BIG FLATS, N.Y. (WENY) - Decades old glider planes are taking to the skies in Big Flats from July 7th to July 12th, bringing people in from all over the world to the Southern Tier.  The Vintage Sailplane Association is celebrating their 50th anniversary with an international meet at Harris Hill, the Soaring Capital of America.

"This has been going on for 50 years, and this happens every four years up here at our museum on Harris Hill," said Trafford Doherty, the executive director of the National Soaring Museum.  "People from all the United States, Canada, Germany, and England come over here with their gliders and fly them for a week-long."

More than 100 pilots and crew are flying 30 vintage planes over the course of the week.  Some of the planes were more than 80 years old, like the one Gerry Wild was flying.  He was testing out a 1938 Slingsby Gull that was built in England.

"Modern gliders have amazing performance and capabilities, but they all kind of look exactly the same and because they're made of composites, they all have to be painted white. We in the vintage world we like our colors and so we find really colorful gliders and because they're old, before we knew too much about everything, they all have their individual personalities and little quirks. That makes it interesting from flying one glider to the other," said Gerry Wild, a pilot who came from Lehighton, Pennsylvania for the meet.

According to Doherty, pilots can participate in speed contests.  They will agree on a destination, and race another pilot there and back.  Since Harris Hill is the the Soaring Capital of America, its quite an appropriate place for glider enthusiasts to meet.

"You can fly off the hill. There are not a lot of places where, as soon as you go off the end of the runway, you're at 700 feet altitude because the hill just falls away," said Rusty Lowry, a pilot from Leonardtown, Maryland.  "This is the center of soaring for the United States. It's where it all started, with the youth camp here and the contest with Schweizer Aircraft, which was down in Big Flats for ages. So, it's a little bit of a homecoming,"

The glider community is tight knit, with people coming back to these meets year after year.  Pilots came from all over the world to fly these gliders, some from as far away as California, and even Germany.

"Seeing all these people we've grown to like over the years coming here, people who have grown to like over the years coming here. Some of them come from long ways. It's a long drive from Oregon to here. One fellow brought two gliders from Oregon and they're here today. And just the dedication these people show to this sport and hobby, if you will, is astounding, quite frankly," added Doherty.

The International Vintage Sailplane Meet is happening until July 12th.  It is free to go and watch the planes take off and land.  The planes fly from about 11 a.m. until 5 p.m daily at the National Soaring Museum.