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On this day: Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly New York to Paris

Charles Lindbergh flew solo from New York to Paris on 20/21 May 1927. Celebrate the 90th anniversary...

FAI Young Artists Contest 2018: 'Flight into the Future'

The theme for the 2018 FAI Young Artists Contest is ‘Flight into the Future’ – and entries are open....

PGA Worlds is over. Meet the Champions!

The 9th FAI Paragliding Accuracy Championship in Vlora Albania concluded with what was probably th...

CIAM Flyer (02-2017) - Small-Scale Lindbergh 2003, Maynard Hill’s transatlantic flight

In 2002, after a gruelling 4-year marathon of hard work, retired Johns Hopkins University metallur...

Red Bull Air Race 2017: Muroya wins in USA

The San Diego stop of the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship was full of surprises on Sunday ...

FAI Head Office closed on Thursday 25 and Friday 26 May 2017

FAI Head Office closed on Thursday 25 and Friday 26 May 2017

The FAI Head Office will be closed on Thursday 25 and Friday 26 May 2017.  The office will reopen on Monday 29. 

Read more...
FAI Young Artists Contest 2018: 'Flight into the Future'

FAI Young Artists Contest 2018: 'Flight into the Future'

The theme for the 2018 FAI Young Artists Contest is ‘Flight into the Future’ – and entries are open. The FAI has announced the theme for its popular annual FAI Young Artists Contest for 2018. Y....

Read more...
1st FAI Drone Events Organiser Meeting held in Lausanne

1st FAI Drone Events Organiser Meeting held in Lausanne

The 1st FAI Drone Events Organiser Meeting was held on 29 and 30 April 2017 at the Maison du Sport International in Lausanne, Switzerland.

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New FAI Swoop Freestyle World Championships announced

New FAI Swoop Freestyle World Championships announced

A new FAI Swoop Freestyle World Championships will see its first event in August this year, following a new collaboration between the FAI and a specialist sports company, A. Sports.

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2017 FAI Young Artists Contest: Winners announced

2017 FAI Young Artists Contest: Winners announced

The winners of the 2017 FAI Young Artists Contest have been announced. They include two youngsters from India and one from Russia.

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More news
Five years ago on this day: A Microlight and Paramotor World Record st....

Five years ago on this day: A Microlight and Paramotor World Record st....

Today, five years ago on 17 February 2012, Indian pilot Parmjit Singh, used a special harness, the Aeros Discus 14 with a Radne Motor AB Raket 120, to fly a record distance in a straight line without....

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Two years ago: Father and son set African Record

Two years ago: Father and son set African Record

Two years ago on this day, Tijl Schmelzer and his father Bert were the very first to pass the 200 km/h barrier using thermals rather than mountain waves.

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Russian balloonist Fedor Konyukhov awarded  FAI - Breitling Pilot of t....

Russian balloonist Fedor Konyukhov awarded FAI - Breitling Pilot of t....

A Russian priest who circumnavigated the world in a balloon in record time has been presented the inaugural FAI - Breitling Pilot of the Year Award at a ceremony in Switzerland yesterday, Thursday 17 ....

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 PILOT PROFILE: 60 seconds with hang gliding champion Christian Ciech

PILOT PROFILE: 60 seconds with hang gliding champion Christian Ciech

Christian Ciech is one of the most successful pilots in competition hang gliding, and was FAI European and World Champion at the same time in 2016. We spoke to him…

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NASA’s top man Charles Bolden is still aiming for the stars

NASA’s top man Charles Bolden is still aiming for the stars

Charles Bolden, who has been awarded the prestigious FAI Gold Space Medal for 2016, knows about space. Not only has he been in orbit four times, but for the last seven years he has been at the head of....

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Current Events

FAI Women's World Gliding Championship -

Event ID

: 9748    

Bid:

259

Event classification

: First Category Event

Type of event

: World Championship

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

Club Class
Standard Class
18 meter Class

Place

: Zbraslavice (Czech Rep.)

Date(s)

: 17 May to 04 Jun 2017


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="9748" ]

Control Line Jura Cup -

Event ID

: 11572    

Bid:

305

Event classification

: Open International - World Cup Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

F2A (Speed Model Aircraft)
F2C (Team Racing Model Aircraft)
F2F (Diesel Profile Racing Model Aircraft)
F2G (Electric Speed)

Place

: Breitenbach (Switzerland)

Date(s)

: 27 May to 28 May 2017

Website

:http://www.mgbreitenbach.ch


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11572" ]

EUROTOUR - F5J -

Event ID

: 11581    

Bid:

259

Event classification

: Open International - World Cup Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

F5J (Thermal Gliders with electric motor and altimeter/motor run timer)

Place

: Lanskroun (Czech Rep.)

