24 März 2015

Germanwings accident in French Alps

Just because the first people are calling me already - I am fine and not working (only on my gliders) today. I was shocked when I heard on the radio an hour ago that a Germanwings A320 on the way from Barcelona to Duesseldorf has crashed into the French alps between Barcelonnette and Digne (well known to all hang/para and glider pilots). 6 crew members and 144 passengers were on board and most probably nobody survived.
The sky was clear, the reason for the rapid descent of the plane is not known yet. As Germanwings is a Lufthansa owned company, often the media just reports of a Lufthansa plane having crashed, and people who know that I work also on this type of aircraft started worrying.
The passengers on board and also the crew were mainly German and Spanish. My deep condolences to family members and friends of the victims of this accident - unbelievable that something like this happened in Europe. It feels like loosing family to me, being very connected to aviation, cockpit and cabin crews throughout the company.

23 März 2015

Improving Spanish - and sneaking away from winter for another week ;)

Guess I could have chosen a worse place than Playa del Carmen for a week of intense language training. It was good not having too much time to spend on the beaches, otherwise I just get sunburnt. When I went to Isla Mujeres, I decided to wear the long sleeves, Australian style. Too easy to get carried away visiting the turtles in Akumal and forget about the sun on my back. It was great to swim with these beautiful creatures. Soon on my way back to work now...





