Saturday, May 24, 2014

Meet the Team USA for WGC 2014 in Räyskälä

Sean Franke, Club Class

Sean is a third generation glider pilot who soloed at age 14.  He has accumulated over 3,000 hours in the air and has flown National soaring competitions since 1990.  When you ask Sean, he will tell you that he holds eight State and two National soaring records.
He was proud to be part of the US Junior soaring team in 1991, 1993, and 1995.  Sean competed in Sweden, France, and Poland.  In 2010 and 2012 he competed at the Club Class World Gliding Championships in Slovakia and Argentina.  When not competing, he can be found flying for fun at Warner Springs, CA and mentoring local pilots.
Sean is an entrepreneur with interests in merchant services, real  estate, and aviation.  He recently acquired Wings & Wheels and is the new US HpH sailplane representative.  He is also CEO at Electronic Merchant Services (EMS) Inc., a leader in credit card merchant processing.

Garret Willat, Club Class

Garret comes from a glider family.  His parents have owned Sky Sailing Inc. since 1979, where he is a full-time glider flight instructor.  Growing up on an airport made it seem natural to solo on his 14th birthday in 18 different sailplanes.  Two years later he soloed all of the towplanes and earned a private license.  He then started instructing the day after his 18th birthday.  Since then, Garret has represented the US Junior Team in 2003 and 2005.  He graduated from Embry-Riddle with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Aeronautics.
Garret attended George Lee’s camp at Plain Soaring, later using that knowledge in open class to win the 2009 US Open Class Nationals, and winning the Larissa Strouekoff Trophy in 2005 and 2006 for the fastest flight during a contest.  Garret represented the US Open Class team in 2008 and 2010.  His last move in classes was when he left 60:1 super ships to fly in Club Class.  Garret was the first US Club Class National Champion in 2013.

Phil Gaisford, Standard Class

Phil learned to glide in the United Kingdom while at high school using things like abandoned WWII runways, home-made launch vehicles, piano wire, and Skylarks.  When one asks Phil about flying he says “I soon got interested in competition flying, making the UK team in 1992 and was Swiss national champion in 1993.  My wide-ranging contest experience includes the UK, France, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Argentina, Finland, and since relocating to the US in 1994, most sections of this country.  He owns a Discus 2, which he flies with Greater Boston Soaring Club, and where he also gives flight instruction.

Bob Fletcher, Standard Class

Bob started flying in Doncaster United Kingdom before he started university.  When at university he joined Phil Gaisford on the Nottingham University committee and was instrumental in starting the annual “inter university task week” flying the first two in a K-13 with other students in the front seat.  Since university, Bob has focused more on racing than instructing while flying many standard class national competitions in the US, Canada, and the UK.
When not gliding, he racks up frequent flying miles leading the sales team of an internet start-up.  Earlier in his career he worked with the FAI award winning Cambridge Aero team on the first GPS flight recorders.  As a part of that effort he negotiated and co-wrote the original IGC file format with the other GPS manufacturers.

Heinz Weissenbuehler and Karin Schlösser, 20 Meter

Representing the USA in the 20 meter class are both Heinz Weissenbuehler and Karin Schlösser.  Heinz started flying gliders at the age of 14 as a Junior on Harris Hill, Elmira, NY.  Since then, he has accumulated more than 4000 hours in gliders and has flown many contests, including 21 Nationals.  In 2008, he represented the US in the Open Class during the 30th FAI World Championship in Luesse, Germany.
Heinz works as a 767 pilot for American Airlines, and lives, flies and instructs on Harris Hill where he has been a member of the Harris Hill Soaring Corporation (HHSC) for 38 years.  In an earlier life, he flew the most amazing Open Class glider ever (U-2), and is currently entrusted with caring for and flying Dick Butler’s Eta Biter.  In Finland, Heinz will be flying in the 20 meter class competition with his wife Karin Schlösser, also a glider and power pilot.  Both come from backgrounds where aviation is a family affair.  Karin started flying in the Netherlands as a teenager, then put her flying on hold while she lived and practiced law in New York City for 18 years. Heinz and Karin met on Harris Hill, where they now both live and fly. They have been flying together since 1997.

Fernando Silva, Team Captain

Fernando Silva is a management consultant focusing on business strategy for consumer product companies.  He speaks four languages and has worked with clients in three continents.  He transitioned to gliders in 1978 and started racing in 1996.  He has won multiple Regionals including repeat wins at Perry and Cordele flying his ASW-27.  He has placed in the top 10 in four US Nationals.  He has served as Competition Director for the Georgia-Tennessee-Alabama club race series and as weatherman at Regional and National contests.

Mika Ganszauge, Team Advisor

Mika Ganszauge is a Finnish glider pilot from Tampere, Finland. He took his first glider discovery ride at Dunstable in the United Kingdom in 1991, but started soaring in Finland in the late 1990’s and has flown in national and international competitions since 2003. He is a glider flight instructor in Finland and has always been keen on introducing new faces to the sport. He has also been mentoring less-experienced local pilots on cross-country flights and taken some of them to their first contests on a double-seater to give them a taste of sailplane racing.
Between 2004 and 2008 Mika worked and lived in Atlanta, GA and was an active member of Mid-Georgia Soaring Association flying at Monroe-Walton County Airport, GA. During his stay in the US, he took part in the SSA-sanctioned regional contests and the local GTA races both as a pilot and crew.

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