The word went out Sunday morning on the Bakersfield Park Pilots Google Groups chat: north northwest wind, likely thermals, meet at Panorama Bluffs.
And the pilots did meet, along with their Weasels, Alulas, Combats and Drongos, the expanded polypropylene foam planes they use for radio-controlled slope soaring.
From a distance, the planes, most of which are actually flying wings, look like hawks and other birds, but are painted or detailed with strips, checks and colors, even eagle feathers.
Using the uplift generated by the prevailing wind as it hits the Bluffs, the gliders silently soar, dive, cut and loop, a half dozen of them outlined against the the blue sky, far above the dry Kern River bed, the inert pumpjacks of the Kern River Oil Field a backdrop.
Pilots control the planes' pitch and roll through eight-channel radios.
Richard Dowhower has been slope soaring for a half century. He enjoys the camaraderie, the small talk of the other pilots. Most of all, he loves the flying, although, he said, most of the time is spent "really trying to hit each other's" planes. He pointed out a dent on his wing's front edge.
"That's where my friends hit me."
Barry Westervelt flies all types of aircraft, including helicopters, electric planes and gliders.
"I have a room clear full of planes," he said.
He prefers slope soaring because "you're basically at the mercy of nature."
While manuevering his Combat wing in vicious darts and feints around the other planes, he said he wasn't too worried about anyone hitting him. But, he added, hawks have attacked the aircraft in the past.