Pictures by Thomas Boettcher
Pictures by Thomas Boettcher
The northern European summer of 2014 is now almost over, maybe one or two more nice weekends in September, maybe another thermal flight across the northern German countryside?Then we will have to travel far for soaring adventures on ridges, in waves or in southern thermals. While the sun is setting much earlier already, I can take advantage of longer evenings to look back at the summer events of 2014. This has been my first summer back home, after returning from the Western US, another learning experience:
The summer of 2014 has been relatively dry and sunny in Northern Germany. We had some exceptional soaring days - not necessarily on weekends... - with some outstanding flights. Flatland soaring is not as bumpy and turbulent as "mountain riding", it has its special challenges though. But today I don`t want to discuss weather or landscapes, neither will I be talking about contests, big gliding events or new gliders. Let me simply tell you about my latest trip to Neustadt-Glewe, one of those huge Eastern German airfields, not far away from my home. As the area is not influenced that much by sea breezes and their cold, moist air we like to travel or fly over there whenever possible.
It is also a wonderful place for beginners: During the summer holidays a neighboring soaring club had announced a youth camp for their young glider pilots and students. Members of other clubs were invited to join their small crowd. Some of our club's young guys and girls took the invitation for granted and so we enjoyed a fun week. Maybe not weatherwise; but the atmosphere of a camp where young pilots execute their first “air hops” is always worth a try. For me and my husband it was a trip back in time. The camp had been organized by three retired friends who served as instructor, winch driver, air traffic controller and parents. Well, I should rather say "grandparents".
The three organizers together counted 225 years of age, their 10 (student) pilots averaged at 16.5 years. Reimer, chief instructor during the camp, had already been my instructor, a long time ago... I still remember when I had (finally) soloed he was scheduled to instruct the next day, and after a first launch with him he thought he'd better not let me go up solo again that day. I was still too excited… Two decades later he is still teaching 14 year-olds how to safely execute a winch launch, how to take advantage of the flight-time up in the skies and make a nice landing. The kids, who are the same age as Reimer's grandchildren, take a seat in the ASK 21, they listen to him appreciating his experience and knowledge.
On the other side of the field, Horst is uncomplainingly waiting for the next call to winch up a Ka 8 or an LS 4. Rolf operates the "tower", manages the Lepo- and glider-traffic on the airfield, sometimes advising the kids to help a little more here and there. He enjoys his job and does not really have to yell. The boys and girls are helping each other, nobody is bored. Only those who take a break sometimes pull out their smart phones to play a different game … This is maybe the only thing that has changed since I was a student? Patiently the three “veterans” of Northern German Soaring do their volunteer business, and 9 young boys plus Swantje, the only female student, enjoy their days out on the airfield.
This camp does not need too many rules, but some are strict: Everybody meets for breakfast at 8 am, briefing at 9.30 am, dinner at 7.30 pm and the 16+ year olds are not allowed to drink beer after 10 pm (German laws allow beer at 16!). Otherwise the kids would have to be sent home. Except for one accidentally outlanding of the Ka 8 nobody "breaks out". The poor guy who had just enjoyed his first thermal flight in the lightweight single-seater had been taken away by the wind and decided not to cross the forest between himself and the runway. Instead he looked for a perfect (huge) field where he could touch down safely. His mishap was discussed openly and friendly in the evening.
Besides a great comradery between old and young, experienced and new pilots, we witnessed a solo, two 50 km flights, and yes, of course we took out our own glider to check out the air-quality. After a fun week I saw some tears, but the young crowd will soon be together again and compete in the annual precise flying and spot landing youth challenge. Next year we will hopefully have 228 Years of Experience to guide our new blood on their way to become passionate glider pilots?! The camp's best cross-country day was of course the one when the youngsters had packed their equipment to travel back home...
Here are some more pictures to enjoy: