International Soaring Centre


Narromine Aerodrome, Narromine NSW, Australia  

What is the Barron Hilton Cup:

The Barron Hilton Cup is a decentralised cross-country event in which the pilot flying the longest FAI triangle wins a gold medal and an invitation for a one week soaring camp at Barron Hilton’s Flying M Ranch in Northern Nevada, U.S.A.. The competition has a cycle of two years. The afterwards following biannual camp is held in those years without any World Championships.

One point per flown kilometre will be awarded for each flight and then adjusted to the handicap factor based on the glider flown. If a triangular course does not fulfil the FAI Sporting Code a 12.5% reduction will be applied. Pilots from all over the world with any kind of glider can submit flights from the country in which they permanently live. The minimum distance for a completed triangular flight to be scored is 400 km.

There are five regions: 1. Europe and Asia, 2. Eastern USA and Canada, 3. Western USA, Central and South America, 4. Australia and Africa, 5. Japan and New Zealand.

Region 1 has five classes: Open class, 15-meter, Standard, Club class and Double seater class, whilst all the other regions have only one class.

More details about the Barron Hilton Cup and the rules can be found under:

Flights for the Barron Hilton Cup must be entered through the International Online Logger Contest under:

With more than 30,000 flights entered during the last two years, the Barron Hilton Cup was the biggest world wide gliding event.

How Shinzo won the Cup:

Quite a long story and may be something which I wanted to achieve more than my husband. When I started gliding in 1984 the Barron Hilton Cup was just four years old but already well-known in Germany. It was a dream of my father’s and whenever we went to a Gliding Seminar there was always one pilot who reported from the Barron Hilton Cup. This fascinated me somehow.

But it had to wait exactly 20 years till my dream awoke again.

On 28 November 2004, Shinzo, achieved his third 1,000 km flight in his Nimbus 4 DM.

The flight was a successful attempt for a 1,000 km Diploma. When Beryl Hartley, the GFA badge claim officer, processed Shinzo’s flight she told me that his flight would also be interesting for the Barron Hilton Cup. Luckily Beryl mentioned, also, to me that all flights for the Barron Hilton Cup must be entered electronically through the Online Logger Contest within seven days. I wasn’t aware about this new rule and without Beryl’s help Shinzo would never have been able to win.

Shinzo led at first, clearly, and our dream of going to the camp seemed to be so close. But Gerrit Kurstjens flew beginning of January 2005 in his Nimbus 4 T also a 1,000 km FAI triangle from Narromine. It was a few km longer than Shinzo’s but it gave him a considerable amount of more points as the handicap of his Nimbus 4 T was much better than that of Shinzo’s Nimbus 4 DM. I was disappointed and started to pull out my calculator from my office desk, which showed me that a 900 km FAI triangle in a Discus would be enough to beat Gerrit, even if Gerrit would fly a slightly bigger triangle.

Shinzo wanted to fly, instead, a 1,000 km FAI triangle in his Discus 2 or a 1,100 km FAI triangle in his Nimbus 4 DM. When we compared the chances for achieving Shinzo’s flights to that of mine, we got an answer of 50% compared to 90%. But even this did not convince Shinzo from my idea. I had to ask Shinzo straight out: Please challenge the Barron Hilton Cup! Surprisingly, Shinzo listened to me, for the first time ever, and prepared a 900 km FAI triangle flight.

On 28 January 2005, Shinzo achieved a 913 km FAI triangle in his Discus 2a. The same day Gerrit achieved another longer 1,000 FAI triangle in his Nimbus 4 T, he got more points but not enough to beat Shinzo who was leading again.

Bhc1.jpg (44193 bytes)Shinzo landed already at 6.30 pm on this day with nice cumulus clouds still on the sky. Shinzo’s 1,000 km FAI triangle flight in a Discus would have been surely possible but did we know this in the morning? Like any other badge flight, the flights entered for the Barron Hilton Cup must be pre-declared and the triangular course must be completed. An outlanding following a too long task doesn’t bring points.


