Cowley Camp

The Odyssey began the last week of July 1977.  We started it through Jan Driessen who learned to fly gliders in his native Holland and then progressed to the Dutch Air Force in the 1950’s.  Part of his training included Claresholm, Alberta with NATO.  (Jan is bare chested in light blue shorts in the photo below.)  He migrated to the USA after military service becoming a banker in a well known system.  He discovered the annual Cowley Soaring Camp in 1976 and convinced us to go him the following year.  That was the beginning of three decades our family attending the annual event.  We became ex-pat Canadians making life long friends with many of the soaring community.  Of note; Linda became a licensed soaring pilot in 1978 to prove that the ladies can do it too.  Once she proved that she was queen of the mountain, she then became the king of crews.



Cowley rests under the eastern shadow of the Canadian Rockies.  It is an old emergency airfield nestled in the high valley designed to wait out high velocity winds when transport airplanes did not have the oomph to fly through the passes.  The Alberta Soaring Council obtained rights to fly off the huge complex in 1972.  The wind phenomenon known as “wave” would form overhead allowing glider pilots to climb without a motor to altitudes requiring positive pressure breathing equipment…that is very high!


Canadian pilots would come from British Columbia to Quebec to experience this very unique Northern Glider Center.


Always highly organized, the Cowley Camp was a magical place.  As soon as the morning instruction was completed with the tyros, every other private owner would vie for take off position to race up, down, and across the the Rockies.  One could launch at 11 AM and land at 9 PM or later on many days of the camp.  My longest flights were 7 1/2 hours.


We arrived at the 1977 Camp towing a homebuilt wooden “Duster”.  The next year we brought the Romanian built metal IS-29 D2 “Lark”.  In 1982, we brought “August Moon” a Rollanden-Scheider LS-3a, flying her at camps through 1990.  Thereafter, our ship was an LS6a with the call sign of “Uncle Wiggley”.  Above is one of the family shots taken for our Holiday Picture Card.  Significant in the photo, are Brad’s bags.  He was off to Germany for his Junior HS year leaving from Calgary to get to Frankfurt.  He returned to the 1986 Camp speaking fluent German.  Several German Canadians thought he was Danish by his accent.

Our connection to Canada is extremely close even today.  We treasure the seasonal ASCents that convey the soaring activities of the Province done by Tony Burton and Ursula Weise.  Many of our friends have visited often throughout the years always brightening our lives.  Holiday cards always.


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