“If we’d had a Model Flying Club and were spitting distance from a one-in-a-million slope, we might well have done better in school in our short time there.” This photo, by our friend Jurek Markiton, triggered the memories which were the inspiration for this article.

In The Air

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Terence C. Gannon
The New RC Soaring Digest
6 min readSep 1, 2022

There’s a TV ad for the Staples stationery store chain which ran back in 1996. I remember the theme music as the big, brassy Andy Williams arrangement of the Christmas classic It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. But it wasn’t in the fall to support Black Friday or Christmas sales, but rather starting in mid-summer, to support that other annual spend-o-rama: ‘back to school’ in September. But in the case of this truly clever ad, it’s not the kids who love the holiday, but rather the parents: said kids are finally going to be somebody else’s problem for a bunch of hours a day much to the parents’ delight. But I can’t possibly do it justice — check out the real thing using the link in Resources below. It’s a classic: so much so that whenever I hear that song I now think of Staples, not Christmas.

I was one of those kids in the ad. The best day of the year — by a country mile — was the last day of school. Which back in Vancouver, BC in the 1970s, was always in June — never in July. Conversely, the most horrible day of the year was Labour Day. Again, it was an article of faith that school never started until after that and mostly likely the very next day. Consequently, it made Labour Day not a ‘holiday’ as we supposed to think, but like having your execution scheduled for the next day and knowing the governor’s call ain’t going to come.

I really hated the first day of school.

Even today, with my school days a very distant memory, I have this vestigial unmoored anxiety on Labour Day, which began to subside only when my wife and I starting taking vacations beginning on that long weekend. Why that weekend, you ask? Because the kids were back in school, of course, and we didn’t have any! Oregon beaches that were jammed mere hours before were now empty of everybody except us DINKs. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

What does any of this have to do with RC soaring, you ask? Not much admittedly — but it was an opportunity to provide some inkling of how checkered my school career actually was, starting very early in life. I had a love/hate relationship with school at best, but that’s another story for another day.

Back in the The Trailing Edge in the June issue of the New RCSD (again, see Resources), the staff wrote:

“If we’d had a Model Flying Club and were spitting distance from a one-in-a-million slope, we might well have done better in school in our short time there.”

Which forms the plot twist of this short missive: almost from the day I was no longer obligated to go to school, I really couldn’t get enough of learning something new. I go so far as to say it’s almost like an addiction. Learning is absolutely the best part of my week. A day is darker without it, and a day with nothing but and I learn something really interesting—well, let’s just say if I smoked it would be a perfect time for a cigarette.

Here’s a further observation: lots of New RCSD readers must feel exactly the same way. Back in the February, 2021 issue — only the second one I had edited — there appeared an article entitled The Aerodynamics of a DLG Unravelled by Theo Volkers and Tjarko van Empel. While I was pretty new and inexperienced at the job back then, I must admit to having reservations about it. It was just so…complicated. While extremely well written, I had to really work at reading and understanding the points the authors were trying to teach me. I remember thinking “I’m not exactly sure who’s going to read this, but what the heck, let’s run with it.”

What a huge misunderstanding on my part. The Aerodynamics of a DLG Unravelled is by far and way the most popular article ever to run in the New RC Soaring Digest.

The object lesson of course? That people love to learn. And seemingly, the harder they have to work at it, the more they seem to love it. No, I don’t have facts and figures to back that up but anecdotally I’ve seen enough how-to articles out-trend the other articles in an issue to know that there is always a ready audience to learn something new.

Which leads me to my final points on the subject of informal, lifelong learning. We’ll continue to focus — nay, dare I say emphasise — the learning component of the New RCSD. Also, if you enjoy a learning-centric article, don’t forget to let the author know or ask questions if you have them. Start a conversation. On the other hand, if you have something you want to teach the world — write an article and get it in for a future issue!

After all, it’s my job to try and give readers what they want and in this case — in fact, all cases — I really need your help doing that. Let’s get smarter together.

Dear Mr. Stubblebine

In the April, 2022 issue as part of my In The Air editorial, I wrote a section entitled Are Medium’s Days Numbered? Prefacing that, I did my best to scare off readers with the comment “it’s pretty techy, nuts-n-bolts, rattle-in-the-engine-room, Inside Baseball kind of stuff.” I really hope that most decided to continue with the material that was really interesting (like the article which followed and virtually everything else in that issue) but for the few that persevered, there’s something of a postscript. The TL;DR version is that Medium’s new CEO, Tony Stubblebine asked me (and to be honest, undoubtedly thousands of their other users) what I thought of the service that he now leads as chief executive.

So I told him.

For those who are interested in what that is, check out Dear Mr. Stubblebine linked below. And with apologies to Mark Twain — and you the reader — I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.

And with that, I bid you good reading, fair winds, blue skies and don’t be late for school!


  • It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year — Turns out the soundtrack wasn’t the “big, brassy Andy Williams arrangement” of It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, but it doesn’t matter — comedically, the ad still works in spades.
  • The Trailing Edge — The key photo for this article was provided by Jonathan Demery, who leads some great RC soaring programs at St. David’s College at Llandudno, Wales. In this article you’ll find some additional commentary on these excellent extra-curricular programs.
  • The Aerodynamics of a DLG Unravelled — The classic article on discus launched gliders by co-authors Theo Volkers and Tjarko van Empel.
  • In The Air — The “techy, nuts-n-bolts, rattle-in-the-engine-room, Inside Baseball kind of stuff” that set the stage for…
  • Dear Mr. Stubblebine — Terence C. Gannon’s open letter to Tony Stubblebine, the new CEO of Medium, the platform on which the New RCSD is published.

Cover photo: This month’s gorgeous cover photo is by Laurent Ducros and was taken at Cap d’Erquy in February, 2021. It features a couple of the gliders of the aerobatic team based nearby on the northwest coast of France. The four meter span Air 100 gliders in Hamilton livery are all built by Eric Poulain who is also one of the team pilots. You are welcome to download the September cover in a resolution suitable for computer monitor wallpaper. (2560x1440).

Disclaimer: While all reasonable care is taken in the preparation of the contents of the New RC Soaring Digest, the publishers are not legally responsible for errors in its contents or for any loss arising from such errors, including loss resulting from the negligence of our staff. Reliance placed upon the contents of the New RC Soaring Digest is solely at the readers’ own risk.

Here’s the first article in the September, 2022 issue. Or go to the table of contents for all the other great articles. A PDF version of this edition of In The Air, or the entire issue, is available upon request.