Latest news by Ritz

Today I saw one of the gliders from the first hour depart out of the hangar. The ISB 29 FT was collected by Doug Baker , who specially drove up from the Bleu Mountains to get the vintage glider.It will be flying now from Temora airport.It arrived in the hangar in 1974 so more then 30 years it was in Sportavia’s vintage WW2 hangar
. They had their own hangar- cupboard for loose items to not loose.A bit of a sad moment !!!

The weather is great with lots of sunshine and nice great and high looking clouds. Just what we want for gliding……but……
Luckily there was a tough wind which would have spoiled a nice afternoon.

Ingo Renner was there in the afternoon to welcome all of us. Diana and George and Dundee and I are at the camping area.Jari from Finland is coming soon too. Let’s see what is going to happen. Nobody knows exactly what’s on and we all wait for the auction and the last minute decisions from some people still involved in negotitiations.

The work shop people are in full action to have all gliders and 4 scouts ready for next weekends auction on the 28th. Everything is prized ans has numbers. On my washing machine was a sticker too but luckily no number, I would not have liked to bid on my own “old but still goodworking machine” . I saved in the end my technics stereo set!!! Will keep you informed! Cheers Ritz


Latest news by Ritz

After an uneventfull flight I arrived 2 nights ago in Tocumwal. So for the time being it will be news from HOT Australia.Not a lot to say about gliding in OZ atleast not from Sportavia , as everything seems to be ready for the auction on October 28. LS 4 gliders and the 4 tugs have a lot of interest, but also the commercial dishwasher and chairs from our restaurant .

Caught up already with all staff involved, as there are Bob and Bill and Peter , all still working in the workshops. The Dove and Albatross are in the hangar which is good to see. Debbie is still in the office. In the evening I caught up with Eddie and former owner Margareth.

It seems that there is some kind of Australian Air Games in Alice Spings and I will find out what exactly is going to happen there.

From my friend Marina I got the news that her husband Ghiorzo will be in Australia too, for 1 month.

Not much more to say as we have to go and pick up Dundee from the busstop in Cobram.Temperatures are in the high 20thies going up in the low 30thies and even with my arrival in Melbourne it was 27 dgr.It is VERY DRY!!!!! So not a good time for the farmers!

Will keep you informed. From warm Australia best regards. This month till the 20thiest, which will be my departureday from OZ again, I will come back regurlary to keep you informed about the sad finish of the once biggest gliding school in Australia and hopefully with some good gliding news from Benalla, Corowa and Narromine. Ritz

Thermal tax

by MikeMike

In an earlier article the “leeches”, “backpacks” or “caravans” were mentioned. What exactly are they?

In every gliding competition you have pilots that fly the competition and pilots that follow those that fly the competition. Imagine a group of pilots milling around in front of a start point waiting for the optimum start time. The group slowly circles up to the top of convection but nobody leaves the thermal yet. The thermal now peters out but still all gliders keep circling as if there is a thermal there. After a while the whole group starts to descend slowly but nobody breaks away from the now negative thermal. Sounds familiar? This is a very common sight in gliding competitions.

The group now slowly descending in their negative thermal is composed of a few top pilots, who are well up in the standings, and the rest are backpacks. They are waiting for their idol to lead out so they can follow him around the task and hopefully, when the leader scores well or even wins the day, they will have a good score as well. It is the responsibility of the “leader” to find good thermals around the track and make sure that “followers” arrive back with a minimum of delay and little or no stress. Naturally all the decisions are to be taken by the leaders and basically the leeches or backpacks are taking a chauffeur driven limousine around the course. Now, the leaders think of this behavior as profiteering, the backpacks call it contest tactics.

Every leader knows the feeling. You fly out in front the whole day and every time you pull up into a thermal you look over your shoulder to check the little ducks that have been following you all day, and you see them streaming into “your” thermal. This happens over and over again.

