SHOW LOW — On Tuesday, July 27 local resident Tom Holloran left his home in Show Low with France as his final destination. It is not for a vacation, but to participate in the 36th World Gliding Championship in Montlucon, France, Aug. 4 – 21. Holloran, winner of the Soaring Society of America (SSA) standard division, is one of the six U.S. team members who will join over 100 pilots from 37 different countries.

Holloran’s first ride in a glider at the tender age of one, sitting in his mother’s lap, with his dad in the pilot’s seat, might not have been the catalyst for his passion for the sport, but it certainly taught him to stay aloft with the currents of life as a successful businessman. Though he is now semi-retired, he is the U.S. dealer for GP Gliders, a Polish glider manufacturer.

Holloran grew up in Richmond, Ohio at the airport. At the airport, it is said, because that is where he and his father spent a lot of their time together with his father’s SGS 1-26 (single seat mid-wing glider). Holloran got his license at 16 and began flying competitively at 21.

If you asked him what he wanted to be at 16, he would have said a pilot, and he said he could have gotten into the Air Force Academy. He also said he always knew from a young age that he did not want to work for someone else and that he wanted to own his own business. But, like many young people, life beckoned and led him in a different direction.

Leaving soaring for around 21 years — as an entrepreneur, he helped others soar, so-to-speak, in building their careers.

During his hiatus from soaring, he and his wife moved from Ohio to Phoenix in 1996. They began looking at Show Low and in 2003 bought a summer home. Finding themselves visiting the Mountain more and more frequently, in 2008 they bought a bigger house and became permanent residents.

Holloran began thinking about soaring again around 2015 and in 2018, when he became a dealer for the Polish gliders, he decided to get back into competition. At that time, he didn’t have a plane, but he entered the 2018 Standard Nationals and borrowed one, and placed third. He bought a plane like the one he had borrowed and in 2019, he placed second in the Club Class nationals and first place in the Standard Class nationals.

You could say his hunger for the competitive sport of soaring was rekindled.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do — to get to the top level,” said Holloran.

He said his wife Elaine says that he has to be challenged. Though she does accompany him on his ventures, he said she will not crew for him. And, on this journey, she is not going but he is taking their 21-year-old grandson along as a crew member and a husband and wife from Colorado.

Holloran also did not take his plane with him. He is renting one in Germany and will pick it up in Frankfurt. He says it is actually about the same cost as it would be if he were to ship his own.

“I will pick up my rented LS8 from Dirk Goebel and will be driving to France on July 31,” said Holloran. (Note: An LS8 is a Standard and 18 meter class single-seat glider.)

Prior to his departure from Show Low, it was the required paperwork that was most time consuming – passport, insurance and all of the COVID-19 restrictions — vaccinations, testing, etc. — which had to be met for travel.

Holloran says there is not a lot you can do to get mentally prepared for something like this.

“It is not about skill but becomes a strategy and strength. Time of day also matters and each morning they have a weather briefing. Going the fastest each day gets the most points, a 1,000 for the fastest and there is a trick to going as fast as you can, but not so fast. You are in the air three to four hours a day, every day, and distance depends on how good or bad the day is,” said Holloran.

Practice days are Aug. 1 and 2; Aug. 4 to 6 is the official training time; Aug. 7 is the opening ceremonies; Aug. 8 to 20 are contest days and Aug. 21 is the closing ceremony and aeronautical demonstration.

“It was my 2018 and 2019 scores that qualified me for going to the world championship. In the world I am ranked 252 of a thousand, and I am number nine in the United States.

“At the end of the year, I start looking at the next goal,” said Holloran.

No doubt his wife Elaine and friends will be keeping up with this world championship. And, most certainly, since Holloran is a Show Low resident, everyone here will be rooting for him personally, along with the entire U.S. Team.

For those who would like to follow the competition, information can be found at https://www.wgc2021.fr

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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