MORIARTY, N.M. (KRQE) - Of all of the men and women who fly 'gliders' in the world, none fly faster than New Mexico's pilots who've just captured another world speed title.
One pilot has come up with a way of getting aloft even faster with the use of a retractable jet engine.
Sleek and graceful, sailplanes steal free rides on surging columns of air. The pilots of the lofty vessels, like Bill Hill, enjoy a very special kinship with the wind.
"You get to fly with other creatures that share the sky. I have flown with hawks buzzards and eagles, and they will share a thermal with a glider because we're not making any racket," Hill said.
At the Moriarty Airport, you'll find eager students at Sundance Aviation who are ready to touch the sky. Even though each looks to soar on their own wings, there is also a competitive streak in folks.
Pilots of the Albuquerque Soaring Club were honored as the fastest in the world for the second year in a row. In scores of flights that spanned hundreds of miles across the southwest, the New Mexico group averaged more than 80 mph.
"For something with no engine, that's not bad," Hill said.
Gliders are usually launched with a boost from towplanes. But retired Sandia Laboratories scientist and gilder pilot Bob Carlton does not have a towplane handy. So, he devised sailplane with a pop-out engine.
"This engine comes from the Czech Republic. There were a lot of issues with putting the jet on the sailplane. For example, not overheating the tail," Carlton said.
Carlton calls it the BonusJet. It's designed to be sold and flown by most any pilot and the BonusJet is still fast, clocking in at 125 mph.
Still, Carlton has another special sailplane that's even faster. The former lab researcher thrills air show crowds from Australia to the U.S.'s East Coast with glider. If night falls on one of his performances, the pilot sets the sky ablaze with fireworks on his plane.
Back in Moriarty, Carlton created a rotary system to store lots of planes in a small space, and he's working to get his newest sailplane design on the market. If you have grown tired of your old glider and want an upgrade to a BonusJet, you now can.
"The plane right now would be about $180,000," Carlton said.
All BonusJets will be assembled in Moriarty.
"My mom says when I was about 4 she caught me on top of the refrigerator with my arms out thinking I could fly. I was destined to be a pilot from day one. I've always know this is what I was going to end up doing," Carlton said.
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