Heroes or ” madmen” ?? Wishing you a HAPPY, HEALTHY and above all SAFE 2015.

Just finished my blog at soaring.eu and thought that,.. maybe one item in it, might be good for more friends to read. So I add it for my soaringcafe readers as well.It's about safety on too many successive long distance flights.
And,....as I wish you a SAFE 2015 , there is some concern as well. I share that with you.

I love the kilometer eaters, pilots who have the stamina to fly long, long  distances of more than 10 hours on a day. They are mostly very well prepared  and know what they are doing. All of them have a lot of experience.But what about 150 hours in a month????Is that still fun?
Here is part of my last blog of 2014 on www.soaring.eu 

-----To finish this year, also a bit of a concern for flying long distances during your holiday. Is it great fun or when you fly for weeks/months total stupidity and waiting for an accident to happen. I leave the choice to you!!!!

The OLC has created a great platform to see where everybody flies and what results they book.When you have a 1 or 2 week holiday in Namibia you can fly nearly each day as the weather is excellent.No worries!
BUT,...how smart is it to fly 150 hours in a month? About 10 hours a day or more , with HOT conditions at the ground and sometimes tough conditions in the air [avoiding thunderstorms]?
An airline pilot has his restrictions of under 100 hours and he/she  is a professional. Why should a glider pilot in his holidays fly 150 hours?????
Could this create a danger for these pilots? Is the eagerness to fly more km.'s than the other on the OLC list  a potential danger???
As said, I leave it up to you, but to be honest I am concerned.
Of course it is their own responsibility and I count on the fact that they know what they are doing, but still it is a lot of time in the air .

One of my close friends made some comments lately of what he calls "the OLC Madness" .
Here is what he said:
 "OLC was a great thing to give the soaring pilots of the world the possibility to compare their performances and see what the day could have brought had you done everything right.
Someone else did..... as you can now see on the OLC.
Unfortunately over the years the "game" of lodging OLC flights online has become a "war" where people seem to be quite happy to fly themselves into oblivion, only to get some more points, and maybe become the "OLC CHAMPION".
The signs are there..... look at the hours they fly in their manic pursuit of more OLC points!
I just picked a few from the last month or so: Pilot 1 - 164 flying hours in 29 days, Pilot 2 - 109 hrs in 20 days, Pilot 3 - 143 hrs in 20 days and then Pilot 4 - 152 hrs in 20 days.

Now the EU thinks that it is unsafe to fly more than 100 in any period of 28 days.
That is the absolute maximum airline pilots are allowed to fly during that period, and they have air-conditioned cabins, autopilots and regular 
supply of served food and drinks.
These OLC maniacs do 50 - 100% more than is considered safe by the EU, and they are hand flying the plane themselves all the time, have no air conditioning and must feed themselves with snacks and power drinks out of a tube usually attached to the boom mike.
Heroes or supermen obviously, or maybe not.
Given the harsh conditions under which they operate surely the 100 hours would be a wise guideline to keep in sight!
However nice persons these so called kilometer eaters may be, clearly some of them are insane..... Unfortunately it may lead to accidents if some cooler thinking does not come in soon." 

Pretty hard / harsh words and I would love to hear from others what their opinion is on fatigue management by limiting the maximum flying hours one can do. Or maybe there is a task here for the OLC management to handicap the scores of the kilometer eaters if their flying hours exceed certain values.

A bit to think about after your " bubbles to enter 2015" .

Happy new year! We meet again in 2015.I finish with a nice picture from and shared by the Rencontre ASK 13 in St. Crepin in France in  2014. A year in which we , sadly enough, lost quite some soaring-mates again, but they are not forgotten. R.I.P.


Cheers Ritz

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  6 comments for “Heroes or ” madmen” ?? Wishing you a HAPPY, HEALTHY and above all SAFE 2015.

