KSA Logo

Pilot Biographies

Click on the thumbnails to see the full (undistorted) photo of each pilot

Chip Bearden - JB

Glenn Betzoldt - W

Brian Bird

John Bird

Josef Bostik - 1H

Andrew Brayer - ND

Michael Brooks - XL5

I have about 2200 hours in gliders, and I’ve been flying with my local club (Greater Houston Soaring Association) since 1991. I’ve been instructing at the club for about 15 years. I’ve also worked for SoaringNV in Minden, NV for the past four years. I’ll be flying a Genesis 2 that I co-own with trusty crew Dean Sauberli. I look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones at the contest! Thanks in advance for all the effort that I know will go into putting on the show

Philip Chidekel - P

Tony Condon - K

Tony Condon learned to soar with the Silent Knights Glider Club in Ames, IA while attending Iowa State University in Aerospace Engineering.

He began flying cross country in his Cherokee II, eventually making flights of 100 miles accompanied by many many off airport landings. After moving to Wichita, KS he joined the Kansas Soaring Association and flew Gold Distance in the Cherokee II as well as a Region 10 Contest which set the hook for contest flying. Since then he has earned his Diamond Badge. In 2015 he competed in the 1st FAI Pan American Gliding Championships and the 1st FAI 13.5 Meter World Gliding Championships. He once again competed with teammate Francois Pin at the 2nd 13.5 Meter Worlds in 2017 in Hungary including a day win. Tony is an active CFIG, Tow pilot, and President of the Kansas Soaring Association. He can often be found flying his glider K who his wife Leah has nicknamed "Kate."

Jacob Fairbairn - 37

Jacob got his start in soaring at 13 years old at Texas Soaring Association, where his father devoted countless weekends to driving him to the airport to run wings, tangle up ropes, and have a little too much fun on the golf carts. He got introduced to racing through the 1-26 Championship and has spent most summers trying to race or snatching a towplane to tow for the nearest contest. Jacob now has a Standard Libelle "37" which he raced for the first time at the 2018 Standard Class Nationals. Professionally, he is a newly minted Kolstad Scholarship recipient and First Officer for Skywest Airlines. Outside of the soaring season, Jacob can normally be found flying a jet in to Aspen, dumping some skydivers out of a Skyvan, or eating his bodyweight at Whataburger

Sylvia Grandstaff - XP

Sylvia Grandstaff learned to fly at the Soaring Club of Houston at thirteen. Soaring’s connection to the beauty and energy of the natural world immediately captured her spirit and has inspired two decades of personal and professional accomplishments in aviation. She is endlessly curious, a quiet competitor with a perfectionist edge, and forever "uncomfortable with being comfortable." This restlessness fuels her drive in aviation and puts force behind the artistry she feels in flight. Throughout her professional career, she has remained active in general aviation, and in addition to her glider and helicopter qualifications, holds multiple ratings in single- and multi-engine airplanes and seaplanes. Sylvia considers science and math as the languages of the beauty of flight, and in 2015, she was selected as the US Army’s first female warrant officer experimental test pilot and attended the United States Naval Test Pilot School. Sylvia She lives in north Alabama with her husband, Hugh, a third-generation pilot, on an idyllic grass airstrip on Moontown Airport and flies a Discus 2a, "Xray Papa."

Sylvia will be representing team USA at Lake Keepit, Australia in the 2020 Women's World Gliding Championship.

Thomas Holloran - TH

Mitchell Hudson - AAA

Mitch Hudson has been flying gliders and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory since he was 14 years old. Growing up in Indiana, he learned to fly gliders there before eventually getting out to New Mexico where he really learned to soar.

Mitch is a retired Air Force Officer and currently holds a job flying regional jets for Skywest, which he makes as part time as possible. Mitch’s passion for flying, and learning new things about flying can never seem to find and end, but it always comes back to sailplanes, sailplane racing, and the people involved with it for him.

Here we see a picture of Mitch in the middle of a Kansas field last year with nothing but the wind blowing to keep him company. Many thanks to the contest organizers for building up a once great contest site into a site that will be great again thanks to their hard work.

Thomas Klassen - TK

Ryszard Krolikowski - K

Ronald Leonard - 4A

I've had the flying bug as long as I can remember. Gliding contests in the 70s and 80s at Sunflower introduced me to many of Soaring's icons. My Dad's adventures in the gliders he built were truly inspiring.

I took my first flying lessons in 1981 in a TG3-A. Even before the first lesson I couldn't wait to go cross country. I got my Silver and Gold Distance flights in Dad's first glider, the Annebula. My Dad my brothers and I spent every weekend we could flying. I flew my first contest in 1991 in an HP-16.

