As many of you know, wave lift can form down wind of a ridge if the winds are strong and the air is stable. The lift is very smooth, and can reach an altitude several times that of the ridge that forms it. Some of our members have traveled to mountainous regions during the right times of year so that they can find wave lift and climb into class A airspace. What many of you may not realize is that the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton can also produce wave lift under the right conditions, and that some of our pilots have reached more than 10,000 feet MSL. One of the first pilots to discover the PGC wave was Richard Wagner. Richard flew a Salto glider which was one of the first glass ships in the club, but it was designed for acrobatics, not soaring performance. Richard’s flights were typically so short that his glider was nicknamed “The White Rock”.
One cold and windy Thanksgiving Saturday Richard took a tow in his glider and disappeared. Several other members were flying, but they all had short flights. After a couple of hours those members became convinced that Richard must have landed out, and they became concerned enough to send the tow plane up to look for him. These were the days before PGC glider used radios. Little did the other members know, but Richard had discovered the wave lift and was sitting happily at 10,000’ looking down at the search party. He stayed there until his toes became too cold to tolerate.
In fact, for a couple of years in a row, Richard and other members made it a habit to fly on Thanksgiving Saturday, and they found wave lift each time. Thus was born, the Wacky Wagner Wave and Frozen Foot contest. In order to celebrate the most intrepid wave pilot of the year, a formula was derived to score the event. Total points = the maximum altitude reached, times the climb altitude, times the flight duration divided by the air temperature. Thus the higher you flew, the longer you flew, the lower your release altitude, and the colder your feet, the more points you earned. Wave conditions usually occur in cold air. The trophy for the WWW&FF was traditionally presented at the Spring Membership Meeting each year.
Now what I haven’t mentioned about Richard was that he was a character. He was always happy, always smiling, and always ready to abuse his friends with a really bad joke. In order to collect the WWW&FF trophy, the winning member was required to stand before the Spring Membership Meeting and tell a belly groaner of a joke that would do Richard proud.
Richard Wagner moved to Washington State about 15 years ago, but occasionally came back to visit his family, and his friends at PGC. Richard passed away recently, and his daughter thought it would be appropriate to celebrate him at the club he loved. His family, and friends will gather at PGC at 4:30 this Saturday afternoon. They would like to extend an invitation to all old and new PGC members who would like to join in the celebration. They will be providing beer, wine and soda for everyone who would like to raise glass to Richard. Lisa and I will be there, and hope you can stop by.
Wishing you green air.