Shinzo after his 913 km flight on 28 January 2005.
Nice cumulus clouds are still on the sky after 6.30 pm.

The season was, however, far from over and we knew that not only Gerrit would try to beat Shinzo. Fortune was, this time, on our side. And once again Beryl was correct, most Barron Hilton Cup winners, she said, achieved their wins by flying small or old gliders with a suitable handicap.
This I find makes this competition so nice. Anybody with any glider can enter this competition. It is not necessary to have an expensive top class glider for a chance to win.

To reconfirm Shinzo’s flight we sent a completed badge claim form end of March to Chris Stevens who is the Barron Hilton Cup representative in Australia.

The official invitation to the camp followed shortly afterwards.

Thank you very much Beryl and Chris.

Arriving at the Flying M Ranch:

We had to be at Reno Airport on 14 July in the late afternoon where everybody from all over the world arrived. There we met Annette Reichmann, who is in charge of the administrative side of the Camp, and Frank Franke who initiated the idea of the cup together with Annette’s husband Helmut exactly 25 years ago. A bus took us for our two hour drive from Reno to Barron Hilton’s Flying M Ranch where we arrived at late night.

On the ranch, we moved into our luxurious motor homes. All motor homes had their own toilets and showers with running water. From shampoo to water bottles inside the fridge, from room service to a torch for finding our way in the night, there was absolutely nothing missing!


The first flying day:

The next morning began with a buffet breakfast.

The food was always from the finest and freshest, with plenty of choices.

After breakfast we had our first daily briefing which started always at 9 o’clock.

We got introduced to Hannes Linke, who was the competition director and in charge of the daily flying operation, and to Dan Gudgel, who was responsible for the weather briefing, the check-flights and the towing operation. Together with Frank Donnelly they operated two tow planes every day. Later on we were introduced to Carl Herold who explained how to fly in this area, how to set the best tasks, how to judge the weather and what to look for.

After the first briefing the FAA licensing staff arrived at the ranch to complete all formalities. Shinzo was straight away o.k., as he already had an American gliding license which got issued more than 20 years ago. My case was different. The FAA officers decided, at first, to issue me an American License, but it would have taken several weeks as the FAA needed to contact Australia first to make sure that I was really holding an Australian PPL. They decided therefore to issue me a Student Pilots’ License. Even Bruno Gantenbrink, previous World Champion and Barron Hilton Cup winner, had to fly with a Student Pilots’ License. The number of his German license changed, which made its American License referring to his old German license number invalid.

After a small buffet lunch Shinzo and I went for our check-flights in a Duo Discus.

Shinzo’s check-flight was only ten minutes but mine was one hour as I was the last pilot on the list. I had a very funny feeling on take-off, I felt as I couldn’t fly anymore. Later on, during one of Carl Herold’s briefings I found the reason for this.

The Flying M Ranch is 5,000 feet high, inside the desert of Nevada.

Because it is so high, the density altitude is low which means that all controls need a higher speed to become effective. If during take-off one wing drops the pilot will automatically try to pick it up by the ailerons. But this will cause the dropping wing to stall and result in even the opposite by touching the ground.

This meant also that our actual cruising speed between 16,000 to 18,000 feet would be 20% higher than shown on the Airspeed Indicator.

The first day finished with the usual formal buffet dinner. This time we only had a small number of our usual gliding T-shirts and short pans in our suitcases as we brought a lot of formal wear and dresses with us. Good advice from Kerrie Claffey.

The second flying day:

The second day started as usual. During the briefing all pilots draw a number, which was put onto a list in a different order every day. The pilots on top of the list choose their gliders first and selected their favourite choice. The pilots at the end of the list had to take whatever was left. Every pilot had equal chances as the order changed every day. This year, however, more gliders than usually were on the ranch so even the guest pilots, including myself, got a number and were included in the daily draw.