Sometimes things go wrong for the backpacks. In a competition in the Swiss Alps many years ago a group of backpacks were clinging like glue to a well-known (and very good) competition pilot, who was racing around the task. Whilst looking for a good thermal the leader made a mistake and one of the backpacks ended up quite a bit higher (like several hundred meters) above the leader in a thermal. Having arrived at cloud base the question was what to do now. If he would head out on course he could loose contact with “his leader” who would no doubt rocket past him and all his chances of the day would be lost. That thought proved to be too much for our friend so he opened his airbrakes and continued to circle in the thermal (with the airbrakes fully open!) until the leader had caught up with him and left the thermal to continue the task. The backpack sighed a sight of relief, closed his airbrakes and dutifully followed his leader out on track. Order had been restored!

Another (rare) example of things backfiring for the backpacks. A competition in France and a top Belgian pilot is racing his standard class glider to the first turn point of the task. He is followed by a backpack whom he has trouble to identify. Who is it?? Then, after a while it strikes him that his companion is a 15m class glider and not another standard class. No wonder he didn’t immediately recognize him but the plot now thickens; “why is he following me?” the Belgian pilot asks himself. They round the first turn point together and continue on the second leg. The mystery is not solved until some time after they finish the task. The other pilot was indeed from same contest, but from another class that had an entirely different task that day. Probably the poor soul had lost contact with his original “leader”, and was all by himself (the worst that can happen to backpacks). When he saw our Belgian friend rocket past he must have thought his fortunes had turned and he gratefully “hooked on”. It was only later that is was confirmed that the backpack had zero points for the day because he had flown the wrong task!

Now, what has all this got to do with Thermal tax? Thermal tax is a system to charge profiteers for their use of thermals found by others. For those who have followed the latest European and World Gliding Championships with the help of v-Pos you can actually see these little strings of gliders move across the computer screen (a little bit like a radar screen); the leader of the pack followed by the backpacks. As the leader finds a thermal they all bunch up for a while, their little wings rotating like they are being moved around on their wheel. Then one leaves and the others duly follow until the next thermal. The leader provides a service to them by eliminating the need for the others to actually find thermals. For this service he needs to be compensated and this is possible with the help of today’s GPS systems.

Imagine the following system. A glider in a contest finds a thermal. He is followed by for instance five more gliders who join him in the thermal. It seems no more than reasonable that the followers now pay the finder of the thermal a small compensation, lets say 2 points. At the end of the day, after the scores have been computed, these are adjusted by adding the thermal tax accumulated by those who found thermals to the score and deducting the thermal tax levied by the user of already detected thermals. So, let’s say a pilot has scored 850 points for the day and has found 9 thermals for others totaling 18 units of thermal tax @ 2 points each. His score for the day will now increase to 886 points. Another pilot who has followed our leader the entire day, and thus has the same performance, also scores 850 points, but he has used nine times the thermals found by others. So from his score the deduction is nine times two points, being 18 points, reducing his score to 832 points for the day. This system is great because now leaders don’t mind a group following them, the more backpacks the better in fact. The more taxpayers the better!! The backpacks will still have a better score than they would have had on their own, but some may see the light and go out on task alone and learn something!! Winners all around, so lets introduce this system. We have the technology, just needs someone to sit down and work out the definition of finding a thermal, when the tax flagfall is and to write a program that automatically allocates (thermal)tax paid and levied based on logger files (place and time info).

Just a final story on how backpacks can be a real nuisance. An open class contest in France, and the going is tough. A group of gliders, actually two leaders and six or seven backpacks, carefully progress along the task. The weather is deteriorating and the leaders are getting lower and lower. There is a very weak thermal at maybe 200 meters above the ground. The leaders must stop to circle if they do not want to land out. They are both dumping water to stay airborne, but close the taps when two backpacks arrive a little below them. Some more gliders join the pack including a notorious backpack who always manages to be in the way. He joins the group at the top of the gaggle. Backpacks sometimes do that because they do not need to think about centering the thermal. We are all still milling around without gaining much height when the aforementioned backpack, who is a little bit higher, decides there is no merit in carrying all this water and consequently opens all dump valves of his Nimbus, pouring water over a highly frustrated and muttering group of pilots who really don’t need this complication to stay airborne. This behavior of the man was not malicious by intent, just plain stupid and selfish, and from that perspective levying thermal tax is more than reasonable if that’s the sort of behavior one has to put up with in a contest.

