News and Updates - U.S. GLIDER Nationals


2023 U.S. National Aerobatic Glider Championships

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February 16-19, 2023

Maricopa, Arizona

For the second time in modern history, the U.S. National Aerobatic Championships for the Unlimited and Advanced glider competitors was held in conjunction with the Estrella Classic, a regional contest for Primary through Sportsman categories.

The location in Maricopa continues to be a big draw for glider pilots from around the country. The climate, facilities and personnel at Arizona Soaring lend their expertise and time making sure the contest goes off smoothly. Special thanks goes out to Jason Stephens, who is the owner operator of the flight school located on the field and his right-hand man, Shad Coulson who does double duty as the contest director and head flight instructor.

This year's championship saw another record - 12 competitors in the Advanced category! The majority of the group were from the U.S, Air Force Academy, who had moved up from the Intermediate category. According to coach Mark "Matty" Matticola the aerobatic demonstration team wanted to show their commitment to engaging in ever more challenging sequences. The three civilian glider pilots were experienced competitors: Shad Coulson, Joseph Gerner and Mallory Lynch.

Congratulations to Jason Stephens on regaining his U.S. National Unlimited Glider Aerobatic Championship title for the sixth time! Jason previously won the title in 2006-2008, and 2012-2013.


1st Place: Shad Coulson
2nd place: Jospeh Gerner
3rd place: Mallory Lynch
1st place Jason Stephens
2nd place: Jim Bourke
3rd place: Sasa Marvin


The scores from the U.S. National Unlimited/Advanced Glider Aerobatic Championships, which took place at the Estrella Classic contest can be found in the scoring database here:  






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For the first time since 1999 the Unlimited and Advanced glider competitors flew for a championship title separate from power aircraft. The Estrella Classic ran from February 16 to 19 guided by the steady hands of Contest Director Shad Coulson.
The idea to provide a separate venue from powered aircraft was proposed by Glider Chairman Jason Stephens at the IAC 2021 Fall Board meeting. With a rise in interest in glider aerobatics, and availability of aerobatic capable gliders at Estrella, the contest was able to host 36 pilots and crown Unlimited and Advanced Glider National Aerobatic Champions.
Estrella proved to be an excellent site for the championships with wide open spaces, two tow planes and experienced personnel working out of AZ Soaring. Exciting to all involved was the participation of five Unlimited and nine Advanced glider competitors - numbers not seen in many years. (photo right -Unlimited competitors)
In the Unlimited Glider category there has not been enough competitors and had not been flown since 2016. Before 2016 the category was not flown in 2004-2005, 2010-2011 and 2014. The Advanced Glider category has been flown consistently at Nationals since it was added to the championships in 2012. There have been five Advanced glider competitors three times since 2012, but typically two or three flew each year.
Beautiful sunny and sometimes breezy days greeted the competitors. During the Unlimited competition Jason Stephens came out on top in the Free Known flying the flight school's Aeriane Swift. Jim Bourke came in second and Eric Lentz Gauthier came in third. During the first Unknown Jim edged out Eric for first place and Sasa Marvin captured third place. In the final flight of the competition, Eric came out with an excellent score of 81.11% in the Unknown II, followed by Jason with a close 80.11% and Jim with 71.50%, At the end of the day Eric was crowned the Unlimited Glider National Aerobatic Champion. He had also captured the title in 2015.
In the Advanced Category, Joe Gerner flew consistently with scores over 76% in the Free Known, Unknown I and Unknown II. Mallory Lynch placed second in the first Unknown with a 78% with Shad Coulson following hot on his heals with a 77.88%. Starting out slow in the Free Unknown, Shad worked his way up from eighth place to finish in third place with a 71.35%. In the end Joe's consistency gained him first place overall and he earned the title of Advanced Glider National Aerobatic Champion. In 2019 Joe was the Intermediate Glider National Aerobatic Champion.
Congratulations to all of the competitors and volunteers for a fun and safe contest.

Final Standings for the Unlimited category

1st place: Eric Lentz Gauthier
2nd place: Jim Bourke
3rd place: Jason Stephens

Final Standings for the Advanced category


1st place: Joseph Gerner
2nd place: Mallory Lynch
3rd place: Shad Coulson

All the scores can be found online: