A History of the beginning of RC Soaring

Articles Scrap Book

Back in Time


by Ray Hayes

This is the club and a group of members that in my opinion started the big bang for r/c soaring. In 1971 the SOAR club of greater Chicago, Illinois hosted the first SOAR NATS. This crew of members hosted this series of contests that ended with the 1976 SOAR NATS located at Lewis College Airport in Lockport, IL. Then came the fatal 3x5 plain white post card, mailed from LaGrange, IL. March 1. 1977, announcing that SOAR will not sponsor a Soaring NATS in '77. This tragic news was signed, Respectfully, The Board of Directors, SOAR. R/C soaring suffered a tremendous loss.

I am attempting to keep the spirit of Dan Pruss and his crew of SOAR members remembered with the following photos and text. I have transparences of the first SOAR NATS and will include them later. Hopefully, more SOAR photos will become available from other sources.

1974 SOAR NATS 1974 SOAR NATS, L to R, Dan Pruss at work, his microphone (remember his voice?), Tom Kelly holding his sailplane and the great John Nielson.

1974 SOAR NATS 1974 SOAR NATS, L to R, SOAR member Keith Finkenbiner, Pat Potega ( wrote the article covering the 1974 SOAR NATS, October 74 American Aircraft Modeler, that provided some of the photos used here ), Gordon Pearson piloting his Ibex and Dave Corven launching. Scale had 15 contestants.

1974 SOAR NATS 1974 SOAR NATS, L - R, Max Geier piloting his beautiful Grunau, SOAR members Dave Burt and Keith Finkenbiner, I need help identifying the fourth person, Warren Tiahrt, Doc Hall launching, maybe Jeff Mirlik, and I need help on the last person at the winch. This photo shows the SOAR system of launching 175 contestants over a three day contest. The several groups of two winches worked like a charm. THIS PHOTO SHOWS THE SOAR SYSTEM OF LAUNCHING 175 CONTESTANTS OVER A THREE DAY CONTEST. THE SEVERAL GROUPS OF TWO WINCHES WORKED LIKE A CHARM.

1974 SOAR NATS 1974 SOAR NATS flight line. Notice the TX impound table, this is one of several. Also notice that contestants are flying in what looks like a party. L to R, Ken Bates timing, Jeff Mirlik flying with Walt Hill also timing, Don Gaughnour flying and his wife timing? The contestants on the left side of the impound table are either flying or waiting to be launched and the contestants on the right side of the table are the next group to launch. Then there are those that are spectators and camera people.

1974 SOAR NATS Mr. Windfree, Mark Smith and his orange and white Windfree. You do know that Mark made and flew Jonathan in the movie. Dave Shadel with his Windfree was runner up to Otto Heithecker for the grand champion trophy.

1974 SOAR NATS 1974 SOAR NATS, Otto Heithecker with his "BEST DESIGN" winning 145" Challenger, 1971-1972 and now the 1974 grand national soaring champion. The 1974 SOAR NATS tasks were, two minute precision, ten minute duration and 15 minute cumulative. Otto's Challenger was ahead of it's time featuring nearly full span flaps coupled to spoilers. His nick name was "Otto Von Helium". He enjoyed attending contests in the east, competing in the "East Coast Soaring Society" contests. There are many stories to tell about Otto, one of my favorites is the Lansing Michigan contest when Otto launched his Challenger with the radio not turned on. Imagine 145" of sailplane going up the tow straight as an arrow, coming off at the top, and circling very flatly to the other side of the woods in total free flight. There goes Otto to retrieve it with everyone breathless waiting to see what was left of his great sailplane. Well, to everyone's delight, he returned from behind the woods with a perfectly unharmed Challenger. In the background, L to R are John Baxter, first to achieve lsf Level V, "Buck" Zehr, Bill Rohring and I need help on the last person.

1974 SOAR NATS 1974 SOAR NATS, the top dogs hanging around the score board trying to stay loose.

Mark Smith launching his Windfree
Mark Smith preparing to launch his Windfree.

1974 SOAR NATS, too LOFT members, Bob Steele timing for Ray Hayes, in the background, Otto is also flying.

1974 SOAR NATS 1976 LSF tournament, Santa Rosa, California. L to R, Gordon Pearson of Michigan, SOAR members Keith Finkenbiner, Sid Axlerod, the man that brought us Monocote, Kevin Pearson, Dan Pruss, Sarah Hayes and Sarah's dad Ray.