Long live the (thermal)tax man!!


Latest News by Ritz

The Netherlands.
Wow, it took more time then expected to keep in touch with you. Luckily Mike Mike is active enough with great stories about competition flying and I hope you enjoy them !!!

What happened with me!? First I could not get into my stories anymore, but DOWNUNDER I have my friends Tony and Phill and Phill got me back into action.
Then I stayed for 1 month with a friend and she HATES computers , so no luck to do something there. I am back “home” now and thought before you all forget about me , I better write straight away , so here we are.

Life is a bit complicated , when you have to travel around. For that reason I was happy to go and live in my OWN brandnew house. But….instead of being ready somewhere in the end of September , the house will be ready mid November. Reason to change all my plans again and move to Australia before moving in. So I will leave in a week for Tocumwal again to say farewell to ALL my friends , which will be pretty sad as I loved them all.
It is also a farewell from a great life- style I had, with my friends wo were running the Gliding Business in Tocumwal with me and with lots of fantastic people , pilots, friends who came back and back again to fly with us and who supported us till the end and still now.
I will miss EVERYBODY, so you can imagine that the last couple of weeks were not easy. It hurts to see the truth!
But…life goes on so do I.
From Tocumwal I will keep you informed.
The big auction from gliders, tug’s and everything we used in the bar and restaurant, workshops and office is for sale now, in a big auction and though I hate to see that the “owner” who sells, earns money in such a way , you might be able to find something to your liking.Info will be soon at www.sportavia.com.au

I will stay in Australia for only 1 month! But I will make time to talk to the webmasters to get this soaring.eu blog in a more fashionable way to you.Plans are “cooked”at the moment.

I have been also invited by the Dutch Gliding Association to attend 2 seminars about promototion of topsport .
Will keep you informed about that too. This will be on November 25 and December 2 as far as I know now. This Wednesday I will visit the KNVvL in Papendal.

In between I try to pack to have my removal straight after coming back in November. Luckily I had great help from George and Diana to organize my removal in Australia.So hopefully before the new year starts I can live in peace again, this time in Holland.

The last 5 days were filled with an Art fair in Haarlem.Antique paintings and modern ones , ONLY on paper and unica’s, were hanging in a great old building in a very small street were you could only enter, when the owner of the house opened a gate.

Though we have a few nice days with temperatures around 20 again, which is high for the time of the year,summer is over and great flights in Europe are rare.So we are going to look what’s going to happen in South Africa and Australia as lots of pilots are planning on disappearing the cold ,to enjoy the summer in those parts of the world.Corowa in Australia is expecting 4 containers with European gliders this season and everything is packed and on its way.A few of Sportavia glider pilots will fly there this season and I am sure they will have a good time.

That’s it for now. Next news will be from sunny Australia ! See you then, Ritz.

World Gliding Championships (3); The venues, where and how.

by MikeMike

This is the 3rd and last article reflecting on World Gliding Championships and some ideas how this institute could possibly develop in the future. Let’s start with developing a policy on locations of WGC’s.

The location of World Championships has, up to today, been decided by allocating the contest to one of the available bidder airfields. The allocation takes place by a simple voting process and certain amount of lobbying takes place in IGC circles. Now this is a good system in one way, as it gives the organization of the venue (WGC) to a country and site that actually wants to organize the Championships. As a consequence of this selection system the suitability of the volunteered site for competitive soaring is of much lower importance. So the selection of a WGC site is something like “the best of the available”, or “the most practical for the bulk of the competitors”, but not “one of the best sites available on earth”.

Maybe we should create a list of eligible sites for World Gliding Championships and maybe we should set weather standards for sites to get admitted to this list. The objective of course being that very important gliding competitions should be held at sites (airfields) where the chance of the contest becoming a lottery due to unreliable (weather) conditions is minimal. Let me just name a few places or area’s in various continents that could fit the requirements.