14 März 2015

The awards

 I just wrote a longer review about the worlds in German, published on the DHV site soon.
The last two days were cancelled for weather reasons, rain and very windy conditions yesterday. That way we had time to prepare our gliders for the long trip back home - and finally have some time for socializing!
A party last night lasted till early morning, and resulted in a broken foot for a French team pilot when he tried to walk home on the poorly lit, rough cobble stone streets of Valle...
Christian Ciech as the deserving winner and Antoine Boisselier as 2nd obviously had a lot of fun with their presents, a huge sombrero and a poncho. Only 3rd ranking Christian Voiblet (Sui) could not join the party, as he is still waiting for a shoulder operation after a hard landing in the last task. All pilots cheered for Christian very loud when Christian Ciech talked to him on the mobile phone.
Big congrats to team Italy, team France and, most of all, the great Aussie team for the bronze medal! And to local legend Rudy Gotes who had a huge share in organizing the comp, accomodating pilots - and he ended up 10th overall, best American pilot!
Im too tired to translate the text right now, so just the German version for my German speaking friends today:
Nachdem der gestrige Tag abgesagt worden war, standen nicht nur die Sieger fest, sondern wir konnten auch in aller Ruhe im Garten unseres Hauses die große Pack-Aktion starten. Spätestens jetzt beneide ich alle Gleitschirmflieger, denn es tut jedes Mal weh, die Drachen kurzzupacken und die langen Kisten beim staunenden Stationspersonal am Schalter einzuchecken, auch wenn es die Airline meines Vertrauens ist. Doch in der ruppigen, mexikanischen Thermik und bei den windigen Bedingungen war ich glücklich, ein festes Profil über mir zu haben. Die Wolkenbasis ist Anfang März doch deutlich tiefer als bei allen anderen Wettbewerben im Januar und Februar, die ich hier in Valle bisher geflogen habe. Dazu kommen stärkerer Wind und zerrissenere Thermik, was sowohl den Schwierigkeitsgrad der Aufgaben und wohl auch das Risiko bei den Landungen erhöht.
Gerade regnet es draussen - sehr ungewöhnlich für Valle de Bravo zu dieser Jahreszeit, noch ungewöhnlicher für den Tag NACH einer Weltmeisterschaft. Meistens herrscht am Tag danach das beste Wetter der ganzen Saison ;) Aus diesem Grund fand die Siegerehrung heute im noblen Hotel „Misión“ statt, wo auch die CIVL-Offiziellen untergebracht waren. Die schöne italienische Nationalhymne war heute gleich zweimal zu hören - es ist beeindruckend, wenn der professionelle Opernsänger Filippo Oppici die Zeilen mit voller Inbrunst schmettert und alle anderen vom Team und natürlich das Publikum mitreisst! Verdiente Goldmedaille für Christian Ciech (Einzelwertung), standing ovations für die sympathischen Italiener um Teamleader Flavio Tebaldi.
Die Franzosen haben wohl zumindest die Silbermedaille erwartet, aber die Australier waren positiv überrascht über ihren Bronzetitel - vielleicht auch, weil sie die Meister darin waren, sich schon VOR dem Start auszuschalten. Montezumas Rache, Erkältungen und Nasenbluten waren dabei fast gewöhnlich, schlimmer sah Guy Hubbards blutüberströmtes Gesicht aus, als er am Startplatz mit der Stirn voraus in einen Stacheldraht gestolpert war. Die Sanis waren immer gut beschäftigt!
Der Franzose Antoine Boisselier wurde zweiter, doch leider konnte niemand dem drittplatzierten Schweizer Christian Voiblet persönlich gratulieren, da er sich bei seiner letzten Landung die Schulter brach und im Krankenhaus auf eine OP wartet. Das heisseste Schweizer Rennpferd, Sieger des Weltcup Superfinales Gleitschirm von Valle de Bravo, Peter Neuenschwander, schied bereits nach vier Tagen durch einen Bruch im Handgelenk aus, „Blenky“ Steve Blenkinsop aus Australien passierte dieselbe Verletzung zum Glück erst im letzten Durchgang. Ich schreibe das nicht, um Euch zu schockieren, sondern nur, damit Ihr Euch vorstellen könnt, wie es hier auf der WM zur Sache ging. Man meint, eine sichere Landewiese (auf 2300m MSL oder höher) gefunden zu haben und stellt beim Endanflug nicht nur fest, dass sich der Wind gemeinerweise spontan um 180 Grad gedreht hat, sondern auch, dass es sich nicht um kleine Erdschollen im Acker handelt, sondern um steinharte „Wuppdidus“ (wie Jörg sie nennt), die dem Schweizer Francis Gafner gleich beim ersten Trainingsflug einen Gipsfuss beschert haben.
Der Durchschnittsteilnehmer hier auf der WM hat übrigens mehr als 20 Jahre Wettbewerbserfahrung in der Tasche und hat vom hochalpinen Colorado bis Forbes-Flachland alles mitgenommen. Diese Weltmeisterschaft war die intensivste aller Zeiten, was den Verschleiss an Piloten und Material angeht. Insgesamt sind vierzehn Piloten zwischenzeitlich oder komplett durch Verletzungen oder zerstörte Geräte ausgefallen, weit mehr haben die Zähne zusammengebissen und sind mit genähten Platzwunden und Prellungen am nächsten Tag wieder an den Start gegangen.
Sicher habt Ihr Euch gefragt, was eigentlich mit dem deutschen Team los war und warum nicht mehr als der 10. Platz herauskam? Wir wussten vorher, auf was wir uns einliessen, und dass es für Drachen nur alle zehn bis zwanzig Kilometer wirklich sichere, gute Landeplätze gibt. Auch waren die Wetterbedingungen für alle Piloten gleich. Aus meiner Sicht kann ich nur sagen, dass ich mehrfach meinen Flug aus Sicherheitsgründen abgebrochen habe, weil mir das Risiko beim Weiterflug in hügeliges Gelände bei stark böigem Wind zu hoch erschien. Eigentlich ist keiner aus unserem Team zimperlich, aber wenn man nur ein wenig neben der guten Spur geflogen ist oder ein schlechtes Timing hatte, war man verdammt schnell gelandet. Abends sassen wir regelmässig zusammen und haben uns die Köpfe darüber zerbrochen, wie wir unsere Leistung steigern können, ohne ein höheres Risiko eingehen zu müssen. Gerd hat mit seinem Tagessieg im vorletzten Task glanzvoll bewiesen, dass er nicht nur in der Weltrangliste einen Platz in den Top Ten verdient hat. Auch Andre ist bemerkenswert nervenstark mit seinem reparierten Drachen wieder eingestiegen. Roland schnitt als zuverlässigster Zielflieger am besten aus unserem Team ab, auch Jörg und Newcomer Achim haben ein paarmal satt fürs Team gepunktet, wodurch wir wenigstens die Ungarn und Brasilianer einholen konnten. Ich dagegen muss wohl erkennen, dass ich mit meiner Flächenbelastung stärker auf Flachlandwettbewerben punkten kann als hier im (gegen-)windigen Hochgebirge.
Selbst die Veranstalter haben im Nachhinein zugegeben, dass Valle wohl kein geeignetes Gelände ist für eine Drachenflug-Weltmeisterschaft unter heutigen Bedingungen. Die Aufgaben sollten immer mehr als 100km lang sein, doch zu schnell stösst man an Grenzen wegen starken Windes, unlandbaren, stromleitungsüberzogenen, bewaldeten Gegenden, dem Mangel an geeigneten Zielwiesen - und der unüberschaubaren Rückholerei auf schlecht oder gar nicht kartographierten Strassen. Nicht ohne Grund hat das allmorgendliche Tasksetting- und Safety-Briefing, zu dem Gerd und ich täglich um 8.20 Uhr lospilgerten, immer mehr als eine Stunde gedauert, bis man sich auf einen Task einigen konnte, der sinnvoll erschien. Am Start im Pilotenbriefing wurde dann weiterdiskutiert...
Wir sind froh, dass unser Team fit und mit fast allen Ersatzteilen im Gepäck wieder die Rückreise antreten kann. Herzlichen Dank für Euer Interesse und Eure Unterstützung, riesigen Dank an den DHV, alle Mitglieder und an unsere Sponsoren. Ohne Euch hätten wir diese Aktion nicht stemmen können! Wir gratulieren den verdienten Siegern Christian Ciech, Antoine Boisselier und Christian Voiblet. Und sind in Gedanken schon bei der Trofeo Montegrappa - denn „nach der WM ist vor der WM“ !
Herzlichst,
Eure
Corinna