But there was one small problem, which had to be solved first before we could start choosing our gliders:

Shinzo and I weighed both only 55 kg and as all gliders had a minimum cockpit load of more than 75 kg we needed to find some additional ballast to compensate. The common trim ballast weights were however missing. Ted Schirtzinger, the manager of the Flying M Ranch, pinched Barron’s own trim ballast weights for us. But these were not enough. Ted then made new ballast weights by putting in some small shooting bullets, called bibbies, from the gun room of the ranch. It was now enough for Shinzo but not for the both of us. One of us had to fly either in the back seat of some double seater or stay behind on the ground. This was the reason why we elected to fly the DG 500 together on the second day.

Bhc2.jpg (171935 bytes)For the rest of the camp Shinzo was planing to fly 1,000 km but changed his plan quickly as it was so much fun flying together. There were three Duo Discus, one DG 500 and one Twin Astir on the camp. We had plenty double seaters to choose from. The three Duos, however, were the most desired gliders. With our double votes in the selection list one of us was always in the front part of it being able to get a DUO, except on the first day when we flew a DG 500.

Inside the cockpit.
We were about to take-off towards north, our tow plane was just landing behind us.
Photo: Tracy Gudgel

When we flew together in the past, we flew mainly competitions, where we were constantly worried of loosing points, flying safely, avoiding mid-air collisions, finding enough time and especially enough money.

But this time, we didn’t have any pressure upon us like in a competition, we could do whatever we liked, we could launch whenever we wanted and we could fly wherever we wanted, as long it was safe. We felt like birds, which had finally been released from their cages! We received a strong reminder that gliding is mainly there to have fun and enjoy yourselves.

Uwe Hartmann, the winner in Open Class from Europe / Asia, told us that participating in the Barron Hilton Cup was much more fun than any competition he attended so far.

For the Barron Hilton Cup Uwe participated whenever he wanted, whenever his family and job allowed him, without going to somewhere far away and at his own leisure, pace and plan.

During our familiarization flight in the DG 500, we went south to the northern boundary of the Yosemite National Park inside the Sierra Nevada, and north to Yerington.

We could climb up to 18,000 feet with oxygen.

The following flying days:

On the third day we went further to the south and to the north. We went to Independence on the south end of the White Mountains, 210 km south of the Flying M, and to Minden, 77 km north-east of the ranch. We took off around 1 o’clock and we landed around 6 o’clock after 570 km. After the landing we realized that our two oxygen bottles were completely empty.

On the fourth day I noticed when I was plugging my oxygen into the connection that there was some oxygen leaking. We called Jim and Ralph, who prepared our gliders for us, but only I could hear the leaking noise. At first everybody looked at me believing I am talking some nonsense, but Shinzo knew that my hearing ability was far better than his. Only this could explain why we used two full oxygen bottles during our last flight. Jim and Ralph tried their best and got some new o-rings. It didn’t solve the problem why I decided to connect my oxygen just before using it to keep the loss of oxygen to a minimum. We knew, however, that we would not be able to fly more than 5 hours with oxygen.

The weather conditions during the whole camp were extremely good.

The State of Nevada experienced the longest period of extreme hot days for many years. The weather before the camp was not good but changed a few days before the start to its best. Salt Lakes are usually a reasonable possibility for outlandings. But this year was an exemption as all salt lakes were too wet after heavy rains at the beginning of the year turned the desert into a rich green land. Only airfields were possible for outlandings, we had to plan our flights carefully!

The following days we went further away, step by step.

Bhc3.jpg (30943 bytes)One day we flew 600 km in only 4 hours as we found a convergence line along the White Mountains. We went at first to Owens Lake, 50 km south of Lone Pine or 290 km south of the Flying M Ranch, then 250 km to Mina, which is 85 km east of the Flying M and back to home. When we were passing Lone Pine on our way to south we could see the famous Death Valley which was very impressive.



Thermalling over the White Mountains, on the way to south,
towards Owens Lake, visible on the photo.

