One year after winning the soaring national championship for 20-meter, two-seater glider planes, Barry Jaeger and Dick Andrews again took to the skies and this time set one national record and five Minnesota state records.
“The record that meant the most to us was the national record for a straight distance to a goal,” said Andrews, a retired family physician from Hastings and user of the Stanton Airport in Goodhue County. “That means that before we took off, we had to declare exactly where we were going, so a lot of planning went into choosing our target.”
Jaeger and Andrews had talked about a long distance flight for some time. They spent hours studying weather patterns, and on May 8, the conditions they wanted were lined up.
“There are so many things that have to come together to try for a record like this,” said Jaeger, who owns Jaeger Construction in Mendota Heights and lives in Inver Grove Heights. “You need to have consistent weather across the entire country, basically, because if you have one spot where there isn’t good weather, you’ll get shot down, or you’ll have to fly around it.”
With good weather on their side, the pair left the airport in Faribault just before 10 in the morning. Soon after taking off, they were having trouble maintaining altitude and got low enough that they considered returning to the airport, but Jaeger managed to find some rising air and got them back on track.
“Barry did a fantastic job of finding us a relatively weak thermal, and very patiently and confidently and silently worked us back up as we drifted further and further away from the airport, because we had a wind blowing us right where we wanted to go,” Andrews said.
With the weather patterns they had, they declared their destination as Bismarck, Missouri, some 50 miles south of St. Louis and 474 miles from Faribault, enough to break the previous national record of 458 miles. They flew between 3,500 feet and 5,500 feet above ground level, and with the temperature at 30 degrees when they left Faribault, they were chilled at the higher elevations.
“At one point I heard this banging noise, and I thought the glider was falling apart,” Andrews said. “It was Barry stomping his feet. His feet were freezing. We were wearing long underwear, winter coats, and gloves, but it was cold up there.”
As they reached Bismarck, they realized that the weather conditions were still perfect, so they decided to extend their flight and try to complete the first 1,000-kilometer- -- 620-mile -- flight out of Minnesota. Beyond Bismarck, their declared destination for the national record, they could continue flying in any direction that seemed best. Andrews went through all their maps and added up the distances. He found an airport in Covington, Tennessee, that would put them over the 1,000-kilometer distance, so they headed there, and after seven hours and 55 minutes inside the cramped cockpit, they landed.
“It’s definitely the pinnacle of my soaring career,” Andrews said. “I’ve been flying for 35 years and this has been a dream. We started having meetings of a small group of pilots interested in pursuing a 1,000-kilometer flight 13 years ago. We’ve made other attempts, but didn’t make it, so to achieve this is a monumental thing. It’s the longest flight ever out of Minnesota.”
Their wives, Pam and Lori, had left Faribault at 9 that morning, driving the support vehicle and pulling the trailer for the glider. They arrived in Covington at 10 p.m. Jaeger and Andrews loaded the glider in the trailer and set out on the long drive back to Faribault.
Even though they completed the flight on May 8, they had to wait several months to receive confirmation of their records from the Soaring Society of America to make their records official.
Jaeger and Andrews first teamed up in May 2019 when they competed in the national soaring championships in Albert Lea, Minn. They won the national title, and their success with the national and state records in May 2020 added to their feeling that they work well together.
Jaeger said they hope to do some more racing together, in Minnesota and other locations. He added that they would like to qualify for the world championship races in 2023 in Uvalde, Texas.
“It’s been a real thrill to experience all this with Barry,” Andrews said. “We do have a chemistry that is hard to put into words, but it is a joy to be together and do these sorts of things.”