Nation’s longest-running glider club flies in Cherry Valley

Nation's oldest glider club

CHERRY VALLEY, Ark. (KAIT) - It’s soaring season, and the nation’s longest-running glider club meets weekly in Cherry Valley to take flight.

If you’ve ever passed through Cross County, you might have noticed gliders soaring through the sky.

The Memphis Soaring Society is headquartered in Cherry Valley.

The glider club has been around since 1947, starting out in Memphis and moving around before landing in Cherry Valley in 2004.

The treasurer for the glider club, Mark Olinger, has been a member for almost 50 years.

“In Arkansas, it’s been in Marion and Forrest City, as well as here in Cherry Valley," said Olinger.

Gliding is a unique sport that has a surprising following in Region 8.

Olinger said the Memphis Soaring Society has around 60 members, and the club offers flights to those interested in gliding regularly.

“Most people have gone flying, but they’ve never sat so close to the elements as you would in a glider.”

Charles Glover has been a member for several years now. He got into the sport after seeing the gliders flying in Cherry Valley.

“Stopped and inquired and got intrigued and have been flying gliders ever since,” said Glover.

Glover said the club has interest from people of all ages and backgrounds, and you only have to be 14 to fly a glider solo.

“We have everybody from people who are already private pilots or airline pilots come out. We have people who have no experience at all, youngsters,” said Glover.

Gliders don’t have motors, so there are a few different ways to get them in the air.

“In our area, they use thermals, which is when the earth heats a little bit of wind helps to generate a departure,” said Olinger.

John Derossitt has been flying gliders for around a year, he said gliders offer a new perspective on flying.

“The powered planes are more of a hobby, this is more of a sport,” said Derossitt. “Soaring is the real point of the sport, it’s to stay up as long as you can or for some people it’s to see how far you can go.”

Depending on the day and the weather, you can soar anywhere from a few minutes, up to hours at a time.

“When you can look over and just look straight down you know it’s quite the different experience than flying in any other kind of airplane,” said Olinger.

Gliding is also a more affordable way to learn the basics of flying.

The Memphis Soaring Society offers free instruction, and Olinger said the club charges less for the cost of the tow plane than a typical powered plane instruction.

“We’re a club we’re not a commercial operation, so our incentive is not financial, it’s to grow the sport and to promote the sport,” said Olinger.

“We have all kinds to come out and it’s just a sport and we all love it,” said Glover.

If you’re interested in learning more about gliding or getting involved with the Memphis Soaring Society, visit the website here or the Facebook Page here.

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