From high above, battle lines are clear

Glider pilot shares his view from 17,000 feet

Glider pilot Bob Thompson took this photo of the fire near Bondad on Sunday from his glider. He captured mostly burned ash, but still some flames. U.S. Highway 550 and the Animas River, which is on the east side of the highway, can be seen at the bottom of the photograph. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Bob Thompson

Glider pilot Bob Thompson took this photo of the fire near Bondad on Sunday from his glider. He captured mostly burned ash, but still some flames. U.S. Highway 550 and the Animas River, which is on the east side of the highway, can be seen at the bottom of the photograph.

A Vallecito resident who loves flying and photography put the hobbies together to spend 6˝ hours Sunday in a glider over wildland fires near Mancos and Bondad.

“I took 88 photos, some of them pretty nifty,” Bob Thompson said Monday. “I was impressed by how the air tankers laid the slurry at both fires to stop the fire advance.”

Thompson, 67, taught geology for 38 years at Glendale Community College in Arizona and biology part-time for 17 years at Arizona State University in Tempe.

He started flying airplanes and hang gliders in the early ’70s. In the ’90s, he started flying gliders.

“I have 1,900 hours in gliders,” he said.

Thompson said that Sunday, he flew mostly at 17,000 feet over the Weber Fire near Mancos and the State Line Fire south of Bondad.

“The Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t permit us to fly over 18,000 feet unless we have a transponder, which I don’t,” he said.

A transponder is a device that emits an identifying signal.

Flights over the fires Sunday required pilots to fly at 13,000 feet minimum, he said. Temporary flight restrictions, as they’re called, vary according to the situation, he said.

Thompson estimated he flew 520 miles to photograph both fires.

Thompson keeps his glider disassembled in his driveway. He trailers it to the glider port north of Durango where he is towed aloft.

“It take about 20 minutes to assemble,” he said.

daler@durangoherald.com

Glider pilot Bob Thompson took this photo Sunday while flying his glider. He spent almost an hour above the fire near Mancos and photographed slurry lines that laid to prevent the fire from spreading. This photo shows an area four to five miles south to southwest of Mancos Hill. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Bob Thompson

Glider pilot Bob Thompson took this photo Sunday while flying his glider. He spent almost an hour above the fire near Mancos and photographed slurry lines that laid to prevent the fire from spreading. This photo shows an area four to five miles south to southwest of Mancos Hill.