Slope Soaring

Slope soaring refers to flying in ridge lift. Ridge lift is formed by the upward movement of air as it goes over a slope of some sort. In the case of today that slope is formed by part of a mountain. I went to the Utah Flight Park State Recreation Area located in Lehi, Utah. It’s at point of the mountain between Utah County and Salt Lake County. Part of the park also has manned paragliders who also share the area who take advantage of the same natural phenomena. As long as there is a wind moving toward the slope, you can fly for as long as you would like.


Today’s weather had winds up to about 20 knots and temperatures in the 60s. What’s interesting I had just come from the Saratoga Springs RC airplane park, and the winds were only about 5 knots.


My airplane of choice today was the Great Planes Kunai 1.4M motor glider. It’s a great glider for launching at normal flight fields with the motor, cutting the throttle, and then seeking thermals to keep it in the air as long as possible. For slope soaring a motor is not needed, but it at least provides a safety net in case the ridge lift went away or I go into a zone without lift.

My very first flight I was a little nervous that my airplane wouldn’t actually fly in the ridge lift, so I launched with the throttle on as I normally do with this airplane. However the airplane instantly gained quite a lot of altitude and it was very apparent the motor was not needed. On my second flight I left the motor off for the launch and the entire flight.

Between the two flights I flew for a total of 20 minutes in the air. I didn’t do any fancy flying. I just focused on exploring the lift at various areas. Landing is certainly different than normal rc airplane landing. You have a very efficient wing with a light glider in a high lift environment. So it gets a little tricky to get the airplane low enough, without too much speed so that you can land on the ground and not go back over the edge. It took me a couple attempts to get used to what it feels coming over the slope to land, but eventually I got it.


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