In North America: Odessa, Uvalde, Hobbs, Marana, El Mirage, Minden, Ely and the many other sites that fall roughly within the area covered by these mentioned sites.
In Australia: Waikerie, Mildura, Leeton, Narromine and Forbes. This is basically the southeastern part of Australia, well away from the Great Dividing Range.
In Africa: The area roughly from Bloemfontein (South Africa) to Bitterwasser (Namibia) with Gariep Dam as a very desirable site in the middle. There may also be good (but unrealized) soaring possibilities in Morocco (south of the Atlas mountains) for the future.
In Europe: Fuentemilanos, Ocana, (central Spain), Mengen, Klippeneck (southern Germany), Lesno (Poland) and Rayskala (Finland). Some of these places have some issues with available airspace, which is something that is becoming increasingly difficult in Europe.
In Asia: There must be some great locations in Russia and Kazakhstan, but I have no knowledge of them (yet). Further to the east I can imagine good soaring possibilities in India roughly between Bangalore and Nagpur and of course in China, on the edge of the Gobi, the weather conditions could be expected to meet the requirements. All of these areas need to be opened up in future to allow big gliding contest to take place.
In South America: The area comprising northern Argentina and southern Brazil. There are a number of sites there (like Junin and Bauru) that would be good for big contest from the weather point of view.

All the mentioned sites and areas have in common that they are NOT mountain soaring sites. Over the years it appears three different sorts of flying have emerged; normal flat country soaring, mountain soaring and wave running. Although the absolute performances achievable in wave running are quite exciting it is not for contests, and I think almost everyone agrees about this. Who wants to sit for hours at 8 or 9 thousand meters height, redlining most of the time, sucking oxygen all the time and trying to avoid your feet from freezing off. Great for record flying, lousy for contest purposes.

Then we have the mountain competitions. I have flown a few and there is no denying that the Alps or the Apennines are lovely to fly through, but I have my doubts about staging World Competitions there. The risks in mountain flying are quite a bit higher than in flat country soaring and many a top pilot has lost his life enjoying the mountains. Some sites, like Minden, have a mixture of terrain. You can’t really call it mountain flying because there is almost always an escape possible to the very wide valleys, where people live a normal life and out landings are quite feasible most of the time. The conditions in this mixed terrain can be stunning. I remember a well known French pilot (Gabriel Chenevoy) flying his “camion” (ASH25) from Minden over something like 908 km in just 5 hours one day. What a buzz…!!

We need to be thoughtful to select World Championships sites. Eliminate the unnecessary risks and try to get sites that give every pilot an even chance. Soaring is a sport and not exercise in heroism. So …, long live flat country World Gliding Championships!!

Tasking has improved a lot over the last ten years or so, although a tendency to revert back to normal speed tasks seems to be appearing lately. The reasons for this are easy to understand. There is very little thinking by the pilot required to fly a set speed task, and these tasks lend themselves extremely well for following top pilots by the also-rans. The practice of following other pilots is often called leeching or backpacking. There are (quite a few) pilots that have flown entire contests without ever taking a decision, other than who to follow. Obviously the “backpacks” rather feature relatively high on the score list, because they followed the right pilot, than go at it themselves and get into trouble and learn about the atmosphere and racing. They are quite content to follow someone around the entire course and bask in glory, after finishing, for a placing that was created by someone else.

So to find the best pilot in a contest it is better to fly variable distance tasks, ie speed tasks with very large turn areas (beercans), so the competitors can distinguish themselves by flying larger distances and flying faster as well. It is the Qutback Shootout formula where the longer the distance flown by the winner is, the fewer speed points there are available to everyone. The fatigue factor can be limited by setting maximum en route times.

One of the drawbacks of current competition flying is the severity of penalty for outlanding (no speed points). In the Outback Shootout formula outlanding pilots still get speed points, but their speed is adjusted down by 10% because they landed out. This has two effects. Firstly there is a lower tendency to try to scratch away from ridiculously low altitudes, so the flying can become more safe because all is not lost as a result of an outlanding, and secondly, the pilot is still in the running for the prizes, even after an outlanding. The mechanism of actually almost eliminating someone from the scores just because he one day lands out has always been an excessive penalty, but only now, with data loggers, can we revert back to a fairer system. We should do so.
Next article will be on “Thermal Tax” !!!!! Don’t go away….