May 28, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
The Associated Glider Clubs of Southern California (AGCSC) is a winch-based flying club that offers training to new pilots as part of the standard membership dues.
AGCSC was formed in 1929 by a group of prominent local glider pilots and citizens interested in fostering an inexpensive way to take to the skies, said Alasdar Mullarney, the club’s operations director. “The club blossomed in the 1930s and is the oldest active glider club in the United States. AGCSC members have set many national and international records in soaring, and have been recognized for their accomplishments,” he said.
Club member John Robinson (three-time national champion in the 1930s and 1940s) received the first international Diamond C badge (the highest competitive honor in soaring at the time) and club member Helen Dick became the first woman in the United States to receive the Diamond C, in the 1960s, said Mullarney. The club historically flew out of the Torrey Pines Gliderport in San Diego, but now operates at Jacumba Airport in eastern San Diego County, he added.
The club, with 30 members, operates as a nonprofit 501(c)(7). Every member pays a one-time initiation fee of $500, said Mullarney. “We have a two-tier active membership structure: Flight group members pay a higher quarterly fee for unlimited use of club aircraft. Non-flight group members pay a day-use fee on any day they actually use an aircraft,” he said. Basic membership dues are $15 a month, and flight group members pay an additional $25 a month to cover full liability and property insurance for the gliders and other equipment.
AGCSC currently has three club gliders. It operates a two-seat SZD-54-2 Perkoz, a two-seat SZD-50-3'Puchacz, and a SZD-51-1 Junior, a single-seat glider. “We are currently operating using winch launching only. Most clubs in the United States use aero-tow only. Winch launching is very common in Europe,” said Mullarney. Our club has been using winch launching—if not exclusively—since shortly after World War II. Lately, with the rising costs of operating tow aircraft, there is rapidly growing interest in winch launching and we are holding regular clinics to introduce pilots from other clubs to this technique.”
Instruction for AGCSC members has always been free, with students only paying their club dues and launch costs, said Mullarney. “We currently have three instructors. Twelve members are students, but only six or seven of them are active,” he said. “I soloed our youngest member in January. He is 14.”
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