12 März 2015

Day 9: Cancelled, OD and rain

It was very inspirational when Fabio brought his beautiful hawk up to take off a few days ago. Most pilots adore birds, and it´s nice to see that they care also for birds with an injured wing. This guy can´t fly and hunt a lot, and he has been living with Fabio for quite a while. Adorable!

When we went up to take off today, lots of clouds were already developing around us, with a base much lower than expected. They were also going more vertical, "March Simpson hairstyle" like, and the concern of pilots was obvious - if we get stuck because we lack lift under the shade, and then it starts raining, on top of high altitude landings - where do we go to escape a possible gust front, and how do we pull of the increasing stall speeds? Gordon Rigg pulled Nils and me over to watch the development of the clouds for a while. It was dark into all the possible directions we could go, so when another task briefing was announced, we informed Karel and Manuel that the safety committee recommends to cancel the day, looking at the given conditions - it had already rained in Valle de Bravo.
Most pilots were relieved and packed up, only a few people decided to fly. On our drive back to Valle, it already started raining. Back in the house close to the lake landing, there were several more showers moving through.
Tomorrow looks like there might be some really strong wind in our area, but we will see what this lingering cold front decides to do tomorrow.



DAY 8: 100km and - my birthday

The 8th day of the worlds started with overcast skies and quite a bit of wind too, so pilots were not all that enthusiastic. Up on take off, I was very moved when Aldo sang a Mexican birthday song for me, and it was overwhelming to get so many good wishes, hugs, and nice notes on facebook, email and sms from all over the world. This good spirit must have carried me, because on my birthday, I found the nicest thermals of the whole competition!
It cleared up and nice cu´s developed, with a great cloud base to work with. My big birthday wish was obvious - I wanted EVERYBODY, every single pilot in goal and happy, with a good landing. And for myself, I just wished for thermals in which I could fly a whole circle in climb. I found quite a few of those and managed to stay with the lead gaggle for half the course, which felt good. Must have been all the well wishes carrying me up in the air!
Then the clouds shaded our way back to goal, and I hit a head wind as well.
Only about 15 pilots were lucky, and two of them not quite so lucky, as they suffered a hard landing. While I turned around in the air for the big field, visiting the "lucky piglet" who thinks she´s a sheep and eats grass, there were some accidents around us. I´m in the safety committee here, and I can´t stop thinking of which mistakes we made with the task setting, trying to make it as safe as can be every day. Even some of the most experienced, excellent pilots have destroyed some material or skin here. It hurts me if my friends get injured, and these guys are more friends than competitors. It also hurts me to see the organizers suffering, because they do their best to make it a safe event. Ambulance, rescue team and helicopter are working extremely fast for us, that is at least one positive aspect.

Gerd from my team won the day and was happy that he finally scored really high. Christian Ciech is still in 1st overall.

In the evening, I had planned to cook dinner for my team, but I was too tired to walk out to get some food for cooking. When Jeff, our retrieve and everything organizer, asked me if there will be Mariachi and mud wrestling tonight for my birthday, I just smirked and said it would probably just turn into pizza. Brenda surprised me and the team with a beautiful, delicious birthday cake (chocolate, banana and peanut butter). When she was just ordering some pizza for delivery, Jeffo entered our house with ONE METER of VEGGIE PIZZA! That was the surprise of the evening, and absolute perfect timing too!






10 März 2015

Day 7: 107km around 4 turnpoints


After a well deserved rest day with team dinner and Moyes party, we had another tough day ahead of us today, with beautiful clouds, but also quite high wind speeds. Already in the morning we saw some lenticular, and when I launched, it was the bumpiest air I ever experienced in front of take off in Valle. Ripping up lift next to major sink, not something you want to share with too many others around you...
Of course the first waypoint was due headwind, but the climbs were so strong that it went quite fast. For us light pilots, sure the glides are much harder and I only saw people´s backlights when turning around from the first point. I wanted to get high before going anywhere, because the option of landing in these strong conditions wasn´t appealing. I had a good run to the 2nd and 3rd point around Monarca, but going north towards the last turnpoint and Villa Victoria, I had a bad timing and got low at Amanalco goal. For safety reasons I decided it´s much better to land in that very safe spot in this strong westerly wind, rather than gliding into unknown, hilly terrain on my own.
When I heard reports later from the downhill goal and some dodgy landings on the way there, I was glad I had a flat, green field to fight the 35km/h valley wind.
Christian won the day again, and Roland from our team got in second today! Also Jörg made a good time, and Andre and Achim got there. This good result should get us up a spot or two in the team scores I hope.
On take off, Fabio brough his beautiful hawk up. The bird has a wing that can´t be fixed, so he can´t fly very far unfortunately, but the bird is still just majestic. It was nice to meet a "master" of the air!
Nils (Australia) had a scary landing between some cactuses in a downhill field where he was threatened by some cartel guys, luckily he and his gear got out ok.

