The History of Soaring at Randall Airport  
by Tom Decker

The spring of 1957 saw the beginning of soaring at Randall Airport. Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Bennis and William Terry Jr. purchased the airport, which was originally organized in 1945. Steve and Ginny Bennis came to Randall Airport from Wurtsboro, where they operated "Sailflights". The Bennises had the first government approved glider school in the country at Randall. Their fleet consisted of a Stinson, an Aeronca Chief, a PT-23, a J-3 Cub, and a Scweizer 2-22. The gliders were launched by means of aerotow, auto-pulley, and winch.

In the early 1970's the school closed and, for a period instruction was not available. However a towplane remained in operation for the private glider owners. Then, in 1973, Joe Bennis headed up a full-time glider school called "Soaring Ventures", which existed until the fall of 1977.

In 1978, Valley Soaring became the new glider operation. The owners/operators were Hank Nixon, Herb Reilly and Dianne Black. Hank and Herb provided the instruction, and Dianne, who has a commercial licence, took care of flight scheduling and logging and along with several regulars, helped out flying rides.

Unlike the previous operation, the school was a part-time venture and operated only on weekends and holidays. However, on a soarable Friday during the season, you were likely to find several pilots at the airport. This was competition practice time for Hank and bonus time for the rest. On these days, Steve Bennis would still help out by flying the towplane. Steve lived at the airport and was an FAA examiner.

The Valley Soaring fleet consisted of three 2-33A's and four 1-26's. The towing chores were handled by the 150HP Super Cub, and when busy, the 150HP Pacer was pressed into service also. The private sailplanes based at Randall included a 1-26A (serial #002), four 1-35's, a 1-34, an ASW-15, a PIK-20B, an ASW-20, a Grob motor glider, and a DG-101.

The commercial operation of "Valley Soaring" continued to operated until the Spring of 1994, when "Valley Soaring Club" was formed. The club is a non-profit organization formed to promote soaring to the local community and provide affordable instruction and facilities.

The club originally began with 34 members, with equipment including the 150HP Super Cub, two 2-33's and one 1-26. These were either purchased or leased from the owners of the former commercial operation. Private ships include 3x 1-26's, 3x 1-34's, 2x1-35's, 1x 1-36, and ASW 20, 3x ASW-24, an LS-3 and a Pegasus. As club members, individuals are able to tow, receive instruction and fly club equipment. The club operates on weekends and holidays, although private owners may take advantage of a good weekday if a tow pilot is available.

The glider operation is located at the east end of the airport. The gliders take off and land on the southside of Runway 8-26 in the grass. At the west end of the airport is commercial balloon operation "Fantasy Balloons".

There is also a commercial hang-glider operation (not related in any way to Valley Soaring Club) located at Randall. Mac Vicar Aircraft Service, which handles all types of aircraft repair and maintenance, is also located at the field.

Soaring flight at Middletown is primarily by thermal power. The Shawangunk Mountains are approximately 10 miles away. If the wave is working, it is possible to sometimes possible to tie into the secondary or primary wave. Some days wave clouds are located directly over the airport.

Every year in November, several pilots can be found at Harris Hill (Elmira, NY), competing in the Annual Snowbird Contest. One year 28 people, two 2-33's on trailers, and a 1-26 on aerotow, made the 200-plus mile trip to Harris Hill for the contest. Winning is not the prime consideration; flying and enjoying ourselves is. (We have been pretty lucky though. Several trophies have come back to Middletown through the years!).

Through the years, Randall has been the site of two SSA-sanctioned contests, one in 1958 and a regional contest in 1976.

The History of Soaring at Randall Airport  
by Tom Decker

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