Mark Stanfield is a cross country soaring enthusiast and FAA certified instructor with Hood River Soaring in Oregon. An oncology pharmacy specialist by day, Mark got his start flying as a power pilot, then became certified for towing, eventually turning his sights to racing sailplanes and soaring.
Ever on the lookout for cross country soaring opportunities close to his home near Hood River, Mark set out to cross the Columbia River on a good, high thermal, lift day. At a point during his flight, he hit a plateau dipping to about 1100 feet above ground. Realizing the thermals were getting weak, thus preventing the thrust he needed, Mark scanned for a good landing site. He could see a wind farm up ahead with large turbines and a gravel road. He set up for a landing and came to a complete stop. Getting out of his cockpit to assess his whereabouts, Mark noticed some movement out of the corner of his eye. “Once I focused in, I could see this huge mountain lion! It was looking at the glider and at me, I could see she was checking me out, not sure what I was doing in her territory. I decided it was best to stay in my cockpit.” Equipped with enough supplies, Mark took out his cell phone, which to his surprise, worked. He called his wife to provide an update and his standby guys to try and get help. Unfortunately, his crew was unable to get a gauge on his location. He knew he had to be about two hours away from his trailer. Waffling on what to do next, Mark opted to push the S.O.S. button on SPOT Gen3. “I was in this remote area which was probably private property with mountain lions around me, my options weren’t very good.” Emergency response was immediately in touch, “she was very calm asking if I was okay and eventually advising me to stay in my glider until they came into contact with local authorities.” Emergency response connected Mark with the local Sheriff’s Department, the landowner and the Fire Department who quickly determined his position to lend aid.
Coming away from his experience, Mark was grateful to the authorities who helped him and the owner of the wind farm. “Everyone was so incredibly helpful and nice; it could have been a way worse situation.”
In hindsight he offered the following, “I was hesitant in pushing the S.O.S. button and was questioning whether I required emergency assistance, but my advice to people is to push the button! You are the emergency and you require help. SPOT users should feel confident in knowing that the appropriate level of assistance will be provided.”