2014 WGC: How to Avoid a Mid-Air Collision

Today’s pilot meeting included a safety talk about mid-air collisions from the competition Chief Steward Robert Danewid. From 1974 to 2013, there have been 58 mid-air collisions involving gliders. Gaggle flying seems to be the culprit for many of these collisions. Some possible solutions to reducing such collisions include: 1) Giving a bonus to pilots for starting early, 2) Changing the scoring formula, 3) Decreasing the number of pilots in each competition. And yet, the steward reminded us, it takes only two planes to produce a collision.

With that in mind, or clearly not, the organizers produced three tasks that had gliders crossing back and forth over the contest area like so many bow ties, meeting head on at several points. Grid time was set for 11:30, with launch time to be announced at the Captains’ meeting at noon. Shortly after the Captain’s meeting, we discovered a fourth way to avoid a mid-air collision: change the task. The printer is slow, and we waited a long time for the revised task sheets. By perhaps 1:00, the sheets were ready, and at 1:30, launch began, and lasted until 2:41, when SS was launched. There must be 20 minutes between the last launch and the opening of the start gate, so the start gate did not open until 3:01 for the last class, Open Class. Tasks for all classes were area tasks of 1.5 hours–very short tasks, starting very late, with weak starts and thunderstorms predicted for the end of the day. The head-on possibilities were significantly reduced, for which we were grateful.

The last U.S. team pilots to launch were, once again, DB and SS, sitting in their now customary positions on the 21st, and last, row of the grid, in the penultimate and final positions.

Thunderstorms did not materialize, and the day got better as it went on, although it didn’t go on very long.  Michael Sommer (EB) of Germany achieved the fastest speed of the day, 115.8 kph, more than 10 kph over the next best speed, 104.7, by Andy Davis of Great Britain.