Dan Pruss passed away early in his life and because he was a special person in the world of R/C soaring, several people at the time of Dan's death wrote articles for their newsletters. Here are two examples of how people felt about Dan:



It is a sad heart that speaks to you now, of the passing of Dan Pruss, a pioneer in our sport of radio controlled sailplanes. Dan has been a great advocate of soaring and made his mark on the hobby through his intimate involvement with soaring in its infancy. A founding member of our own club. S.O.A.R., Dan was also contest director of the "SOAR NATS", a national soaring meet that drew over 200 entries at its peak in 1976. His efforts resulted in annual contests that are still discussed with admiration for smooth operation and daring in the testing of new events and formats. As contest director of the Great Race contests, Dan helped sold R/C Cross Country Racing into the competitive sport it is today. The list goes on, including many-time representative of the AMA to the FAI/CIAM council for international R/C Soaring competition, team manager to several U.S. FAI Soaring Teams, Model Aviation magazine's monthly soaring columnist and holder of the AMA Distinguished Service Award. Most recently, in June of 1986, Dan was inducted into the Academy of Model Aeronautic's Hall Of Fame.

In all that Dan has accomplished, he always acted with a professionalism and care to detail that earned him the admiration of those who had the opportunity to know him and work with him. He was concerned for the enthusiast, always ready to help as he could, with advice, experience or just a word of encouragement. His dedication to the beginners, juniors and seasoned veterans alike is renowned. Dan encouraged the new, always willing to push at the edges of the hobby, testing unknown ground.

But of all these remembrances, I personally remember Dan, the modeler, whose good humor and laughter could bring a smile at the worst of times. I can recall his encouraging words, as I learned the sport of soaring and the discussions of new techniques to try in building and competing at the field. The sparkle and laughter in his eyes when an occurrence struck the right chord said more than words.

When we mourn Dan's passing, remember that he has left us both an example by which to pursue our chosen pass-time and a legacy for our enjoyment in the sport of radio controlled soaring. We should all measure ourselves by the standards set by Dan Pruss. Such standards are a model one can point to with pride. Dan we honor you.




July 9, 1986
by Ray Hayes

Many people will feel the need to write about the passing of Dan Pruss. A few persons will actually finish their letter of rememberence and have it published in their club newsletter or elsewhere. So to the many people who will want to write something but don't, let me say it is the thought that counts.

There are few R/C modelers who have not heard of Dan Pruss or may not be aware of his tremendous contribution to our hobby. But, for the many people whose lives were touched and enhanced by Dan, as mine was, we have expereirenced a great loss.

More than the loss of a driving force and leadership in the affairs of our hobby, we have lost a truly magnificent man.

More than his tireless giving of time and energy, as he stood in the hot sun for hours and days directing sailplane contests, we have lost a true gentleman.

More than the hundreds of hours he spent on the logistics of the by gone "SOAR NATS", we have lost a man respected and admired for his gentleness.

More than his published informative articles, we have lost a man of caring and giving.

What will not be lost by so many of us that knew Dan will be the memory of our individual associations with him. Mine start at checker board field, Chicago, 1971 and ended with a phone conversation between Dan and my good friends Walt Goliembewski, Eric Podzielinski and Myself on the eve of the greater Detroit Soaring and Hiking Society 1986 "SNO FLY". Dan was a special visitor to LOFT's flying field for contests over the years. I can still recall him pulling into the field parking lot with Keith Finkenbiner and Jim Mcintyre, his good old flying buddies, in his Mercedes Benz packed with sailplanes.

We have much to thank Dan for. His activities in R/C sailplanes gave us great happiness and enjoyment. He gave us a life time of wounderful memories. Who could ever forget Dan Pruss.

Soar Club 1

  Soar Club 2

  Soar Club 3

The SOAR CLUB of Chicago put on their first contest in 1970 (?) previous to the first SOAR NATS held at Checker Board Square park. I believe the photo of ten people with nine sailplanes are all from Michigan. I recognize the Pell brothers. Photos by Ray Hayes

Dan Pruss biography

"The following biography was created for the
S.O.A.R. Hall of Fame
and is produced here with permission."



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