  1. January 3, 2015 at 2:53 am

    Since I am one of this “insane” or maniac Pilots, let me comment on this:
    if you call us insane you may have the same opinion about mountain climbers, marathon runners or just every sports where you are pushing yourselve to the limits.
    My absolute favorite of your comments is the sentence where you want to tell us that the EU knows what is good for us.
    I stayed 4 days on the ground since I was not feeling well and I know definitely about the other pilots on your “list” that they have the responsibility to do the same. We all have families and know that “OLC points” have not the top priority in live. Also your “guess” that these experienced Namibia pilots flying more than 100 hours a month may have a higher risc for accidents is completely false if you look at the crashs in Namibia from this season or the last years. None of these pilots have been involved in the recent accidents and fatalities. Quite the opposite was the case.
    Its usually unexperience with the weather conditions there, bad acclimatisation (want to start on the first day after arrival without taking a rest day) or bad knowledge of the rare outlanding options that lead to accidents.

    And finally, why is a competition (like OLC or a central one) so bad ? You call this a “war” which is also complete nonsense since we always exchange information between each other about weather, thermals etc. But isn’t it in the nature of us to also compete against each other ? Whats so bad about this ? Should we stop counting the goals in a football game or the time in ski races ? Can you guys accept that there are glider pilots who take flying as a sport and not as a sightseeing trip near the traffic pattern ?

  2. elke
    January 5, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    100 hours per month for a commercial pilot who has 300 passengers in the back may be okay, but why would you limit private glider pilots who enjoy their hobby and fly a friendly competition to a number of hours that is less than the average work load of any worker in the European Union?
    A responsible pilot will not exceed his own limits but work on extending his endurance by taking proper action, like refusing alcohol, eating healthy, having a good rest at night, doing mental and physical training. I’d guess that those pilots who travel far to achieve high goals are usually very well trained and prepared.
    OLC and central competitions are a good place to show sportsmanship and responsibility, and I do not want any additional limitations for my free “quality time” up in the air.

  3. Alexander Müller
    January 6, 2015 at 4:08 am

    Dear Ritz,
    not everything that someone does not understand is necessarily “dangerous”!

    Your friend compares us to commercial airplane pilots. In the same way he can compare the Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton to a truck driver.
    We are not sitting in our cockpit hour after hour fighting against “fatique” and boredom; we are doing sport in a “State of Excellence”.
    We fly in Namibia well prepared, experienced (I have now over 10.000 hours only in gliders) and in perfect mental and physical shape. We are not crazy, we are not suicidal and we are no risk to ourselves or anyone else!
    The statistic “hours per month” is telling only one half of the truth. I was flying this year in Namibia on 18 days and I was resting on 13 days. Sure, sometimes we are flying seven days in one row, but in competition we sometimes fly 10 or 11 days without a break. Should the number of competition days also be limited? Sure we are flying between 8h and 9h every day (not longer, the days are short in Africa), but flying three, four or five hours under cloud streets or convergence lines is not as exhausting as a single hour in weak conditions in a competition, fighting for “survival”.
    No accident in Namibia involved a top pilot! The reasons for accidents in Namibia have been health restrictions, lack of adaptation, bad preparation, inadequate experience and, in two cases, structural overloading of the glider by flying too fast at high altitudes.
    Glider accidents in Namibia are not caused by the “manic pursuit of more OLC points”, but rather by hubris and the lack of experience.
    Does a glider pilot really believe that he can fly 1.300 km or more, when he is always exhausted? Everone who understands glider flying knows, that “performance” in a glider is only possible when the pilot is healthy, alert and in good shape.
    I appreciate that you want to protect us, the soaring community and ordinary people from the “kilometers eaters”, but believe me it is not necessary. We are no danger to ourselves or anyone else!

    A Happy New Year
    Your “Pilot 1”

    PS: And don´t worry! I do not understand how people can survive ultra-triathlons like the Ironman in Hawaii. But it happens, every year…

  4. Ralph Woodward
    January 6, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Hi Ritz,

    I am writing to you to correct a lot of misconceptions you have about
    glider flying in Namibia – I assume you have never been to Namibia for glider
    flying and are not aware of the very excellent flying conditions and the very
    excellent flying and living conditions I enjoyed for 16 years at Bitterwasser –

    You make no allowance for the prevalence of very high performance 2-seater
    gliders being flown there – with 2 pilots to share the work load and decision
    making – like EB28 Edition, Arcus, ASH25 EB28, Nimbus 4DM and 3DM –
    and some others too –

