Shenandoah National Park reflects on history of gliders at Big Meadows

ShenandoahLogo_Outlined_Black_VerticalShenandoah National Park is hosting a special presentation on the history of gliders on July 15 and July 16 at 1 p.m. in the Byrd Visitor Center auditorium (mile 51 Skyline Drive).

Presenter Lt. Col. Hulstrunk, a WWII glider pilot, will speak about his experience of attending and assisting with the glider competition held at Big Meadows in the 1930s.  He will discuss the search for better aircraft and flying sites during the 1930s, the methods of getting a glider into the air, and the unique experimental gliders of the time period.  He will also touch on how the pilots who competed for aviation records quickly found themselves on opposite sides during World War II.

In addition, visitors are encouraged to stop by and view a modern day glider on the lawn at Byrd Visitor Center from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. both days, weather permitting.  The German built 2003 Schleicher ASW 27 B, a 15 meter high performance glider, can reach a maximum speed of 177mph. Pilot Shane Neitzey will be available to answer questions on the glider plane.

In 1934, the Soaring Society of America held a glider meet where the nation’s foremost pilots and glider planes assembled in the heart of Shenandoah National Park.  The glider center at Big Meadows was said to rival the world-renowned German Camp in Wasserkuppe. The pilots competed for world records while gliding from the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Mr. Hulstrunk’s passion for aviation was inspired at an early age by his parents.  His parents directed a model airplane club for 40 years and were avid glider fliers with Aero Club Albatross.  During WWII Mr. Hulstrunk served as a combat glider pilot.  After leaving the military he received an undergraduate degree in Science Education and a graduate degree in Biology.  To mention just a few of his accomplishments, he worked for the American Geographical Society in Antarctica as a Glaciologist; the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center (ASRC) as an Atmospheric Physicist for over 30 years; and currently, he does research in Paleobotany.

Mr. Neitzey is a member of the Skyline Soaring Club operating at Front Royal/Warren County Airport located in Front Royal, Virginia.  Mr. Neitzey has 38 years of flying experience.  He is a cross-country competition pilot, FAA flight instructor, and tow pilot.

Wilbur Wright stated, “It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.”

Please take this opportunity to join us for this special event, to gain knowledge about one of our Park’s lesser-known stories of our place in aviation history.