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Scholarship Fund


Paul Ratzlaff Soaring Scholarship Fund

The Paul Ratzlaff Soaring Scholarship Fund is a program brought into existence by it's namesake, Paul Ratzlaff. That's a picture of him above, preparing to fly his Grob 102 sailplane. Paul fought off cancer for two years, soaring every chance he could, and generously left behind a program that will help enthusiastic individuals realize their dream of soaring. Paul's only regret, his good friends heard him say on several occasions, was that he wished he had discovered soaring earlier in life. This program is Paul's effort to make more accessible the world's best-kept secret of soaringHe has created, and generously funded, the Paul Ratzlaff Soaring Scholarship Fund and hopes that others will see the value in making it a 'living fund' by contributing to it year after year.

The fund is managed by two directors. The directors consider/approve applicants, accept contributions, and monitor expenditures. Applicants must apply in person at Cross Country Soaring, Inc. If approved, they will have the cost of their flight training matched dollar-for-dollar up to the maximum per-person match of $1000.00. If you are interested in learning to soar, Paul would want you to ask about this program. So when you come down for a visit, please do!

For more details about the fund, or if you'd like to contribute, please contact Fund Director Bob Wander at


Kevin Pater

Kevin is the first recipient of the Paul Ratzlaff Scholarship Fund. He is a sophomore in college, delivers pizzas for spending money and is one very smooth pilot after only a few lessons. Kevin asked who to thank when he heard we had nominated him. His letter below is to Paul.

"Dear Paul,

As the first recipient of the Cross Country Soaring Scholarship, I would like to offer a sincere 'thank you'. This scholarship will leave a long lasting footprint in the minds and hearts of every pilot who can fly because of it. For me, the scholarship allows me to fly, and to reach my dream of becoming a glider pilot. It is immensely important to me because of how special flying has always been to me. Flying has been an important part of my life since I was about four years old when I visited a local air show with my father. We continued to visit air shows, and each time I saw, heard, or flew in an airplane, the desire to actually fly an aircraft myself grew stronger and stronger. With the help of this scholarship I will be able to afford flying lessons. I offer my sincerest of thank-you's for giving me this truly awesome opportunity. Sincerely, Kevin"


Teddy von Bevern

Teddy is 14 years old. On about his 7th lesson he handled the entire flight - preflight check-list, ground roll, take-off, aero-tow, flight, landing checklist, pattern and landing. And he continues to do it, about 20 flights later. I sit in the back seat without having to touch a thing, throwing him the occasional curve-ball to test his judgement and decision making skills. Teddy is quite mature for his age, as well as disciplined and consistent. He is becoming an excellent pilot and will be ready to solo within the next few flights (don't tell him). His parents have shown wonderful support in every way and we felt the Ratzlaff fund might ease the strain on his college tuition! Congratulations, Teddy.

" I'm not exactly sure where my interest in flying started however, it most likely developed because of my fascination with physics, engineering and math. When I started flying in October of 1999 I was flying small single engine planes. I completed ground school and was waiting until I was old enough to solo, when we heard about gliders. They sounded fun and I liked the idea of being able to solo sooner. About half way through my training, I became the second lucky person receive the Paul Ratzlaff soaring scholarship. Thank you to Paul, Don and anyone else who aided in my receiving this opportunity."

 - Teddy

NOTE: Teddy has gone solo! Well done, Teddy. Now you can add "pilot" to your resume. Click here for a snapshot of the famous First-Solo post-flight tradition .



Jared Anderson

Like many in his age bracket, Jared is picking up the art of stick and rudder quite quickly. A sailplane's wings are long, and the ailerons are way out there. When we move the stick to the right or left to bank the sailplane, the rising wing has increased drag, and the descending wing has decreased drag (free lesson here!). This is caused by the deflection of the ailerons. So in a turn, unless the right amount of rudder is applied at just the right time in the right amount, to counter the yawing force of the wings, the sailplane will not carve that graceful turn we want. The little piece of yarn taped to the front of every canopy (the yaw string) will be off to one side instead of straight back. Now back to the point - these "kids" usually figure this game out before most of us adults! Jared, at fifteen years old, is no exception. He came very close to setting the record for "earliest unassisted flight". Well done, Jared. Welcome to the scholarship!!

"I have had an interest in flying me entire life. I began flying last summer (July 2003) in small powered airplanes. After that, my interest in flying grew. When I found out about gliding, I thought that it looked like a lot of fun as well as a challenge. Gliding is also one of those things that no one is perfect at, thus creating room for improvement and perfection. Thank you very much Paul and Don for creating this scholarship."