Date(s)

: 27 May to 28 May 2017

Website

:http://www.lmkct.cz


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11581" ]

F3A Criterium International du Hainaut - Belgium -

Event ID

: 11638    

Bid:

248

Event classification

: Open International - World Cup Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

F3A (Aerobatic Power Model Aircraft)

Place

: Grandrieu (Belgium)

Date(s)

: 27 May to 28 May 2017

Alternate dates

: 20 May to 21 May 2017

Website

:http://www.clubsaam.be/aash


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11638" ]

Srem Cup -

Event ID

: 11660    

Bid:

792

Event classification

: Open International - World Cup Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

F1A (Gliders)
F1B (Model Aircraft with Extensible Motors Wakefield)
F1C (Power Model Aircraft)
F1Q (Electric Power Model Aircraft)

Place

: Nova Pazova (Serbia)

Date(s)

: 27 May to 28 May 2017

Alternate dates

: 03 Jun to 04 Jun 2017

Website

:http://www.aknovapazova.org.rs


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11660" ]

Korolev Cup -

Event ID

: 11695    

Bid:

612

Event classification

: Open International - World Cup Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

S4A (Boost Glider Duration Models 0 to 2.5 NS)
S6A (Streamer Duration Models - 0 to 2.5 NS)
S7 (Scale)
S8E/P (Rocket Glider Duration and Precision Landing Models)
S9A (Gyrocopter Duration Models - 0 to 2.5 NS)

Place

: Yaropolets (Russia)

Date(s)

: 26 May to 28 May 2017

Alternate dates

: 28 May to 31 May 2017


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11695" ]

Rainbow cup -

Event ID

: 11700    

Bid:

612

Event classification

: Open International - World Cup Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

F3K (Hand Launch Gliders)

Place

: Big Vyas (Russia)

Date(s)

: 26 May to 28 May 2017

Website

:http://www.f3k.su


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11700" ]

Khimki Cup -

Event ID

: 11709    

Bid:

612

Event classification

: Open International - World Cup Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

F2A (Speed Model Aircraft)
F2C (Team Racing Model Aircraft)

Place

: Khimki (Russia)

Date(s)

: 27 May to 28 May 2017

Website

:http://www.fasr.ru


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11709" ]

Almenlandrace -

Event ID

: 11762    

Bid:

246

Event classification

: Open International - World Cup Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

F3F (Slope Soaring Gliders)

Place

: Sommeralm (Austria)

Date(s)

: 26 May to 28 May 2017


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11762" ]

Militky Cup - 41th Internat. Elektroflug Meeting Switzerland -

Event ID

: 11774    

Bid:

305

Event classification

: Open International - World Cup Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

F5B (Motor Gliders)
F5F (4 Cell Motor Gliders)

Place

: Pfäffikon (Switzerland)

Date(s)

: 26 May to 28 May 2017


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11774" ]

Trofeo VST F5B-F5F -

Event ID

: 11817    

Bid:

277

Event classification

: Open International - World Cup Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

F5B (Motor Gliders)
F5F (4 Cell Motor Gliders)

Place

: Rivalta Torinese (Italy)

Date(s)

: 06 May to 07 Jun 2017

Alternate dates

: 13 May to 14 May 2017

Website

:http://www.asdvoli.it


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11817" ]

EUROTOUR Coppa Citta di Carisio -

Event ID

: 11819    

Bid:

277

Event classification

: Open International - World Cup Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

F5J (Thermal Gliders with electric motor and altimeter/motor run timer)

Place

: San Damiano, Carisio (Italy)

Date(s)

: 29 Apr to 30 May 2017

Alternate dates

: 06 May to 07 May 2017

Website

:http://www.asdvoli.it


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11819" ]

EUROTOUR Riesa Cup -

Event ID

: 11841    

Bid:

266

Event classification

: Open International - Non World Cup Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

F3J (Thermal Duration Gliders)

Place

: Riesa (Germany)

Date(s)

: 27 May to 28 May 2017

Website

:http://www.segelwiese-canitz.de


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11841" ]

Karlskoga World Cup -

Event ID

: 11893    

Bid:

759

Event classification

: Open International - World Cup Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

F2A (Speed Model Aircraft)
F2D (Combat Model Aircraft)

Place

: Karlskoga (Sweden)

Date(s)

: 27 May to 28 May 2017

Website

:http://www.kmfk.org


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11893" ]

Dannstadter Vergleichsfliegen -

Event ID

: 11956    

Bid:

266

Event classification

: Second Category Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

Club Class
Open Class

Place

: Ludwigshafen - Dannstadt (Germany)

Date(s)

: 25 May to 05 Jun 2017

Website

:http://www.vergleichsfliegen.de


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11956" ]

BOS Round 2 -

Event ID

: 11973    

Bid:

309

Event classification

: Second Category Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

class 1 Cross country
class 5 Cross country

Place

: Leyburn, Yorkshire (United Kingdom)