On the same day some pilots flew more towards the east into the desert. One of them outlanded on an airfield without, of course, any mobile phone coverage. After waiting a while and trying to get things sorted out he couldn’t trust his eyes when a sheriff walked towards him, he believed would only exist in western movies. Having a big gun on his belt, a huge cigar in his mouth and speaking an accent the pilot could barely understand this sheriff was the only hope for him to contact the Flying M Ranch. But the adventure ended happily, the pilot returned to the ranch, relieved, in Barron Hilton’s helicopter and the glider returned by air retrieve the following morning.

The last day was the most impressive.

The forecast was blue with thunderstorms developing in the south later during the day.

We decided to launch at 12 o’clock instead of 1 o’clock, in blue. When we arrived at the White Mountains at 1 o’clock almost all pilots had launched as cumulus clouds started to develop. On our way to the south end of the White Mountains we observed a range of thunderstorms developing only west of us over the Sierra Nevada without distracting our return to home. But when we turned and headed back home thunderstorms developed now also in front of us, much faster than our speed rushing home. In the meantime we heard on the radio that other pilots were starting to return to the ranch as well. They were only 100 km away from getting home, however we had 200 km to fly. We saw huge black clouds forming above us. Amazingly Shinzo found still very good lifts below them. The shape of the western ridge along the White Mountains showed many small wind tunnels. These wind tunnels shuffled the air blowing from the thunderstorms over the Sierra Nevada up to the top of the ridge creating small but strong and turbulent thermals. We flew faster than expected. When we left the northern end of the White Mountains we still had to fly another 100 km. Our altitude was 12,000 feet, which would have given us enough margin to glide home in smooth air. The track to home, however, was covered by dark black clouds and showers in every direction we could see. Shinzo tried to climb beside the clouds as he wanted to get as high as possible for a safer margin. When we reached 14,000 feet we decided to carry on through the dark rain areas in front of us. Shinzo diverted into areas with less rain but our wings started to get ice. We realized that we might not have enough altitude to glide back into the Flying M Ranch so Shinzo asked me to calculate the distance to Hawthorne for just in case which was a couple of km east of the ranch. Suddenly, whilst I was trying to calculate the distance, Shinzo found a smooth climb beside a huge rain cloud. We climbed slowly, but constantly, and we could arrive happily at 10,000 feet over Barron Hilton’s Flying M.

Whilst I was happy and relieved to be back at home my never getting tired husband had different ideas and decided to fly towards Minden as the weather there showed no signs of any developing thunderstorms. An hour later we returned finally to the ranch.

The one week flying camp at Barron Hilton’s Ranch was amazing, exhilarating and the best time we ever had together inside a cockpit.

The Location of Barron Hilton’s Flying M Ranch and why it so excellent for Gliding:

Barron Hilton’s Flying M Ranch covers an area as large as Rhode Island and is a green oasis inside the desert of Nevada. The runway is so long that the grid starts in the middle, facing towards the favouring wind. Ruby and Doug Paine drove us every day from our motor homes to the runway where a tent was installed to provide shelter from the sun along with cooling boxes full of drinks, sandwiches, fruit and snacks. Once we were ready to fly, Jim, Ralph and Max were pushing our glider into the runway and all we had to do was sit inside and fly. Luxury in a dimension we never experienced before.

Bhc4.jpg (85628 bytes)The location of the ranch is close to a range of 9,000 feet high mountains, and thermals starting at 11 o’clock in the morning. Long distance pilots can take-off early, climb at the range and then head south towards the nearly 15,000 feet high White Mountains. 



One of our logger traces, a 600 km out and return flight
along the 200 km White Mountains.

The White Mountains start 100 km south of the ranch and have a length of nearly 200 km. We flew several times along the whole length of the White Mountains without a single turn. With two turnpoints in the south, one turnpoint in the north and thermals starting at 11 o’clock 1,000 km flights are quite possible.

Other Flying Activities:

Besides gliding with the highest possible luxury there were plenty of more challenging flying activities:

There were the helicopter rides with Rick Rains through the canyons around the ranch, the Steerman flights with Dennis Ivans, taking you through the canyons like in an Imax theatre, ballooning and the full aerobatics flights with Art Goodwin in the Extra 300. Whilst Shinzo couldn’t resist the aerobatics flights, I selected to omit this, which wasn’t in the end so bad.

