Progress made: moving to Junior glider

The end of the mountain soaring training course arrived. I roughly flew some 25 hours in six flying days, my mountain flying technique was sharpened a lot, I enjoyed the most beautiful sights of this part of the Alps a person can dream of and I had a very good time !

Regis Kuntz gave me during yesterday’s morning briefing the Junior sailplane of the club. The SZD-Junior is a glassfibre glider designed and built in Poland by PZL Bielsko. It has a fixed undercarriage, 15m wingspan and a glide ratio of 35:1. Its easy handling make it a good early solo glider, it is suitable for cross country flights and is a favourite for Silver distance attempts.”

I used to fly on more sophisticated sailplanes in my youth such as the ASW-19 (in which I made my first 5 hour flight back in 1981 in Belgium – air cadets), but as I did not practice this sport enough in the last decades I have to start working my way up again. 

Junior sailplane AAPCA F-CJEF

I made my first two flights with the Junior, allowing me  to familiarize myself with this sailplane. It is a spacious glider, I like to fly it.

I’m looking forward to start making overland flights with this glider later this spring.

Soaring briefing Fayence France

The airfield of Fayence-Tourrettes (LFMF) benefits of more than 300 flying days a year, which is quite exceptional. If you like to rent a sailplane (glider) for the day, you need to make sure that you express your intentions to the chiefpilot, Regis Kunz, at 9am. He puts all demands together and distributes the planes. At 9.30 am there’s a detailed weather briefing which is always well attended, last week there were sometimes more than 50 people present. It is the daily mass for the pilots.

The three sites the chief pilot presents are:
2) Meteociel : detailed forecast per city
3) Meteo Parapente : The chief pilot, Regis Kunz, runs the audience through a detailed prevision of all the places pilots may like to attend on that particular day. What I very much like about these charts, that one gets an indication of cloud basis per hour per place…really amazing stuff

This weather briefing takes some 20 minutes. Afterwards, batteries and parachutes are collected and pilots go to the hangard to collect and prepare their sailplanes.

Mountain soaring course continued

The last two days, I’ve been flying another 2 mountain flights with a different instructor, being Jean Magne. First, We struggled very hard to get out of the local Fayence area (again). Once passed the Lachens mountain and the barre de Séranon, everything went smoothly. We have been performing a 257 km flight in nearly 5 hours. What a great experience. Our second flight was even more impressive as we made a 334 km flight in 5 hours with our Duo Discus. I know Jean Magne since many years, he’s flying since the late 50’s, he nowadays is 85 years old and still soaring enthusiastically every day with people like me.  Amazing person.

Aller-retour Fayence Plampinet

The second flight we made with Jean Magne perfectly fits to obtain the gold badge of the FAI Gliding commission. I already have got the silver badge, for the gold badge one needs to fly 5 hours in a row, gain 3000 meter of altitude and fly a distance of 300 km (but not necessary to a pre-defined goal). With departure of the Fayence airfield, this has been bringing us to Plampinet, high in the Alps.

FAI gold badge

We’ve followed the classical road from Fayence to Plampinet, meaning via the Col d’Allos, Barcelonette, Saint Crepin and Col de Vars.

With these great flights over the Alps, my mountain soaring course comes to an end. I now need to progressively build up my experience and perform these routes by myself. In other words, there’s still some work to do but now that I’m back at the level I used to be 15 years ago, I’d like to continue but it will require lots of practice.

One last reflection about this training week in Fayence. The flying styles of both the instructors I have been flying with this week is very different. Where Pierre-Marie Dauvergne is focusing on flying the perfect “Mac Ready” speed, Jean Magne was much more insisting on using the rudder properly when I start to make turns.

Duo Discus

My next flight is likely an attempt to fly to Argens/Cordeuil, without instructor on board.
I already performed this 100 km route once (many years ago), I need to do so at least another 4 times to get the proper experience, prior to soar by myself to Barcelonette.

KA-6 flight

Today, I have been making a local flight in a KA6 sailplane. The Ka6 (German make) one-seater was one of the most successful wooden glider designs of the 1950’s and 1960’s. It is well suited to make cross country overland flights.

There was a lot of wind today coming from the northwest. That’s why we had to take off on the runway 28, which is not so much appreciated on the LFMF airfield. There were clear skies and with the northwestern winds blowing, I couldn’t take advantage of climbing out amongst the nearby hill between Fayence and Seillans (called la pente). For more than 90 minutes, I have been struggling at a 900 meter MSL altitude above the local stone quarry (in French: la carrière) between Fayence and Mons, nearly staying at the same altitude all the time. One never has to givce up whilst soaring and after 90  minutes I finally was able to climb out to 2500 meter MSL flying out to the outer boarder of the  local area, being the “Lachens mountain” at some 1750 M altitude. 

This Lachens mountain is a true mountain border for air masses. This is the most remote place until where the influence of the Mediterranean sea extends. At the northern side of this mountain, you enter the alpine and mountain climate of the southern Alps.

Mont Lachens soaring

I stayed a while at the area around the Lachens. There was too much wind (for my experience level)to fly out in to the Alps to the Cordeuil mountain area, so I widely decided to enjoy the magnificient landscapes  around the Lachens mountain. I landed after having made a 3 hours flight

Two extensive soaring days

The first two days of my mountain flying program are behind me. It has been very intense to say the least. On Monday, we have been flying 4.5 hours (276 kms)  and today we have been soaring for 5.5 hours (and performing 433 kms). Today was truly impressive in every way. We were able to achieve the longest registered flight in all of France (see Netcoupe picture)

It has been cold high in the mountains, with temperatures of minus 10° celcius. On the first flight ceilings were not very high and today we had eastern winds high in the mountains, resulting in cloudless skies in some parts of the alps. What is remarkable is that we managed to achieve an altitude of 4 km. above sea level. We’ve taken care to stay  out of the Germanwings Flight 9525 crash site area, where an overfly restriction is in place

Here are some pictures and movies taken during these first two days;

southern Alps

Spectacular lake views

Raser la montagne

The pilot’s tools

Start of mountain soaring course in Southern France

Eastern 2015. The soaring season starts again. This year, I’ve planned to improve my mountain flying skills. That’s why I’ve traveled to Southern France to the Fayence-Tourrettes airfield. The chief instructor, Regis Kuntz, setup a training program for this week allowing me to strengthen my mountain flying skills and achieve a 200 km overland flight in the Southern Alps. On this second Eastern day, we’starting with the usual briefing. A Duo Discus is allocated to me and the instructor I will be flying with the first couple of days is Pierre Marie Dauvergne, who comes with an amazing 15.000 hours of flight experience. To be continued….

father and son