    You make no allowance for the very excellent quality of the top pilots – they
    are highly experienced in glider flying and competition flying and very familiar
    with the very excellent flying conditions in Namibia – and stay in excellent
    physical condition –

    I question any comparison with what EASA and commercial airline authorities
    say – versus glider flying – especially regarding flight hours – EASA is basically
    a pain in the rear as you probably are aware of – and commercial airline pilots
    are carrying loads of passengers and are subject to a lot of regulations because
    of their responsibilities to passengers –

    Accidents are very rare in Namibia – and the ones that have happened are due
    to bad decision making and inexperience and failure to rest sufficiently after
    a long and exhausting travel to reach Namibia – and to appreciate the change
    in season (Winter to Summer) and temperature and even elevation – Bitterwasser
    is at 4,140 feet msl – and also jet lag in my case coming from the USA to Africa –
    and those inexperienced pilots are often unaware of the difference between
    Indicated Airspeed and True Airspeed at 19,500 feet msl and lower – which
    can cause inexperienced pilots to exceed the red line and structural limits of
    the gliders – and inexperienced pilots can fail to drink enough water and
    become dehydrated –

    A very high temperature at Bitterwasser is around 35C – and it is cool at night
    due to the elevation of 4,140 feet msl (1250m) – we are permitted to fly up to
    19,500 feet msl in most of Namibia and also Botswana – and we often fly up
    to those altitudes – with oxygen of course – the problem is to stay warm at
    high altitudes – it is not a problem to say cool except at the very beginning
    of the flight when it is weak and low –

    It is normal that the top pilots do not fly day after day after day for extended
    periods of time – the flying weather is not excellent for more than 4 or 5 days
    in a row – none of the top pilots that I know fly every day – it is not prudent
    or productive – it is not common for top pilots to fly more than 5 out of 10 days
    or 10 out of 20 days – there are sufficient rest days for the top pilots – and I
    have never heard or observed any accidents in Namibia due to fatigue – maybe
    stupidity or dehydration – but never fatigue alone –

    I have flown for 16 consecutive years at Bitterwasser – 1996 – 2012 – normally
    staying at Bitterwasser for 80 to 85 days due to the visa limits without a lot
    of paperwork with immigration – I have owned and flown Nimbus 3DM,
    Nimbus 4DM, Nimbus 4M, and EB28 Edition – actually 2 different EB28
    Edition gliders – all self- launch gliders – I have never landed out and I have
    flown 60 flights over 1000 km there at Bitterwasser – I have used the motor
    to get back home only 6 times in those 16 years – and 2 of those times were
    to get home quicker as it was getting too late – I retired after the 2012
    season with no health problems or flying ability problems – it was a matter
    of choice on my part – I simply decided it was a good time to retire –

    I challenge you to re-write your original article and correct your misconceptions
    and misunderstandings – and to state why you would ever rely on EASA and
    Commercial Airline limits or to compare them with glider flying in Namibia –
    a good start would be an apology to the top pilots –
    I await your response –

    Happy New Year to you and your family,
    best regards,
    Ralph “Woody” Woodward
    PS I met you in 1995 at Tocumwal – I was visiting our mutual friend Bruce Brockhoff

  5. dorkus
    January 14, 2015 at 6:42 am

    comparing bus pilots to f-1 drivers???

  6. John Mittell
    February 12, 2015 at 10:11 am

    I am a libertarian in this matter of how many hours of flying is wise. Each pilot is willing to bet his/her life and limb on the decision to fly. Since I have no dog in this fight I will not take sides but would offer this thought after over 50 years of flying aircraft from single engine props to tactical jets off of carriers and now in gliders.

    I trust that these pilots that go to Nimibia know what they are doing and take due precautions, prepare themselves and their equipment for the task. I am sure that they all seek out the counsel of more experienced pilots before going out on their own. One does not accumulate 10,000 hrs flying gliders by being stupid or a madman. I am also hopeful that they do not forget that, “I can happen to me”. Pushing the limits is the essence of competition; knowing the limits is the way to return home safe. Happy flying.

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