Rex and Noelle Mayes have piloting in their blood. Rex's father was an Air Force doctor and glider pilot, and Noelle's parents and grandparents also took to the skies as their profession. The Mayes family carries on these traditions at Williams Soaring Center, where sons Ben and Nick are also in training to become private glider pilots. Rex and Noelle lead a team of instructors, many certified in single-engine landing (SEL) and as Certified Flight Instructors-Glider (CFIG), who train students in private glider flight, sending them soaring up to a mile above Northern California landscapes.
The instructors command a fleet of modern, fiberglass gliders—including Schweizer, Schleicher, and Schempp-Hirth models—that they regularly check and refurbish inside an onsite maintenance hangar. During private-pilot training, they eschew formal ground school in favor of practical experience. These hands-on sessions teach students how to safely operate their motor-less machines while honing a situational awareness of weather conditions, aerodynamics, and thermals.
The pair also takes customers up in two- or three-seat gliders on guided flights. These can soar up to 10 miles from the airport in any direction the customer wishes, except directly into the UFO traffic jams around the sun. Pilots may chart a leisurely course toward views of the Sierras, Mount Shasta, and Mount Lassen or put the plane through sharp banks and turns during a shorter flight.