Robert B. “Glider Bob” Saunders, long known in the sailplane and motorglider community for his 13-year career as a U.S. demonstration pilot and flight instructor for Stemme AG, died Aug. 24 in the crash of his Stemme S10-VT motorglider. The crash occurred in the Prospect Basin area, five miles southeast of the Telluride, Colorado, airport, according to early reports.
Saunders, 64, operated a sightseeing business—Glide Telluride—using his Stemme to take passengers up for a look at the scenery. One such passenger was apparently aboard the accident flight, and died as well. Details about the circumstances of the crash are unavailable at this time.
Both the FAA and the NTSB will investigate the crash.
Anyone who had anything to do with Stemme motorgliders knew Glider Bob. He was a hail-fellow-well-met, quick with a laugh, easy-going, and highly experienced, with thousands of flying hours—most of them in Stemmes.
He was a fixture at airshows all over the United States, and was well known around Telluride for both his Glide Telluride business and his many other interests. He was on the Telluride town council, where he fought pressures by developers to change the town’s traditional character as an 1880s gold-and-silver mining site, complete with Victorian houses. “The town population is just 2,200, and huge new hotels and mansions would change it forever,” Saunders emphasized in previous interviews. He ran for mayor in 2015. Saunders also acted in a local theater company, and once played anthropologist Margaret Mead in a production of Hair.
But Glider Bob’s heart was in the sky. His greatest joy was flying along the ridges of the Rockies, on oxygen, at 15,000 feet with his passengers—one of whom was astronaut Neil Armstrong.
AOPA Pilot profiled Glider Bob in the November 2014 issue.