Landmark of soaring


Dedication of the 

15th National Landmark of Soaring  

April 5, 2008  (Saturday at Noon)

Marfa Airport, west Texas

on Texas Highway 17 North,  3 miles north of Marfa town

Accommodations / Reception & Banquet Location will be the newly renovated, historic Paisano Hotel on main street Marfa, the gathering place for glider enthusiasts since 1962.  Rooms are limited so call toll-free 866-729-3669 now to make a reservation.  Ask for the "glider pilot" 20% discount off of the room rates. (Room rates vary with amenities and the size of the room.)   Other accommodation info is available, along with tickets to the April 5th Banquet by email to   Seats are limited.  As of DEC 15 only 30 seats remain.   No SRO / No tickets sold at the door.  Banquet tickets must be reserved in advance, so RSVP now with Burt.

Airlines serve El Paso (ELP) and Midland (MAF), Texas.   Rent a car for a scenic 3 hour drive to the Davis Mountains and the Marfa Plateau.   Plan to arrive before sunset (8 PM CDT) to catch the scenery and avoid the critters on the road!   

Fly-in visitors can find info for Marfa Airport (MRF) at, and on the El Paso Sectional Aero Chart.  E-mail us in advance and use frequency 122.8 to coordinate with our glider activity.

A week of activities and flying will conclude on April 5th, so come early to enjoy the people and sailplanes who participated in the legendary contests of the 1960's and the 1970 World Soaring Contest at Marfa.   Our annual Thermal & Wave Camp will be March 29 - April 5, so there will be soaring activity every day.    Vintage and Classic sailplanes are always welcome, especially for the dedication!   I encourage all owners of classic sailplanes - especially those first-generation glass types that flew in the 1967 and 1969 US Nationals here - to bring them back one more time in 2008.


Marfa Soaring History:

Marfa is located on a grassy plateau in far southwest Texas, 70 miles north of the Rio Grande River, between Carlsbad Caverns and Big Bend National Parks.  One aspect that makes Marfa significant is that we hosted the first World Soaring Championships in the USA, in 1970.

Soaring weather around Marfa is generated by two prime factors:  The Marfa Dew Point Front, and the variety of topographic mountain features surrounding the Marfa Plateau.

The Marfa Dew Point Front:  This is the “dry line” that separates the moist air of the Gulf of Mexico, 600 miles to the east, and the dry air of the deserts of northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States.  The convergence effect of this dry line can generate thermals early in the day, forming a convective cloud street that extends into the midwestern states of Kansas, and Nebraska . 

The cross-country soaring potential of the dry line was explored in 1960 after the US National Soaring Contest in Odessa, Texas, by a group of pilots that included Red Wright, Al Parker and Wally Scott.  Harland Ross also visited the area with his Ross R-6 sailplane, and his flights were described in the October 1960 issue of “Soaring”, the journal of the Soaring Society of America.  While there was no formal gliding club or commercial soaring operation at Marfa, local support for the camps and contests was organized by Marfa resident and airplane flight school owner / pilot Fritz Kahl. 

Topographic Generated Lift:  The scenic mountains surrounding Marfa also generate exceptional local soaring conditions.  While the Marfa Plateau is relatively flat at 5,000 feet above sea level, the nearby mountains exceed 8,000’ agl, and are the source of thermals and wave lift year-round.  Volcanic in origin, they include the Davis Mountains to the north, the Glass Mountains to the east, and the Chisos Mountains to the south, in Big Bend National Park.

The variety of terrain created ideal soaring conditions for speed triangle tasks flown by George Moffat in the Schreder HP-8 at the Marfa Municipal Airport in 1962, and for the 1967 US National Soaring Contest, won by A.J. Smith in the Sisu 1A.

In addition to several soaring camps and Regional Contests in the 1960’s, Marfa hosted the 1969 US National Soaring Contest with more than 80 contestants, and the 1970 World Soaring Championships, the first ever held in the USA.  George Moffat won in a Cirrus sailplane in 1969, and was the Open Class World Champion in the prototype Nimbus in 1970.  Subsequent US National Contests were held at Marfa in 1967, 1969, 1972, 1991 and 2006.  The annual Marfa Thermal and Wave Camp is held every spring.



Images of Marfa

The first article about soaring the Marfa Dew Point Front, by Harland Ross.

Cover photo is of the Ross R-6.

Wally Scott, flying his Ka-6, helped organize the soaring camps at Marfa in the 1960’s.



Red Wright, in his Sisu1A sailplane personified the larger-than-life image of the friendly Texan.

"Red" enthusiastically promoted the early soaring camps and contests at Marfa.


Postcard from the 1967 US National Contest.  Schleicher Ka-6 sailplane of Wally Scott.

Distant mountains represent the surrounding topographic features.



Participants at the 1967 US National Contest included Dick Schreder, Ernst Peter, Paul Bikle,

Fritz Kahl (contest manager), Rudolph Linder, AJ. Smith (winner), Ben Greene. 


Left:  Red Wright and Judge Hal Lattimore conduct the pilot briefing, US National Contest 1967

Right:  Marshall Claybourn presents the duPont trophy to 1967 US Champion A.J. Smith.



Neil Armstrong earned his FAI Silver Badge at Marfa, before his flight to the moon.




 The 1967 US National Contest would be the last contest dominated by metal sailplanes.

Over Marfa, from top left, clockwise:  Sisu1A (Al Parker), Schreder HP-8 (George Moffat), 

Schweizer 1-23 (Walter Cannon), Prue Super Standard (Irv Prue).


Fritz Kahl, Dick Schreder, Richard Johnson  (1967 Nationals)


The 1969 US National Contest at Marfa hosted over 80 sailplanes.

  The feature-length soaring movie “The Sun Ship Game” was filmed by cinema verite’ pioneer Robert Drew at this contest.


Fritz Compton in his Open Cirrus, launches towards Goat Mountain (1969 Nationals).

This same sailplane is currently based and flying at Marfa.



Marfa hosted the first World Soaring Championships to be held in the USA .  

This logo design was chosen from dozens submitted, to promote the event, as well as for the official poster and patch.



Helmut Reichmann (Germany), World Standard Class Champion

and George Moffat (USA), World Open Class Champion.  


The medallion for the 1970 World Soaring Championships was designed by A.J. Smith

who won the 1967 U.S. Nationals at Marfa.  Most were cast in bronze and sold by the SSA

to raise funds for the contest.  This image of a rare silver example was provided by Bertha Ryan.



Main Street Marfa, dominated by the restored Presidio County Courthouse.


The courtyard of the restored Paisano Hotel, where the legends of soaring gathered

 to share the stories of their soaring adventures.  (Present day.)



  Marfa Municipal Airport (MRF) – present day (looking north).




Pronghorn antelope on the grasslands of the Marfa Plateau.


John & Ann Byrd, enjoying a good soaring day at Marfa.

John is twice US Standard Class National Champion,

and a member of the Soaring Hall of Fame. 


Marfa continues to be a favorite year-round soaring site.



 Today Marfa remains a center for ranching and is a vibrant artist community. 

The clear skies, strong thermal soaring conditions and friendly people 

make it a destination for soaring enthusiasts from around the world.