Sweden FAI Multi Class report for Soaring Australia
from Tony Tabart
20 July 06
It was a privilege to represent Australia at the last full multi-class competition at Ekeby airfield, Eskilstuna, Sweden in June 2006. There were 116 pilots from every continent, with 36 competing in 18m class; I was the only Australian in the class. At 70 years old, I was the oldest pilot in the competition; the youngest was Pyotr Jarysz from Poland at 23 years old, in Standard class.
Ekeby airfield is west of Stockholm and south of Borlange which, despite its reputation, would have proven a better site given the Ekeby infrastructure and the weather conditions.
Ekeby airfield was increased in width by the organisers through leasing adjoining farming paddocks. But it was still critically short in length, particularly for the heavier gliders, with high trees at one end and trees plus power lines at the other end, and no possibilities for emergency landings. Fortunately there were no aborted takeoffs or self-launch power failures early in the launch. Being virtually a farm paddock, the field was extremely rough with limited prepared areas.
Open class was always at the back of the grid, with 18m class generally first or second. There was therefore little flexibility in tasking. The gliders on the grid were tightly packed and jammed back as far as they could go.
It surprises me that a country with many adequate airfields of sufficient and safe length would not make one available for a world class event – we were stuck in little better than a farm paddock with poor amenities.
The Ventus 2cx pilots in 18m class were very happy with the Schempp-Hirth announcement – during practice week – that the glider can now operate at 600kg in 18m configuration. Unfortunately, as I was flying the Ventus 2cX prototype, I was only allowed 525kg. TL is in fact a 2cM with 2cX tips; there are no tanks in the tips and no extra reinforcing for the increased weight. I was extremely disappointed that I had not been advised of the planned increase in weight for the 2cX; had I known, I would have chosen another glider to hire. Although conditions were weak at times during the competition, the 2cXs generally held their 600kg of water until finish, and the extra weight certainly counted in the glides and I was continually outflown.
There were queries from pilots at home regarding the performance of the ASG29 vs the Ventus 2cX but, given my maximum-all-up-weight restriction and thereby reduced-wing- loading, I was not in a position to be able to personally compare. I had a discussion with Ake Pettersson (Sweden, flying an ASG29) after we had flown together for a leg on a weak start. It was a strong day as it ended up, but weak when we were together. Ake did not know that I was restricted to 525kg and he was flying at full 600kg. The 29 was climbing about the same as me but was slipping ahead in the glides at about 80 knots, and this was my experience throughout the competition. Looking at performances overall, at full weight there seems to be nothing between the Ventus 2cX and the ASG29 either in climb or cruise. Sam Zimmerman (Ventus 2cX) and Rick Indrebo (ASG29) from the USA, who regularly flew together, told me that at the same wing loading they found no difference in performance.
I was grateful for my motor given the weather and terrain and the number of outlandings. On day 3, 34 out of 35 outlanded in Standard class and 21 out of 23 in 15 meter class. On day 6, all outlanded in Standard class and 20 outlanded in 15 metre class. Day 6 was the worst for 18 metre class with 15 outlanding, including me. The worst day for outlandings in Open class was day 3, when only 6 out of 22 got home.
The weather went from extremes of instability to very stable and low, from day to day. It went from rain every day of practice week to no rain at all, then warm and humid for the last week. In practice week, there was sometimes overdevelopment at 10am briefing following by an immediate launch into good climbs under developing towering cu, then snow showers that impacted on the leading edge drastically reducing L/D – very worrying over unlandable terrain. One day it was minus 8 degrees at 5,000′ – thank goodness for heated boots.
There was tremendous cooperation between teams when we were getting ready in the difficult weather conditions prior to and during practice week, particularly with technical support.
The flying from Ekeby was fiercely competitive over a lot of unlandable terrain – lakes, forests and forest clearings. Fierce gaggling and complaints from pilots invited several addresses at morning briefings regarding safe thermalling. Chief Steward, Dick Bradley pointed out that as the competition progressed some pilots were taking more and more risks by reducing their own margins of safety, and endangering other pilots.
There was at least one mid-air contact from which both gliders recovered with minimal damage. Personally, I had two near incidents with pilots who ultimately won each of their classes. I reported one blatant incident, but the traces were non-conclusive. I preferred to stay out of the gaggles before gate opening time. If you wanted to be in an advantageous start position, you had to mix it with the big gaggles to be as high as possible.
Holger Back (German champion) who flew an LS10 reported in the DG Flugzeugbau GmbH newsletter (Holger is head of their production line) that: “Quite often the thermals were somehow weak and although the starting points were widely spread, up to 60 gliders circled in the same thermal. Holger felt uneasy in that crowd of planes and started flying cross-country knowing that this is a tactical mistake. But he decided that his own safety counts more than being the first!”
I had adopted the same approach. My best placing was on day 1 with 731 points for 24th position. The competition was tight and the results close – typified by the fact that the Jones brothers, who demonstrate the best in pair flying, finished 1st and 8th in 18m class, with 548 points between them. My overall position was 33rd with a total of 5,013 points for 10 days flying.
Those times when I was safely on task with good height and there were good thermals available, I enjoyed flying over beautiful and spectacular Swedish country, with its 100,000 lakes.
Because of the perceived possibilities of tracking, a Flarm was not obligatory and apparently less than 50% of gliders had one, which is an issue that needs to be addressed quickly to ensure that this excellent safety tool for our sport is used in future competitions.