08 März 2015

Day 6 and rest day!

Our daily team report in German here.
Results here.
Another 110km yesterday took us to the far west and back to the east. The lift was good, but it also created a lot of shade in some parts, which again slowed the lift down. I started well and caught up with Roland, but only for one thermal- then I took the wrong turn off and fell behind. I didn´t give up and after an hour, I was back at base and met Jörg!
Together we flew the rest of the course and had a lot of fun in the air, real team work. Just for the last turnpoint in the south we could not get high enough to make it there and back to goal. I flew in as far as I could, then turned around. The ambulance was on a ground where a few guys had landed - turned out that Guy from Australia had had a hard impact on a dodgy landing field, but he will be fine to go on flying tomorrow thankfully.

Also Françoise had landed late and close to the turnpoint last year, and when it got dark, she was suddenly surrounded by armed guys who asked her quite aggressively what she was doing there in the dark... Not appealing. I went back to the goal field - and caught another lift! I had another 30 minutes left of taskable time, so I decided to just get as high as possible, and try to make the turnpoint again. This time I went higher up and had a better glide, but once I hit the sink and the headwind, I turned around for the safe and social landing field. Jörg did the same - and this was my first day of scoring for our team, together with Roland and Gerd. Even if only two points more than Jörg, it feels good to not have come here for nothing :) Manfred Ruhmer must feel the same relief - finally he won a task, by a huge margin to the second placed pilot! We are all motivated to catch up on points and we are thoroughly using our rest day today to improve our equipment, solve problems and soak up energy. For the last four days, we will hopefully have some easier runs! Please support us and keep your fingers crossed!

There are lots and lots of dogs around in our neighbourhood. They are cute by day, but really annoying at night time.  Early this morning, one of the bigger type just would not stop barking - until Roland got up and sent a sharp whistle out to the dog. That really shut him up for a few hours!!! Roland is not just the top ranking German pilot, but also a dog whisperer.
Tonight Brenda and I will cook a Thai Curry at Brenda´s beautiful place for a sun downer with the team, we just went shopping for fresh veggies.







07 März 2015

Day 4 and 5




Again, not exactly days of glory for our team. The tasks were long, 112 and 140km, and quite some guys made goal. Roland and Achim got there two days ago, and Roland was the only guy from Team D in goal yesterday. Christian and Antoine won those days.
On the flight two days ago, I experienced a really strong head wind and was supercareful to not get myself into areas without safe landing options. After trying three times to head towards the 2rd turnpoint and kind of hitting against a rubber wall every time, I turned around and chose the huge landing field at "Rancho", the horse race track. The wind is very switchy, and I experienced my longest ground effect ever, about 700m... a good landing in the end, but the car could not get into the field. Luckily Kasper, the Swiss team driver, found a horse and carried my harness out, while Uli and Brenda helped with my glider.
When Jörg, Gerd and Achim landed inside the race track yesterday to be closer to the road, they said it was really bad - head wind switching to tail wind, muddy, and some "Wuppdidus" (Jörg) to jump over, which would have almost broken Suans foot, as you can´t run across those solid hills and gaps.
You can see in the "0"s of the result list that there has been quite some damage so far. A broken foot and a broken arm were the worst injuries, then several sprains and bruises, and broken gliders. I don´t want to find an excuse why I am flying like a dead kangaroo at the moment (lots of wind shears cut of the small, bumpy thermals so you spend hours without being able to turn a full circle in climb) - Im just not willing to take any risks over here, as the consequences could be a bit more dramatic than in many other places I´ve flown.
The life tracking must be fun to watch for you guys at home, for us it is not easy, because the large instruments are designed for paragliding. I couldnt make a mount that would fit the tracker to put it on the upright, so I have to stick it into my harness. About a minute after landing, a loud, very annoying alarm goes off, requesting the pilot to press the button that he is ok. Easy for pg pilots who have the instrument in front of them, but hard for us, because at that time we are usually still busy trying to struggle the glider out of a field, out of the landing approach of another glider, or turning it out of the wind etc.
We hope day 6 will bring us higher altitude and hopefully our whole team to goal!