05 Aug 2019

Behind the scenes at the 3rd FAI Pan-American Gliding Championship in Canada

FAI Pan-American Gliding Championship 2019 organiser Virginia Thompson left a career in business to become a commercial pilot in 2001.

Married to Canadian Gliding Team member Dave Springford, she got involved with contest management in 2013 and found it to be “a perfect opportunity to blend my business experience with my love of aviation”. This year’s event is the first FAI Pan-American Gliding Championship she has organised. 

We caught up with her to find out what you need to organise a successful gliding competition, and to learn a bit more about the 2019 edition of the FAI Pan-American Gliding Championship, which began on 29 July at the SOSA Gliding Club in South-western Ontario and runs until 14 August.

Hi Virginia!

Can you tell us a bit more about the FAI Pan-American Gliding Championship 2019?

This is the 3rd Pan-American Championship. The contest, which takes place every two years, is classified as a "Continental" contest by the FAI. The first contest was held in the United States in 2015 and the second took place in Argentina in 2017. The next will be Brazil in 2021.

At this year’s event, we have teams from Canada, Argentina and the United States. The three teams will compete in three classes: 18 Metre, a Handicapped Class (made up of 15 metre and Standard class gliders), and a Club Class. A total of 41 pilots are registered to take part. 

There are 7 social events planned for the contest. There will also be an opportunity for our guests to experience or hone their winch launch skills on the rest (or bad weather) day.

Spectators are welcome at the field for both the launch and the retrieve. They are also welcome to bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a day in the country. Gliding fans can also catch the action as it happens via the Live Tracking.

What elements do you need to run a successful gliding competition?

In my experience the key elements can be grouped under three major headings:

Contest personnel 

It is important to work with competent, dedicated individuals who have experience in their role and a willingness to be flexible. As Canada has not hosted an FAI-sanctioned contest before, we looked to our friends in the United States who had managed the 2012 FAI World Gliding Championships.

Ken Sorenson, who was the Director of Championships at that event agreed to be the Director of Championships for the Pan-Am contest. He is working with well-known local Contest Director Tom Coulson to create the perfect blend of FAI/IGC experience and local knowledge.


The added number of visitors creates a strain on services such as showers, kitchens and drinking water. So it is important in the years leading up to the contest to ensure any deficits in the property are rectified.


Perhaps the most critical element of the contest is the need for a large group of dedicated, like-minded volunteers who are willing to give their time. The Sosa Gliding Club members have been exceptionally supportive of the many initiatives surrounding the Championship. 

Thanks for your time Virginia! We wish you all the best for a successful Championship.

 Photo credit: FAI