I now live in the Kansas City area and fly the HP-18 that my Dad built. I spend a lot of time instructing in the Midwestern Soaring Association's 2-22. I hope to become more of a regular on the competition circuit over the next few years!

Thomas McKnight - 67

Tom McKnight, 72, has been flying gliders since 1964 and vows to continue flying until he "gets it right". Tom is a retired engineer and entrepreneur with an Aerospace Engineering degree from the University of Texas in Austin.

J.T. McMaster - JT

I suppose I'll go ahead and put myself out there. My name is Justin McMaster Jr, but most everyone calls me Jt. I'm a third generation soaring pilot who grew up washing bugs, running wings and delivering cold beverages for my Dad and Grandpa with my little brothers, Ryan (A Kolstad recipient and First Officer at Endeavor Airlines and David (He’s competing this week too), at Harris Hill's Soaring Club in Upstate NY. Some of my fondest early memories are of tagging along with the Jr line crew at the many contests Harris Hill hosted over the years; so needless to say, when I finally turned 13 I was more than a little excited to finally join up and start learning to soar.

Incredibly that first summer of being a fully fledged Jr member was an entire decade ago. A decade that began with a solo on a calm August morning, spanned countless contests, camps, and back-seat cross countries, and then finally concluded with my first experience on the other side in a few actual competitions.

Since soaring unfortunately doesn't pay the bills, I attended the Florida Institute of Technology beginning in 2011 with the goal of becoming an Airline Pilot, a goal which came to fruition. As for future plans for my soaring career I hope to simply keep enjoying myself while honing my skill as a competition pilot!

David McMaster - HH1

Eric Redweik - SW

Ronald Rose - S

Todd Rutledge - 1D

Daniel Sazhin - PN

After being encouraged and mentored by his club, he actively flew Aero Club Albatross’ 1-26E and earned all of his badges and diplomas in it. He has competed in 12 contests, winning a 1-26 championship and had the honor of flying on the US Team in 2015 as part of the Junior Worlds in Narromine, Australia. Seeing, first hand, how well team-flying worked in the Worlds, he is very excited to further develop and build upon these techniques. Daniel recently earned a degree in Business from Pace University and is planning on going to grad school to study Behavioral Economics. . Daniel recently completed the first ever 1,000km in a 1-26, earning a World Record – an astounding feat. The US Team welcomes his experience.

Clement Smolder - TS1

William Snead - IA

Danny Sorenson - DS

I grew up in a soaring family, running ropes, crewing, and being lucky enough to take a summer trip with Charlie Spratt to work the start gate. Needless to say, I was hooked as a kid. Now, glider contests are what I look forward to every summer where I can race with my friends that I don’t see enough! When not chasing cloudstreets, I’m an Air Force test pilot currently living in Las Vegas, NV with my wife Monica and our dog Bogey.

Roger Thiemann - RT

I have been flying sailplanes since 1987 when I was a member of the Minnesota Soaring Club. In 2006 I moved to Florida and became a member of the North Florida Soaring Society. I bought a Glasflugel Mosquito 303 sailplane and in 2013 I attended an XC camp at Seminole Lake Gliderport, and was hooked on XC flight. I joined the GTA (Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama) Race Series group and have flown weekend competitions with them in Georgia and Tennessee. In 2013 I crewed for Robin Clark at R5N and have flown in the R5N competition for the past 3 years. In 2018 I crewed for Fernando Silva at the WGC in Poland. I recently flew in the 2019 R7 Albert Lea competition. The 2019 Club Class Nationals will be my first and hopefully not last nationals competition. I'm very excited to be part of this wonderful event.

Michael Westbrook - 5F

Mike is a third generation pilot that grew up around the Texas Soaring Association and currently works as an instructor for FlightSafety in the Pilatus PC-12 and PC-24. First soloing on his fourteenth birthday, earning his Silver Badge in a 1-26 that same summer and flying his first competition in the 1-26 Championships at sixteen, the hook was set young. With over 1,600 hours in sailplanes, Mike is a Kolstad Scholarship recipient and currently holds several Texas state records and the US National Multiplace record for Free Triangle Distance with his father, Mick Westbrook. Mike won the 2017 US Club Class Nationals and placed second at the 2018 Standard Class Nationals. In 2017 he completed his 750 km Diplome from Sunflower in his Discus 2 on a downwind dash with Tony Condon and Mitch Hudson.

Sunflower Soaring Foundation is a 501(c)3 charitable organization - 2019