Friday, October 31, 2008


My return to Germany to spend time with my parents was planned in advance, but unexpected scheduling issue resulted in me arriving a day ahead. As I considered what to do, the answer just came to me – I was going to visit a birthplace of gliding, the Wasserkuppe. I realized it was October and gliding season would likely be over, so I was not expecting to get up, but wanted to see the monument to fallen pilots as well as the glider museum.
As I was driving on the autobahns changing into motorways changing into very small roads leading to Wasserkuppe, I was looking at the freshly frosted fields around me. Getting closer to Wasserkuppe, I realized that frozen land and warmer temperatures resulted in a very thick fog that blanketed the whole area. The picture above was taken from the parking lot – there is a runway behind the little structure but none could be seen. Looking up, I could see patches of blue sky, so I figured out the fog would burn off in a few mins and decided to make my way to the monument.

I had a hand drawn map showing where the monument was, I studied Google Earth, I followed signs and I could not see a thing as I approached the top of the hill. Normally, the monument is very obvious (it is slightly below the top). That morning, I was lucky when I could see 3 meters in front of me. Luckily, there was a little map with “you are here” sign on the top, so I oriented myself and went in a general direction of a monument. I literally stumbled upon it, but as soon as I pulled the camera out, the strong wind blew away some of the fog allowing me to take a few shots.

Because of the fog, I also had the monument completely to myself which was an unexpected bonus. I had a time to play with the composition, reflect on my flying addiction and simply stand still and enjoy the moment. Eventually, few other people braved the fog and showed up and I slowly made my way back the flying field.

Along the way, I passed by the hangar of the glider flight school and noticed some activity there, so I went in and asked it anyone spoke English – turned out most of them did. I asked what were the chances of going up in a glider and they said they were not going to pull gliders out in that fog but suggested that motoglider would be a possibility when the fog lifted. Dimona, the motoglider made by Diamond (same company that makes Diamond Katana), looked interesting and I figured it would be an opportunity to decide if I want to go that route was when I eventually accumulate enough money to buy something with the wings. Dimona (on the left picture), is also occasionally used as a tow plane, but most of the time they use the one on the right.

As we were talking I kept peeking inside the hangar and noticed ASK-21, and two Duo Discus’s, so I asked if I could take a closer look and take some pictures. “Yes, of course” was the answer. I was enjoying my day already.

My club is getting ASK-21, soon replacing the Blaniks as dual trainers, so ASK-21 was of particular interest. I noticed the seating arrangements, much more comfortable than Blaniks and the much modern look of it. It also seemed much larger than Puchacz, another non-metal dual seat trainer than Club has.

While I was taking pictures, the guys were moving gliders around pulling out a single seater. Once she was in the clear, one of the instructors asked me if I had a chance to disassemble the glider yet. Thinking about my bronze badge clinic, I said “once”. “Good” was the answer, “this will be your second time then”. So, I helped out with that. It seemed very fast and easy, but I had a feeling those guys have done it enough times in the past.

When the disassembly was finished and pieces placed into the workshop, we looked outside and saw that fog had finally lifted and here was blue sky around airfield. Seeing that, an instructor and I got into the motoglider, taxied her to the gas pumps and then took off very shortly after that. I had my pilot license with me and told the instructor that I was a power pilot, so I did all of the taxing and most of the flying.
Take off was uneventful, although having a stick in the left hand was somewhat strange (it was side by side seating with throttle in the middle). We flew straight and level for a bit and I realized that I probably would not want to own a motoglider. As least not like the one we were flying as the glide ratio of Dimona was poor and flying straight and level with the engine was boring. I then thought I would never be rich enough to buy a high end glider with an engine either, so that left a pure glider… or aerobatic airplane…or aerobatic glider…

Suddenly, my mental shopping was interrupted by some excitement on a radio. At that time we were flying 3,000 ft above ground level and over the occasional clouds. That was the picture looking away from the airport. As my instructor hurriedly directed me to turn 180 degrees towards the airport, I saw a different picture – there was solid layer of clouds underneath us with things sticking out of it (tops of the towers). Apparently, as we departed, the clouds and fog moved in and started covering the field. After some more exciting talking, my instructor used the spoilers to descend right into the last hole in the clouds towards the airport and from there we could see the runway that I flew us towards.

As we were coming to one end of Runway, the fog was creeping from the other end, so the timing was perfect for whoever did the radio call that turned us back. I did a bouncy landing and soon we were taxiing back to the holding bay. Few mins later the fog covered the rest of the field. I paid for the flight and went to grab a bite and visit a museum. More on that in the next post.

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