- Jared


Amy Thomas

Amy took the road less-traveled into soaring. Instead of showing up for a ride and deciding to take lessons, as many new passenger-cum-pilots do, she showed up to see what it was all about without much thought to actually flying. She watched and asked questions and watched some more. She listened carefully and let the sport come to life slowly in her mind until...until there was no escape. She had to give it a try. She's had two flights to date and has speed-control nailed. She is working on coordinated turns and generally "bonding" with her new set of wings.

" Besides commercial flights, my first foray into aviation was a soaring contest in Albert Lea. It was quite the inauguration. I was privileged enough to accompany Don, his co-pilot, and his crew from check-in throughout the staging process. All my questions were answered, and I got to listen in to the strategy involved in soaring cross-county. Even though I was unaware of soaring previously, I knew by observing them and the other pilots that I had happened upon something grand. Learning an appreciation of the engineering and mechanics of a sailplane while standing in a beanfield during a contest land-out retrieval only added to my curiosity of the sport. I knew I had to try it first hand.

As I released the tow rope on my first ride, I knew I was living out the imagination of millions of people that had lived before me and looked with envy at the hawks in the sky. Then the challenges of learning how to fly immediately grabbed my attention, and I knew I wanted to pursue it further. But I didn't know how deeply I was hooked until I landed and realized how much fun I had.

Don calls soaring the "best kept secret", and unfortunately it's true. I thank Paul, Don, and everyone else involved in this scholarship for trying to change that. "

- Amy Thomas


Craig Alford

Craig is just graduating high school and has made learning to fly a high priority. His father, Dennis, is very supportive and plans to learn to soar as well, once it can be worked into the schedule. Craig had his 4th flight today (June 25th) and handled the entire flight unassisted! A real accomplishment. Well done.

"I am very honored to receive this soaring scholarship. I fell in love with gliding after my first flight. I am also in training for my powered private pilot's license. I love how quiet it is when you're gliding along with so much less to worry about. An engine failure or the cost of fuel is not a factor and its one of the best feelings. I thank you, Paul, for making this possible and Don for showing me the way." -Craig Alford


  Codie Dodd

Codie is thirteen years old. He's got a lot of enthusiasm and is really putting forth the effort to learn to soar. It's fun watching him take on more and more of the responsibilities of each flight that we make together. Soon, we will stage-up, launch, tow, release, soar and land and I will not have said a word from my back seat office.

"My grandfather and his brother call me 'Dead Stick' because there is no motor. My grandfather has his pilot's license and my great uncle is a commercial jet pilot. I’m not the best pilot yet, but I will be. I’ve already learned a lot about the glider. I was not very familiar with it at first, but later on I got better and better. I am having a lot of fun even though I have to read a little bit. I’m almost out of school, so I can fly more often. I am on my 6th lesson for my glider license. I can’t wait to solo. Thanks Paul! " - Codie Dodd


MaryLou Jones

  "I really am so excited about my new venture into soaring with Don and CCSI.  It is so amazing to look down and visualize the world below with such order and precision.  It makes me feel like I am observing a model train layout. My husband gave me my first glider ride for my birthday.  I liked it so much and was so excited that I forgot to take pictures.  I had no regrets about pictures though because I knew it wouldn’t be my last flight.  One month later my husband surprised me with my Gold Instructional Package instruction with Don for our 20th anniversary. I cannot think of a more pleasant way to spend an afternoon than with Don, Mike the tow plane pilot and CCSI." - MaryLou Jones


Josh Williams

Josh is a 14 year-old sophomore who just finished school with a 3.7 GPA. Josh has been in training to become a glider pilot for the last 4 weeks and is helping out at the airport to earn some money towards his lessons.

"Ever since I was about 10, my mind has been captivated by the feeling and enjoyment of flying. The first time I ever became airborne was with my uncle in his Pitts Special biplane, and ever since then my love and joy has been flying. I wish Paul were here so I could thank him personally because this scholarship fund has relieved a lot of pressure off of my family and myself for flight costs. This scholarship will assist me in pursuing my goal of being a power plane and glider pilot. Thank you Paul, and thank you Don for the great help." -Josh Williams

This fund was a great success and helped all of these individuals make their dream of soaring come true. The fund is currently depleted, however. I hope to have a fundraiser someday soon so that it can be reinstated.