitely cooler than the day before and the wind was building over what we had on Saturday. The turnout was smaller but we had enough brave souls to continue with day two of the event. The “Ladder” started and as the day progressed so did the wind. I don’t believe anyone was able to get beyond their 3 minute task and due to the ever increasing wind, the contest ended around lunchtime and again trophies awarded.
Overall we had a great turnout, a lot of fun, and a lot of flights. The carnage was kept to a minimum despite the wind. This style of event is proving to be popular and we were able to draw in pilots from the surrounding area, next year should certainly improve upon an already awesome event.
Thanks to everyone who participated whether it was flying or shagging and retrieving chutes, and to those who traveled to be with us. SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!!!

Woody Contest a Success!

This past Saturday we held our first sanctioned contest since we lost our Sparta, Mi field about 4 years ago. John Winstanley is our CD. He contributed most of the effort making awards, scoreboards and the lion’s share of  work that goes into pulling off a sanctioned contest. Thanks for all the work John. You did a wonderful job preparing for this woody contest!

The Clarksville area sod farm is an ideal location, far enough inland from Lake Michigan to develop very good thermal activity. This area is glider country. The setting is very rural, quiet, away from any traffic, homes, local/regional airports and most flight paths; it is an ideal place to fly RC gliders. On this day the winds were about 4-6 mph all day and the temperatures in the mid 70’s.  Puffy cumulus clouds drifted over head throughout the day. My first flight was about 10:15 a.m. and lasted 19:37 seconds flying an Oly II wonderfully built by Ed Whyte.

Larry Storie drove down with his wife from Traverse City pulling his winch built on a trailer. Larry flew a stretch wing Sagitta winning first place in the ladder competition. John Winstanley took second place flying his beautiful Windrifter built by Cal Posthuma years ago. Cal is pictured holding his glider on the Skybench Aerotech website. Click on the Windrifter under the Nostalgia Contest kits. I came in 3rd flying the Whyte built Oly II. I also captured the longest flight of the day with it toward the end of the competition, 35:48 seconds, if memory serves.

We started off with 8 contestants. One dropped out early on with glider problems. We had two winches available with retrievers, a third winch without retriever and a powerful bungee cord. For some reason the bungee cord was very popular Saturday. I would say most flights were flown off bungee.

We appealed to flyers on RC Groups but without much response sadly…but their loss. This was a glider pilot’s dream day. The good news is one of the GLASS (Greater Lansing Soaring Society) members, Allen,from Lansing showed up after seeing our contest posted. These people lost their field about 5 years ago. Allen is delighted with our flying field. He spent almost the entire day watching, visiting and running the winch retriever. This sod farm is one of two the WMSS members register with the AMA and have exclusive flying rights. The other is in Hudsonville Mi. Please, any of you glider guys from Lansing, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, MI. contact any of us listed on the “Contact Us” page for more information. Our goal is to increase members and become one of the strongest glider clubs in Michigan. Any glider flying is welcome. Larry Weller

Wide open space in quiet rural area. 3 fields generally available. Check our "Glider Flying Fields" page.

Wide open space in quiet rural area. 3 fields generally available. Check our “Glider Flying Fields” page.


Check out that sky. This was the perfect contest weather.

Check out that sky. This was the perfect contest weather.


Fun Fly Contest – Clarksville 06-25-16

At the end of the day everyone is still smiling and the gliders still in tack. Click to enlarge.

At the end of the day everyone is still smiling and the gliders still intact. Click to enlarge.

The winds Saturday were 5-15 out of the South with cycles of good lift, temperature near 90 degrees when we broke up about 3 p.m. Weather was clear and the sod farm in beautiful condition. Eight contestants competed with power and winch launch. This was the first time several members competed.

John Winstanley is the contest director for WMSS. John made the rules lenient for us less experienced. Three flights were flown with a 6 minute duration.  Landing with in the radius of the 25′ landing tape was considered in bounds worth 25 points. Landing on the mark of 6 minutes worth another 25 points. The total minutes of all 3 flights are converted to seconds with each second counting as 1 point. Any additonal points for landing are added to the total and the pilot’s ranking is in order of points.

It was fun. Everybody seem to survive with the gliders they brought with them.  Our next contest, which is a “woodie” is AMA sanctioned and open to pilots from anywhere. That will be held at the sod farm in Clarksville too, scheduled for July 16 -17* (*will be an alternate if bad weather on Saturday).

Francois introducing us to Kite Chairing. This is why he is our leader.

Francois introducing us to Kite Chairing. This is why he is our leader. Click to enlarge.

It was gusty toward the end of our contest. We’re not quite sure what is going on here but Francois said,”I got to get some prairie wheels on this chair.”

Memorial Day flying at Clarksville

Here are pictures of John’s Explorer. That’s a lot of sailplane. Flies wonderfully. Launch picture captured a “lucky break” just ahead of the chute before tension got too high.

I went out with my DLG for a while.

-Tim Gess


May 21st Fun Fly Contest – Clarksville, MI

Our Club Vice President and Contest CD John Windstanley writes:

   Hey WMSS, I really enjoyed today, great fun.  Today’s contest task was 3 rounds of 5 minutes with a 25 point in-or-out 25 foot landing.  The winners are Francois 4th (449 points), Jim McConnell 3rd (515 points, although his last flight was 10 minutes long.  Still a max in my book.  Jim Martin 2nd (552 points), and Tim 1st with an 805.  I’ll take last place for never finding my own lift and just piggy backing off of everyone else, ha!
Here’s a video of a beautiful day…

Breaking News:

Many glider pilots would agree that in Western Michigan at least, this season’s winds have been far higher than many of us care to sport fly.

Couple the weather with the Covid-19 pandemic and it has been a better building opportunity for some members than flying season. There now seems to be a shift in more favorable wind conditions toward the end of July and beginning of August 2020.

This past Saturday our Woody Contest which, was postponed earlier in the summer, had between 3-5 mph light winds for most of the event. We have been lucky with really decent weather three out of the four recent contests. Only one was a bit on the windy side but it still was a good day.

It pains me to admit that our site has not been kept current. I recently retired and will do my best to bring it up to date in the next several months and keep it fresh when there is more West Michigan Soaring Society news to report.

Visitors are always welcome to watch us fly at either of our flying fields. However, between the sporadic weather and the shifting “stay at home orders” many times we make decisions very quickly and communicate those more effectively by means of our WMSS Club email forum. I will post information about flying when I am pretty confident we will be at one field or the other in a certain time frame.

If you have questions please email me – Larry Weller – larry.weller2@gmail.com and I will try to get back to you quickly.