When a swimmer goes to a swimming meet, he brings a pair of swim trunks and goggles. When a skier goes to a skiing competition, she brings a pair of skis, poles, and a bag full of winter clothing.
When a soaring pilot goes to a soaring contest, he brings a crew, 100 lbs of gear, a car equipped with a hitch, a portable hardware store and an aircraft in a 25 foot long trailer.
This is a logistical challenge for any racing pilot. When racing on another continent, it becomes a logistical nightmare.
Luke DuPlessis is my intrepid crew for the Junior Worlds, a responsible 17 year old who can drive and is eager to do anything and everything for the team. We met at the airport on Friday and departed for Europe.
After a sleepless night on the airplane (for me), we arrived in the Netherlands.
Why the Netherlands you may ask? The contest is indeed in Hungary, on the other side of the continent! A fair and reasonable point, but this goes back to the challenge of finding an aircraft. The best gliders we could find were in the Netherlands.
But this opened up other challenges. Now we had to find vehicles to rent. Rene, a much appreciated local contact along with Heinz and Karin helped find us two Volvos with trailer hitches.
Next, we needed to get our pilot certificates approved to fly gliders registered in the Netherlands. This required getting a check flight at the local airfield in Terlet. Rein, a former KLM 747 driver and local club instructor was eager to help.
So we arrive in the Netherlands at 8am. We wait for Noah, my teammate and Jake, his crew, to arrive an hour later from Philadelphia. Rene picks us up and we send our crews on the train to Arnhem as there is not enough room in a typical European car for the whole team and our gear.
We pick up our cars and see a break in the weather. Rene goes over to Arnhem to get our crews from the train station. Noah and I rush over to Terlet, hoping to get our check flights done.
It starts pouring again.
As we wait for the weather to clear, we enjoyed the hospitality of the local glider folks. It’s an impressive airfield. Three parallel runways, hangar, full service machine shop, several six drum winches and much more. It’s the biggest glider club in this country, with 250 club members.
The weather clears. All the flying gears go into motion. Our crews and local club members get the towplane and K21 out to the line. Noah and I complete two quick pattern hops.
For such short flights, we had a blast! The view was wonderful, with forests, rolling hills and showers lurking in the distance. There were little clouds hugging the ground in some places like steam rising off a pan.
And it ended as quickly as it started. Glider and towplane back in the hangar, all cleaned up and put away.
Off to Breda airport, a 1.5 hour drive to pick up our gliders.
Inspection, questions, more gear. A tutorial on bugwipers. Secure lead to minimize the weight difference (and handicap) between Noah and my ship. Instructions on how to use the trailers and driving in Europe.
Dinner at the local airport restaurant. Drive back two hours to Terlet glider club to drop the gliders off for the night and pick up our newly approved Dutch licenses, rushed hot off the presses at 10:30pm.
At 11pm, we collapse from exhaustion in a hostel 10 minutes away from the airport. Our departure from consciousness lasts no less than until 9am the following day. 10am in Noah’s case.
And we are now on the road to Hungary, with our gear all good to go, relaxed and satisfied that we are in good shape.
Now the goal is to get there safely and rested. And enjoy the roadtrip!
Many thanks to everyone who is supporting us! Huge thanks to Rene who picked us up from the airport and helped us work through the logistical challenges. Thanks Rein who flew with us and helped get us legal to fly in Europe.
I’m getting more and more excited with every kilometer closer to Szeged! It’s an honor to have the opportunity to represent my country at an international competition.