Today was an exciting day for the US Team. JP arrived and got up to speed. He took a flight to get settled into S5, his LS4 for the competition. Noah flew to get a bit more thermalling experience in his ship. I flew to fiddle with the equipment some more. The flying wasn’t terribly exciting because we had to be at the airport at 5:20pm for “scrutineering” or the official contest inspection or weighing. We had no interest in going cross country and risking an off-field landing. That said, our afternoon and evening were more exciting than any of us expected.
We launched after the grid took off because we weren’t interested in doing the task. Among the useful lessons we learned was that we found that the local area tends to cycle down after the grid launches. Getting up and away from release and over to the start sector is non-trivial when the day starts drying out and the thermals get farther apart. It didn’t really matter for us today; we weren’t racing. But this was an important lesson for the competition, at least when it comes to high pressure days with a northerly wind.
One thing I tested was a vibration I felt in the stick on the previous day. Above 170 km/h, I would hear a buzzing coming from the back of the tailboom and a very slight shaking of the stick. It wouldn’t go away until I got the ship very slow and nose pushed down. This was a bit disconcerting on the previous day’s final glide and I tested it out today with several fast glides. The vibration came back every time. It is still unclear what is causing it. I suspected that it was the elevator gap seal; but they look perfect. The rudder gap seals look a bit more suspicious as they are looser at the top of the rudder… but how would this cause a vibration in the stick? In any case, this is something we are chewing on. If any readers have any ideas, feel free to drop me a line.
After flying around for an hour, the whole team finally linked up in a thermal near the start line. We ended up parting ways shortly thereafter; Noah and JP went off sightseeing and I headed back home.
As I was rolling to a stop, Luke was already on his way to pick me up. We had the glider back at the tiedown area and then headed back to the team house for a short respite. Just as I was about ready to fall asleep for a short nap, Noah called me up. He had just landed and his tire went flat.
We’ll be there in ten minutes!
Turns out that taking a spare tube and tire and buying a tire inflator at the local store would be quite handy today!
We came on over and tried to inflate his wheel to get the glider off the runway. No joy, it didn’t hold air. We had to bring the trailer over and disassemble the ship on the spot.
All of the crews were on deck. We had the ship apart in less than ten minutes and back at the tiedown. John Good arrived shortly thereafter and the team got to work changing the tire.
At the same time, JP and I got our ships through scrutineering. The process was pretty much painless. They weighed me and the glider and asked about several safety features. They calculated my handicap and I was done. They didn’t even ask for the aircraft and pilot documents, which they are liable to do. Hey, I ain’t complaining, the easier the better!
With JP scrutineered and Noah all squared away for flying tomorrow, we headed off to dinner. Mike and his crew joined us shortly thereafter; he had a great flight today! He made it around the tricky task; most pilots abandoned it. Unlike the previous days, they set a truly World’s level task in both classes. They are not afraid to land people out and most pilots chose to bag it rather than take the chance. But Mike kept going and made it on home on a very nice 350km flight!
After dinner, we headed on back to the team house. It is a very nice place to stay, several miles south of the airport. Each pilot and crew has a separate room and bed. There are several bathrooms and a kitchen for cooking breakfast. And even a swimming pool! The Australian team is also staying on the same grounds, in a house across from us.
After we got back, I decided to take a short walk around the area. I like to walk in the evening, especially after dinner. It gives me a chance to spend some time alone and collect my thoughts. It helps me recharge a bit.
In any case, as I headed out, it felt a little bit off. There were hardly any cars around and certainly no people. It’s not exactly a pedestrian friendly area. But in any case, I strolled on the side of the road, content with just walking for the sake of walking.
About 15 minutes in, a police car stops by and asks me, “What are you doing?” I said I was a US team member staying in a house nearby, enjoying the fresh air. He seemed content and drove away. I suppose that being several miles from the Serbian border makes these guys a bit antsy about some random people wandering around this area.
When I was on my way back, about 200 meters from the team house, another police officer told me to stop. I walked on over and went through the same spiel. This fellow insisted that I show him identification, upon which I showed him my driver’s license. Then his partner comes out and they wouldn’t let me go on my way. Then another unmarked police car shows up, with two armed police officers. Oh joy.
They asked me a bunch of questions and asked me for my passport. I told them it was 200 meters away. After lots of radio chatter and arguing back and forth, they told me to take a ride with the police car over to the house and show them the passport.
Upon arriving, I retrieved said document and had John Good come over as well. I figured it was safer to have him there in case there was any further trouble.
Another 10 minutes of bantering, asking me where I was born and my mother’s name. Finally they said I could go and they went on their way.
I’ve been pulled over a couple times in my life. This is the first time I was pulled over for the act of walking.
It turns out you have to have a passport on you at all times in Hungary. Moreover, they are extremely edgy about migrants coming in from Serbia. As a result, half of the vehicles in this area are police cars, marked and unmarked. They have a policy of pulling over any person walking after 6pm. Akos, our local Hungarian crew said that houses in the area along the border are occasionally raided by police if they are suspected of harboring migrants. Serious business.
During this whole episode, I had a couple thoughts and feelings. As far as I was personally concerned, it was actually more interesting rather than stressful. When traveling in most places around the world, being an American gives you a huge amount of leverage. The local police district does not want to deal with an angry American embassy, or worse yet bad media coverage. This is especially true in a country that is part of the European Union. I felt protected by the full force of my country.
But in broader terms, it was interesting seeing firsthand how political questions and problems translate into daily life. Whatever one’s political leanings regarding undocumented migrants, few see how this actually gets enforced. And for the people who visit and live near the border, the government operates at the boundary of infringing their personal rights. Police have the discretion to stop anyone and demand their papers. Any house can be raided pretty much at any time. It is a tense environment.
In all, it was pretty enlightening.
And most assuredly, I won’t be taking evening strolls in this neighborhood again.