1000K the Hard Way

by Jacek Kóbiesa

1000 km. Is this just 1000 km, only 1000 km or OMG 1000 km? How many of us, soaring pilots, are dreaming of achieving the magical 1000 km distance?  For many, 300 km is an achievement, and for some the number goes up to 500 km, but let's be honest; 1000 km is an achievement that any soaring pilot can be proud of. Now, imagine flying the 1000 km distance, but at the same time not be able to walk. Interested? The whole 1000 km distance flying adventure for Adam Czeladzki of Warsaw Aero club began during the Polish Nationals in the 18 meter class on August 17, 2009. On that fateful day, Adam crash-landed in his LS-8 sailplane, sustaining spinal injuries that rendered him a paraplegic. In most cases people who survive an aircraft crash will not return to flying. Not Adam; he accepted the outcome of the accident, in part because of the mistake he made during a critical phase of flight such as the landing, but mainly because of the pure love of engineless flight. That by itself is not as remarkable as the fact, that in Adam’s native Poland, the rigors of a flight physical are extremely high and, in my opinion, are comparable to a testing regime resembling the Space Shuttle astronauts. Paraplegic pilot in Poland? It never happened before.


Adam Czeladzki remained optimistic. After series of surgeries and physical therapy treatments, Adam in May of 2010 began steps in order to regain his flight medical certificate. He received his flight medical certificate under the JAR FCL3, which enables him to fly a glider with a hand steering system only. But now the issue arose of what kind of glider would he fly? Adam sold his spot for a ASG-29 to a fellow pilot and almost instantly he came across EASA info about certification of a Discus 2CT with hand steering. After that things went rather fast. Adam took delivery of a brand new glider just before the 2010 18 m Polish Nationals that took place at same airfield at which Adam lost mobility in his legs. So, exactly one year after his accident, Adam participated in the same contest, his new challenges notwithstanding. At that time, he really appreciated the involvement of Schempp Hirth.

Adam settling into Discus 2 cockpit

Adam preparing for a flight in his Discus 2cT

Most of the aero clubs in Poland are not accommodating to people with disabilities. There are no ramps for wheelchairs either to club buildings or the hangars. There are no restrooms for disabled people and there is no help on the horizon. As a matter of fact, nobody at the Warsaw Aero Club really cared about Adam's problems; his recovery and later his success was of no consequence.

In Poland it is possible to fly 1000 km weatherwise; however, due to the restrictions in the national airspace it is in many cases impractical and in some cases impossible to fly any distances. During my visit to Poland in August 2011, I was astounded by the soaring weather and complete quietness in the air. Here in the USA you look up and you will see a flying aircraft, whether it is an airliner or GA but something is always flying. It is not the same in Poland and, as a matter of fact, in many parts of Europe.

In Poland there were seven pilots who had claimed 1000 km flights. Africa, here comes Adam! Now Poland has eight pilots who can claim 1000 km flights, except Adam Czeladzki did it four times. Adam joined a group of Polish soaring pilots for a trip to Gariep Dam in South Africa. As of this writing Adam Czeladzki is No. 1 on OLC in Africa and No.8 in the World. For a soaring pilot it is an extraordinary achievement, but for someone with disabilities? You can only answer that for yourselves. I know in my case it will only give me that extra boost to work on my flying skills.

1000K Task

Adam Czeladzki is not done yet. Flying is a gift that many of us are privileged to have. Adam would like to share this gift with other disabled people whose dream of flying never took off. He established a civic campaign, “Flying without borders,” with a lofty goal of helping other disabled people to learn to fly. He met a lot of people in wheel chairs who would like to fly and there is already one candidate who received the necessary medical certification. But they will need a two-seat glider and the Duo Discus is the only one approved for this type of training. Adam is working with different organizations, associations and government entities in the hope that one of them, or maybe all of them, will help in fulfilling his goal.

Adam Czeladzki


Author Jacek Kóbiesa lives in Pasco, Washington and is a member of the Soaring Society of America, a CFI-G, IA, and a senior parachute rigger. Jack began flight training in 1980 in his native Poland, where he worked for PZL SZD Bielsko. During the past 32 years, Jack also earned a SEL airplane certificate and flew hang gliders.


  6 comments for “1000K the Hard Way

  1. Mike Lundin
    January 28, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    Great article, Jacek. It was wonderful to read about Adam Czeladzki’s formidable accomplishments and resilient spirit. I hope you develop a full article for Soaring magazine; I am sure Adam will continue to give you much to write about. Thanks again.


  2. juan mario osella
    January 29, 2012 at 5:56 am

    BRAVO ADAM !!!!!!!!!!
    GO AHEAD ALWAIS !!!!!!!

  3. January 30, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Hi Jacek–Great article, and extremely well written. To bad you weren’t around when I took up sport parachuting in the late 1950’s, you could have packed my reserve. That was before I started building my 1st homebuilt.


    Bill Burger-Roseville Ca.
    USPA License No. D-402

  4. Klaus Tröscher
    February 6, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    jacek ja teraz obejzalam ten wspanialy flug,musze przysnac ze to jest ogromne przedsiewniecie i wygranie,tego napewno by niewiele zrobili,ja nie latam ale moj parnter jest zawzietym szybownikiem.Duze Gratulacje.

  5. Chris
    February 22, 2012 at 4:02 am

    Well done Jacek. Awesome effort.
    Well done to Schempp-Hirth also for providing an avenue for pilots with disabilities to continue their soaring passion.

    • Chris
      February 22, 2012 at 4:26 am

      I mean of course well done Adam. Thank you Jacek for the article :-)

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