Sarah Kelly Arnold was raised on a farm in British Columbia, where, as a 13-year-old, she learned to fly in a single seat Quicksilver ultralight. She was instantly hooked, and thus began a lifelong passion for aviation.
In 2004, Sarah became the owner-operator of Chilhowee Gliderport in Benton, TN where she eventually met and married her husband Jason. Together they’ve worked to improve the airport, train a new generation of pilots, and host soaring camps, seminars, and contests. Sarah organized the 1st FAI Pan American Gliding Championships in 2015, and serves as treasurer on the US Team Committee. She will be a 2017 inductee into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame.
Sarah’s first competition was the 2006 Perry Regionals with Charlie Spratt as CD. Five years later she won the Sports Class Nationals and earned a position on the US Soaring team in Club Class. She was the first woman to represent the United States at a WGC event in Argentina 2013. Later that year she flew the Women’s World Gliding Championships in France and took home a bronze medal.
Sarah maintains a take-no-prisoners attitude which propelled her to two FAI podiums at the Women’s World Gliding Championships in France (bronze) and Czech Republic (silver). This season, she and Karl Striedieck were the 20 Meter Multi-plan National Champions. She went on to another podium finish, placing 2nd in the 15 Meter Nationals at Uvalde, 2018.
1. What are your training and preparation plans before attending the upcoming 2020 WWGC?
Training for these events is a continual work in progress. To further my goals, I’ve chosen flying opportunities which offer the best chance to hone skills and learn as much as possible. The last two years partnering with Karl Striedieck in the two-seat class have been great for this, as have opportunities for flying in a WGC environment like the Pan American Gliding Championships and pre-WWGC. Flying in the hardest conditions, with the most contest days, against the best pilots, is the best preparation.
2. If you have participated in a previous WGC and/or pre-WGC what is the biggest insight you came away with, which you plan to apply to this WWGC?
At my first WGC in 2012 I realized that no matter how good the others are, we are all just pilots and have the same opportunities to do well up there. I haven’t felt out of my league or intimidated by the other teams since. During the Czech WWGC, most days I was able to achieve a great state of flow and ultimately returned home without regrets.
I always do my best flying when I’m not thinking about scores or placings and just enjoy each moment aloft! To that end, this time I plan to arrive at the site early enough to rest and practice before the contest begins. Ultimately its about finding a way to fly my best every day.
3. Why do you want to fly for the US Team?
It’s a huge privilege to represent the USA at an elite level, and a special experience to fly with such highly respected pilots who share this same passion. I hope to bring home a sense of the how large and yet small the world of soaring truly is, to inspire others who sacrifice for their own dreams, and more than anything to bring honor to my country.
SSA Contest history and National Ranking
Get to know Sarah Kelly Arnold
Leigh’s connection to soaring and competition is through her husband, SZ, for whom she’s crewed for 44 years. She’s a passionate supporter of the US Teams and loves contest reporting. She currently resides in both Steamboat Springs, Co. and Greenville, SC.