by Philippe LATA, pilot of the French junior gliding team invited to the competition.

 

Selected to represent the French gliding team at the 6th European Gliding Championships in Denmark, my preparation for this 2023 gliding season consisted in discovering new horizons and testing myself against unknown flying conditions alongside pilots used to them. On the advice of Eric Napoléon, our national coach, I quickly became interested in the German national junior championship. Held at Aalen in the eastern part of the Schwabish Alb, this is a flying sector that I was beginning to know after two participations in the famous Hahnweide competition held every year at Kirchheim. Selected in the standard class, I entered my club's LS8, alongside my team-mate and friend Louis, who had registered with the same glider. With 70 participants, the competition already promised to be some great, hotly contested tasks!

Located just a few kilometres from the town of Aalen, the airfield features impressive and modern facilities. With a 1,000m hard-surface runway served by a large taxiway and a very wide grass runway next to it, the airfield has plenty of room to host major events. We were 70 gliders and there was enough room to accommodate around a hundred. However, getting the gliders out of the parking area used for the championships in the morning required a good understanding with the neighbouring glider team due to the density of gliders in this area.


Flugplatz Aalen-Elchingen, EDPA

For the event, one of the club's hangars was completely emptied and turned into a meeting place for the whole competition. The layout, which included a stage with a large screen and lectern for the director, and a number of tables for the pilots, was ideal for attending the daily briefings and preparing for the flights. The bar at the back of the room was the main place to meet each other’s after the flights.

The Ostalbkreis tourist office offers a wide range of things to see and do on a day off. At the airfield, an impressive museum exhibits a number of vintage aircraft that are still kept in flying condition. The surrounding bucolic countryside is ideal for relaxing after exhausting days of flying. Further west, the Danube and Blau gorges, real jewels of greenery winding through the heart of the massif, reveal their picturesque scenery. The many local festivals and events are great opportunities to discover this charming region.


Härtsfeldsee, Dischingen

The continental weather in the Aalen sector is typical of the Schwabish Alb region. On fine days with cumulus clouds, the wind creates clouds streets which are often lined up on the relief and allow very long transitions at high speed without having to regain altitude. The first thermals allow you to take off rather early, usually between 11 am and midday. When the conditions are right, convergence lines can also be created over the hills. However, when the weather turns to blue cumulus conditions, patience is required as conditions can become quite difficult, especially near the Danube on the southern edge of the massif, with low ceilings and quite strong winds that can be trapping on the edge of the relief. The end of the convection, although gradual in the late afternoon, may cause a few surprises on the return to the airfield. Outside the hills, on the plains to the north, conditions are less organised. Finally, the area to the south-east of Frankfurt, heading up towards the hills of the Wasserkuppe, requires a good reading of the conditions to avoid being trapped by the large surrounding forests.


Heading back to the trailers after a thrilling race.

The Luftsportring Aalen organising team was made up of a large number of volunteers. The scale and diversity of the tasks to be accomplished is often not visible from the outside when everything is working efficiently, and in this respect, it can be said that this championship was a model of organisational efficiency. The team was orchestrated by Bernd Schmid, competition director and captain of the German national team.


Bernd during a daily briefing.

As a national competition under the aegis of the DAeC, we had to comply with the German rules, which are similar to the controls usually carried out for IGC competitions. In addition to the initial weigh-in at maximum weight, daily weigh-ins before the start of the race were drawn for each class. In line with the regulatory changes of recent years, starts were made with an initial energy limit. The German rules also imposed a systematic PEV of 2x10 minutes, which proved to be decisive at the start of the races, but did not really limit the gliders gaggles. On the other hand, early control of the PEV decision in blue cumulus conditions played a huge role for the starts of these races.

The launches were carried out by a very efficient fleet of at least 8 tow planes throughout the championship. Each glider had to present its own cable attached in advance, which was then released before the plane landing. Once again, we must salute all the tug pilots and ground staff, who can never be thanked enough for their dedication and the time they devote to making such events possible.


Tug pilots with their aircrafts.


The standard class after the morning gridding.

 

Most of the tasks followed the natural main axis of the Schwabish Alb. Some of the routes took us into the eastern part of the Black Forest and close to the Swiss border. Other, rarer routes to the north took us to the east of the Nuremberg area and close to Frankfurt. These crossings to the north were sometimes tricky and led to rhythms changes imposed by the weather, with some very dry and windy areas to cross. It was possible to arrive from all sectors, most often from the plateau. For the returns from the north, the altitude of the terrain, at 580m, does not make the final glide any easier. It is therefore possible to find yourself low down on the edge of the plateau, a few kilometres near the finish ring, and lose a lot of time trying to catch the glide. This was the case in one of the last races, where most of the competitors lost a large part of their speed to climb back up just before the finish ring. However, many outlanding options were still available inside the finishing circle without any safety problems.

After 7 consecutive days of intense competition, the contest director decided to impose a rest day, which was well received by all the competitors despite the excellent weather. The accumulated fatigue made this day necessary in order to maintain a good level of safety for all.


Landing on grass runway 09


Outlanded, 10km north of Ulm

 

The crop fields are generally welcoming, with no fences or hedges. The plateau is generally flat, so outlandings are easy to manage in this area. The great advantage of the German fields is that they are all served by concrete roads on which friendly helpful cyclists ride. It should be noticed that some of the regions overflown during the contest are more rugged and hilly, making outlandings trickier. The wooded hills bordering the Main near Frankfurt, for example,
seem to offer few solutions.

Special thanks
I would particularly like to thank Bernd for his friendly welcome, his attentiveness and his kindness throughout the competition. We didn't lack of anything, the conditions were fantastic and this championship will go down as the best of my junior career. I would also thank my team-mate Louis for agreeing to join me on this adventure and Éric for offering us this unique opportunity.


Farewell party: local specialities for dinner


Ulm, its cathedral and historic heart


Airborne, side by side with Louis

 

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