For some people who fly model airplanes, it’s all about whose plane can go the fastest. But not for Terry Lisansky.
The Newark man and the approximately 40 other pilots at the Great American Aerotow over the weekend have no need for speed. For them, it’s all about the soaring.
“You’re cut loose, and it’s you and Mother Nature,” Lisansky said, as he watched several model sailplanes soaring through the clear, blue sky above White Clay Creek State Park on Saturday.
The sailplanes used in aerotow are controlled remotely by a pilot on the ground but have no motor to keep them in the air. Instead, the planes are connected to a gas-powered tow plane that takes them up to cruising altitude.
Once the pilot flips a switch to disconnect from the tow plane, it’s up to him or her to use aerodynamics to keep the plane flying.
Some pilots concentrate on doing aerobatics, while others try to stay in the air as long as possible, Lisansky said. Talented pilots can keep their planes up for hours.
“When you fly power planes, you’re zipping back and forth and its noisy,” he said. “This is a little more effort. You’ve got to find lift.”
Lisansky is an original member of the Silent Knights Soaring Society, which was founded locally in the 1980s. The group started out flying at Gunning Bedford Middle School near Delaware City before moving in 1997 to its current airfield on Smiths Mill Road, north of Newark. A member of the duPont family donated the land to White Clay Creek State Park with the condition it be used for sailplanes.
Over the weekend, the club hosted its ninth-annual Great American Aerotow. The four-day event drew pilots from several states.
Steve Richman, of Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., has attended all nine years.
“They started out so humbly; there must have been 10 or 12 guys here. We were all getting started,” Richman said. “Over the years, it’s blossomed into a nice event.”
He likes that, unlike other sports, there’s no competition between the pilots.
“They just like the flying,” he said. “Some guys like towing, and some like being towed.”
Jeff Duhaime, of Bethany, Conn., said he likes the “social aspect” of aerotow.
“It doesn’t happen by yourself,” Duhaime said. “We all help each other out. There’s definitely a camaraderie to it.”