Shinzo had only a limited aerobatics experience in high wing loading aircraft such as the Extra 300. Ordinary pilots who do aerobatics for their first time fly a snap roll by moving the ailerons slowly. But Shinzo moved the ailerons quickly so the Extra 300 flew three snap rolls straight away instead of one. After this challenging maneuver the Extra went into a turbulent high speed stall, from which Shinzo tried to recover by releasing the elevator pressure. The Extra went out, but inverted. This was a little bit too much for Shinzo’s neck and during the following afternoon’s flight in the Duo he was complaining about pain, poor Shinzo.

The Barron Hilton Camp is more than just flying:

Besides flying we could meet many other aviation enthusiasts. We could talk to them like we had known each other for many years, we had the feeling of being a member of a large family. The list of those whom we met was long and I couldn’t write from all of them but I had to write from the ones who left us the most remarkable impressions, starting with Barron Hilton.

I asked myself, not only once, what the reasons could be that Barron Hilton spent so much time and money for gliding pilots like us? I believe, I found the answer in the camp itself, as it is a symbol for aviation enthusiasts who love this sport, its beauty, its challenge and the friendships resulting from it.

Chuck Yeager, the first man who broke the sound barrier, presented a small documentary one evening in which he explained that only the horizontal stabilizer needed to be changed into an all flying tail plane to make it possible to brake the sound barrier. Without this modification the elevator started to flutter before braking the sound barrier, which made all attempts impossible, simple to do but difficult to find. One night Chuck said to us: "Isn’t life exciting? I was shooting Japanese pilots during the second world war, after the war I was teaching Japanese how to fly F15 and F16 and now I am drinking with an Australian whose face is Japanese in the middle of the desert in Nevada!"

Three astronauts came to the ranch.

Bill Anders, who took the first picture of the earth when rising like the moon.

Ulf Merbold who was the first foreigner on board an American Space Shuttle and the first who went with the Americans and the Russians into space.

Bhc5.jpg (49285 bytes)


Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.
He congratulated Shinzo with the words: "You truly deserved it".




Neil Armstrong and Shinzo.

Cliff Robertson, Hollywood star and Oscar winner came to the camp. He wrote in June 2004 about the Flying M Ranch: "Flying Bey, we’re wild mustangs, not subsidized, not on welfare, last of the ‘wild west’ and damned proud of it".

Steve Fossett, adventurer and record holder, brought his ASH 25 and flew with us.

Bhc6.jpg (37683 bytes)


Gordon Boettger, the Americas West winner, flew like a bullet. When we were cruising over the White Mountains he came from behind much lower. Ten minutes later he disappeared into the far front still at the same low altitude. Shinzo whispered to me: "Gordon’s Airspeed Indicator starts working from 100 knots". After landing they were talking, joking, laughing and playing like two Magpies.





Gordon and Shinzo, the two magpies.
But why was Shinzo standing on Gordon's fuselage?

At the farewell party, during the last evening, Jim Plake, ground manager, gave a speech in which he explained how they prepared for the camp. When reading through the participants’ lists they found a pilot with a Japanese sounding name from Australia. They believed it would not be easy to look after this particular pilot, but it turned out to be the opposite. "Shinzo and Christiane", so Jim continued, "enjoyed their flying so much that it made everybody happy to see". My face changed to red after Jim’s speech, what a lovely compliment he made!

Thank you to everybody who made this camp possible, thank you Barron Hilton and EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company) for sponsoring such a great event.

Last but not least, thank you Frank Franke, you created this idea together with Helmut Reichmann 25 years ago.

In your book "BOUNDLESS SKY Soaring, the real dream of flying", you cited Rainer Hertrich, who wrote: "Gliding is the most fundamental and original experience of releasing oneself from the earth’s ties – it’s a kind of monumental test, enabling us to measure ourselves against the forces of nature". How true this is.


Back to top of page