Of interest to Australian comp scorers, there were a couple of glitches with the See You Competition scoring system analsying my traces. When my score first appeared on the website, all looked normal – a start time, finish time, duration, speed and distance – all there, with no indication of an ‘outlanding’. However, in both instances the distance was well under the task distance, even though I’d successfully finished – a couple of hundred km less. There was no note against TL at the bottom of 18m scores to indicate a problem. Apparently, See You had noted a ‘photo landing’ and that was where my scoring distance stopped. The scoring system hadn’t flagged a problem and it was only the very significant difference in distance and speed which alerted that there was a discrepancy.
The competition in Sweden was expected to be expensive, but the organisers exacerbated the situation by imposing such items as a surprise $A20 daily self-launch fee and a $A350 camping fee, even though we’d hired a local club member’s caravan and site fees had already been paid to the gliding club.
Facilities available on the airfield made this additional payment unjustifiable. The male showers and toilets were in containers, with only 2 plumbed toilets, and limited hot water – often cold. There were 3 plumbed toilets for women and children as well as female visitors (the competition covered public holidays as well as weekends, and there were hundreds of visitors). The temporary chemical toilets for men and women were avoided.
The dining area was open to the elements and unheated. Most were put off by the bitterly cold conditions during practice week and little socialization took place between pilots and crews, who returned to their camps at the end of the day or to their accommodation off-site. The food available was expensive and limited in choice.
It is my belief that bids must be totally transparent with all costs outlined, in every small detail, and site facilities guaranteed. There has long been talk of selecting half a dozen sites for world competitions. Running competitions at proven sites seems a better alternative for the safety and wellbeing of our pilots given the poor infrastructure at Ekeby airfield and the safety issues resulting from the lack of airfield length and outlanding possibilities.
Minimum conditions before launch should be determined and enforced – in the old competition days, launch wouldn’t start until there was more than 1,000 metres available.
It seems the organisers in Sweden were pushing for competition days – that were not devalued – at the risk of the pilots in order to justify the site selection.
In Sweden, I experienced two classes battling in one thermal before a start and the day was only called off when the Austrian team captain reported to the comps director, over the start frequency, that his pilots were complaining about safety. All four classes were often launched when convection was barely above 2,000′.
All starts were over a 6km line and all finishes were first through a control point of 500m from the west. The start points were as widely separated as possible, considering the only available area was locked between two large lakes and air space. Each class had their own start point each day, but the start points were so close and with widely spaced start times, often gliders from two or three classes converged together in one thermal. Every pilot’s performance was compromised because the tasks generally covered the same small area over unlandable forests and lakes, fringed by airspace.
Impressions which have been gained since I first flew in a world competition in Yugoslavia in 1972 are that European experience counts when flying in Europe. Pilots need to be comfortable crossing lakes and unlandable terrain at low heights. Pilots must be prepared to complete a task with little possibility of getting above 3,000′. Team flying helps pilots to win in European conditions. I believe that for an Australian team to do well internationally, we must adapt some form of pair flying to help each other out in unfamiliar conditions. Having an engine makes the possibility of ‘outlanding’ manageable for pilots and crews, but the terrors are still there over unlandable terrain as, of course, an engine can’t be relied upon. Whilst airspace was another factor to consider in Sweden, avoiding the airspace itself wasn’t a problem but limited competition area was. (With the excellent Ilec SN10 airspace map, avoiding airspace was not a problem for me – I was often able to go within 100 metres of the edge without a worry.)
My most negative experience was the fierce gaggling and I came away feeling that the best pilots may not have been the winners. The gaggles were well mannered early on, but in the last ten minutes before start, with pilots clamouring for maximum height, aggressive flying tactics meant that safety was compromised. If pilots can’t be relied upon to fly safely, then organisers should be obligated to ensure that there are sufficient thermals, available height and space in the task area to reasonably launch.
If the pinnacle of our sport is to be degraded by issues of safety, politics and dollars, why would our pilots want to be involved? Why would you want to launch out of a rough paddock, too early, into an overcrowded sky, at great expense both in personal safety and dollar terms? I feel too much emphasis is put on achieving competition days, which are not devalued, making these poor situations much worse. Avoiding devalued days is no longer as relevant as in the times of lower performance aircraft.
If international competitions are to be held at such sites as Ekeby, a reduction in size of the multi-classes should prove a great improvement for the safety of our pilots.
Tips for outlandings in water
Sweden is a land of forests and around 100,000 lakes, with only very small areas of agriculture. We were given a very good briefing about outlandings in water – not a recommended option, of course, but better than a forest or a forest clearing. If the choice is between a forest or a forest clearing, choose the forest. Some tips for water landings are:
Before landing: call on radio; call on frequency may not be heard so also call on 121.5; turn off master switch; locate seat belt lock; locate canopy emergency jettison; check ELT is on; check phone is on (for tracking purposes); gear down; electrics off.
Where to land: deep enough to avoid submerged rocks; don’t land too close to shore; land along the shore, not into it; the glider will float, so land on downwind side of the lake so the glider might drift into shore; check gear is down; low speed; main wheel first (not tail first); flaps in thermal position; airbrakes closed as soon as possible.
After landing: the glider floats; open canopy; sit on glider and think; make a plan; take off parachute; don’t swim with clothes on; don’t swim into wind.
Possible problems: your radio call on frequency may not be heard so try 121.5; canopy might break and be dangerous; don’t swim with clothes on; the water is less then 10 degrees Celsius; you will probably be in the middle of nowhere with no civilisation; your mobile phone won’t work; mosquitos will be a problem.
So, Jo packed two strong plastic garbage bags behind my seat. If I landed in water, the plan was that I could take off my clothes and put them in the bags, tie a knot in the bags and then float into shore. Each day, my mobile phone was on and locked, and in a zip-lock plastic bag in the glider pocket. Fortunately, I didn’t need to execute this plan.