After the incredible three years of soaring in the Western US, I must admit it took me a while to get back down to sea level and adjust my expectations to flatlanders' soaring. I am truly missing those rough and snow-covered mountains and with more moisture in the air my flatlands sky is not as blue as it used to be. The sun is farther away and on most days the visibility seems to be quite limited… Saturday's breakfast started with the cover of Germany's Soaring Magazine showing our Boulder friend in his ASW 20 over the mountains - surprising. I think America's Soaring had the same May cover? However, yesterday I could take a break from whining! Let me tell you how busy and successful a soaring day in a German club can be:
The forecast for Saturday, May 3rd looked very good. You could watch the great weather approaching – the only question marks were the wind and the height of the cloud base. Not just the XC pilots were alarmed; the students were ambitious to achieve their goals as well. We decided to invite a glider pilot examiner and opened the club hangar two hours earlier than on a usual Saturday. The Ka 8 pilots began the busy morning by practicing some precision landings before leaving for their 50 km attempt. Next six launches were the two examinees.
The rest of the crowd rigged everything with wings before gathering for a short field briefing. The first clouds had already formed, and at 10 am the ASW 20 launched with an XC-pilot. He thermalled up quickly and had already finished his first 100 kilometers when the last XC-ship lined up for a winch launch. BTW, the winch driver was one of the guys who had just passed his flight exam! The other newly licensed pilot was sent to the grocery store to buy food and beer for the barbecue in the evening.
The sky looked absolutely perfect, deep blue dotted with white clouds. The colors were even brighter than in Colorado. Sorry, but you guys in Colorado should grow canola on the mountains :) The 60 km visibility almost irritated my eyes. You could see green fields - which in Northern Germany are really green - sprinkled with some still dark brown areas and towns with their bright red roofs. Even Colorado’s Aspen’s fall colors cannot match these impressions… However I have to admit, both of the "color-seasons" here and there are very short. Canola’s bright glory fades as quickly as the fall season’s colors in the Rockies, and some years you might even miss the fun because the weather does not allow for flying.
Back to our Super Saturday, our small 65-people-club had 15 pilots score OLC points, four of them female. The two Ka 8 students made their 50 kilometers, and even the ASK 13 logged not just flight time. The old lady could be seen under 5000-feet-high clouds about 40 kilometers away from the field… The best flight of the day scored more than 700 OLC points.
While our Ka 8 fleet landed after their straight out flights, the other pilots all wanted to soar back home for the barbecue. As our field is located north of Hamburg (and Hamburg's too big airspace) between the Baltic and the North Sea the return is often the most challenging part of the day. Later in the afternoon the headwind had risen to more than 20 knots, the thermals got blue, weak and gusty and the base was lower than it had been south and east of Hamburg. The radio frequency got quiet and while circling up, the arrival altitude on our flight computers counted backwards. The only way to break the vicious circle was to fly on into the wind and hope for rising blue air. It worked.
Only the ASW 20 could not make it safely across the last city on her way home and landed out in a brown field, however our LS 1 managed to park somewhere high enough and waited until at 7 pm a new air mass arrived and decided to produce new thermals. Surprise, surprise!
Our late evening barbecue was filled with the chatter of new and old heroes: Two new licenses, two 50-km-flights (almost licensed pilots), homecomers, outlanders, and retrieve crews who had also enjoyed the busiest Saturday of the 2014 spring season. In OLC’s scores it’s pretty obvious: most Northern clubs must have enjoyed a Super-Saturday, only the South was rained out. They had a Super-Sunday and will get more than enough chances to fly fast, far and high…
Last but not least, I just received another interesting note: The Discus-winglets I imported from Boulder to Northern Germany are back in the air. Christian Struck introduced them to the Lüneburger Heide and his modified Discus now "flies calmer in the thermals, circling like om rails. This effect probably multiplies when the wings are filled with water... and the Discus simply looks better!" Christian thank you for the wonderful picture (on top of this page)!