MINDEN - Twelve hours after taking off from Minden-Tahoe Airport on Easter morning, local pilot Gordon Boettger landed in Lancaster, Calif., apparently breaking the record for longest soaring flight in North America after covering an estimated 1,130 miles.
The two-year Carson Valley resident was crunching the numbers Tuesday, but there seems to be little doubt among local pilots that he now holds the title in his category, national open single-place sailplane.
The new distance would easily trump the previous record, an 891.66-mile flight in 1994 by Karl Striedieck in Ridge Soaring, Pa.
Boettger said he took off 6:20 Sunday morning and landed his 1972 Kestrel sailplane at 6:17 p.m., spending the entire flight wearing an oxygen mask.
After launching, he caught a wave of air that comes off the Sierra Nevada and bounced off valley floors to provide greater lift.
He said he traveled north toward Chilcoot, Calif., with clearance from Oakland Center.
"I have a letter of agreement for flying at those altitudes," he said. "I have a transponder that allows them to see me on their radar. I couldn't have done it without their help."
After turning south at Chilcoot, he headed past Lee Vining, Bridgeport and Bishop to about 10 miles north of Inyokern Airport.
"I contacted an outfit called Joshua Approach, which controls the military area down in the complex. I was up over 20,000 feet in the Owens Valley."
He flew north to about five miles past Susanville, and then turned for the final leg of his flight south to Lancaster.
Near Bishop, he climbed at 1,200 feet per minute for a time to 30,400 feet.
"I was flying the maximum speed the airplane would let me go," he said.
Boettger, 37, has lived in the Carson Valley for two years. He has been flying on his own since he was 14 years old. He was introduced to soaring by his father, Wolfgang Boettinger.
Both pilots belong to the Minden Soaring Club.
"This is a great thing for the airport because Minden-Tahoe has a soaring community," said Airport Manager Jim Braswell. "We hope to get some recognition with respect to gliding."