It must have been one of these legendary Foehn days yesterday, May 16th. Do you remember last year, about the same date? Gerd Heidebrecht from Königsdorf flew more than 1000 Miles (1746,3 km, to be precise) in a Discus-2cT along the northern part of the Alps. Yesterday his club mate Mathias Schunk even exceeded that distance by four (4) kilometers, making it the longest flight ever in Europe. Schunk was flying a Quintus M.
"During Foehn conditions, the only limiting factor is daylight", says Schunk who departed together with Gerd Heidebrecht and Armin Behrendt just at sunrise at 05:37 in the morning. „Seeing the sun rise over the mountains alone was worth getting up early.“ The three gliders headed for Mount Zugspitze where they found the first wave conditions. Heading eastbound, north of Innsbruck, Heidebrecht was looking for a lift direct on the ridge but could not catch the wave but instead was caught in a large area of sink that made him use his engine quite early that day.
Schunk and Behrendt found a small wave over the valley and headed further east to their first waypoint Rax at the eastern edge of the Alps, reaching it by 09:15. The following two hours they mainly spent close to the ridges on their way back to the west. From Innsbruck onwards, Schunk and Behrend split up, and as Behrendt was flying a bit lower, he missed the lift on the ridge and had to land out. Schunk continued alone to his second waypoint near Bludenz which he reached at 12:45.
Heading back again to the east, it was a really fast run in the waves of the “Alpenhauptkamm”, which were could nicely be seen because of the high humidity. “With speeds up to 186 km/h for 60 Minutes according to SeeYou, I thought this must be like in Argentina” says Schunk. But due to the high humidity he had to descend more than 1000 meters south of the Dachstein using the airbrakes to get below the overcast sky in the east. Rain showers made it impossible to reach the Rax area again, so he had to turn around about 90 km in front of the third declared turning point. Initially, Schunks plans were a little different: He had aimed to set a new European record for a declared flight with three turnpoints and a distance of 1533 km. Now he set course for the record on a free distance with three turnpoints, for which 1538 km had to be beaten. Bludenz was again the perfect turnpoint for this plan.
Avoiding some showers on the way to the west, Schunk finished the task after 1555 km at 18:30 near Schrunz. “I would have loved to complete 1000 miles (1609 km), but the wind calmed down and did not allow to continue further west”, Schunk explains why he decided to return home two hours before sunset.
After his touchdown at Königsdorf at 20:39, just seven minutes before sunset and after 15:03 hours flighttime, the pilot had logged 1750 km in total and set a new European record in Open Class – his second record after 1220 km in 15-Meter-Class last year. And one more record for Schunk: He has never spent more than 15 hours in a cockpit – not even as a captain of an Airbus 340 longrange aircraft.
Here you can see how the Foehn works: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foehn
If you have any questions about this flight, just leave a comment and we will try to get the answers from Mathias!