Date(s)

: 26 May to 30 May 2017

Website

:http://www.bos.bhgcomps.uk/content/bos-2017-0


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11973" ]

Internationale Hessische Landesmeisterschaft -

Event ID

: 11996    

Bid:

266

Event classification

: Second Category Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

Cross Country

Place

: Emberger Alm (Austria)

Date(s)

: 25 May to 28 May 2017

Website

:http://gleitfliegen.hlb-info.de


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11996" ]

Internationale Hessische Landesmeisterschaft -

Event ID

: 11997    

Bid:

266

Event classification

: Second Category Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

class 1 Cross country
class 5 Cross country

Place

: Emberger Alm (Austria)

Date(s)

: 25 May to 28 May 2017

Website

:http://gleitfliegen.hlb-info.de


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="11997" ]

Open Belgian Gliding Nationals -

Event ID

: 12009    

Bid:

248

Event classification

: Second Category Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

Open Class
Club Class

Place

: Saint Hubert (Belgium)

Date(s)

: 20 May to 28 May 2017

Website

:http://www.obgn.cnvv.be


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="12009" ]

Almaty Cup -

Event ID

: 12022    

Bid:

279

Event classification

: Open International - World Cup Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

F1A (Gliders)
F1B (Model Aircraft with Extensible Motors Wakefield)
F1C (Power Model Aircraft)
F1H (Gliders)
F1G (Model Aircraft with Extensible Motors Coupe d'Hiver)
F1P (Power Model Aircraft)

Place

: Samara (Russia)

Date(s)

: 26 May to 29 May 2017

Website

:http://www.aviasamara.ru/


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="12022" ]

EAC Czech -

Event ID

: 12041    

Bid:

259

Event classification

: International Series Contest

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

F3M (Radio Controlled Aerobatic for Large Model Aircraft)

Place

: Suche (Czech Rep.)

Date(s)

: 26 May to 28 May 2017

Website

:http://www.f3m.cz


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="12041" ]

Pre-event 1st Asian-Oceanic Paragliding Accuracy Championships OPen -

Event ID

: 12059    

Bid:

784

Event classification

: Second Category Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

Paragliding Accuracy

Place

: Khao Praya Doenthong, Pattananikom, Lopburi province (Thailand)

Date(s)

: 22 May to 28 May 2017

Website

:http://www.1stfaopac.com


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="12059" ]

SA Open – FH memorial -

Event ID

: 12060    

Bid:

265

Event classification

: Second Category Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

class 1 Cross country
class 5 Cross country
class 1 - sport class Cross Country

Place

: Saint Andre Les Alpes (France)

Date(s)

: 25 May to 28 May 2017

Website

:http://delta.ffvl.fr/compet/52


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="12060" ]

Slovenian Gliding Championship -

Event ID

: 12061    

Bid:

301

Event classification

: Second Category Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

Club Class
Open Class

Place

: Prievidza (Slovakia)

Date(s)

: 27 May to 04 Jun 2017

Website

:http://www.gremovluft.si/en


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="12061" ]

China Linzhou Paragliding Open -

Event ID

: 12071    

Bid:

253

Event classification

: Second Category Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

Cross Country

Place

: Linzhou (China (People's Republic of))

Date(s)

: 26 May to 30 May 2017

Website

:http://www.linzhouclub.com


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="12071" ]

Trofeo dell'Oltrepo -

Event ID

: 12081    

Bid:

277

Event classification

: Second Category Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

handicapped

Place

: Rivanazzano (Italy)

Date(s)

: 26 May to 04 Jun 2017

Website

:http://www.avm.it/trofeo_oltrepo.html


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="12081" ]

Norwegian Cup 4 -

Event ID

: 12097    

Bid:

292

Event classification

: Second Category Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

Cross Country

Place

: Saltdal (Norway)

Date(s)

: 25 May to 28 May 2017

Website

:http://www.kkpgxc.no


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="12097" ]

Hungarian Paragliding Accuracy Landing National Championship -

Event ID

: 12112    

Bid:

270

Event classification

: Second Category Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

Paragliding Accuracy

Place

: Ocseny Airfield (Hungary)

Date(s)

: 27 May to 28 May 2017

Alternate dates

: 29 Apr to 30 Apr 2017

Website

:http://www.facebook.com/events/1718152415112131/


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="12112" ]

FAI Qualifying Sailplane GP -

Event ID

: 12146    

Bid:

294

Event classification

: Second Category Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

18 meter Class

Place

: Wroclaw, Szymanow (Poland)

Date(s)

: 27 May to 03 Jun 2017


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="12146" ]

Swiss Delta Championships -

Event ID

: 12175    

Bid:

305

Event classification

: Second Category Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

class 1 Cross country
class 5 Cross country

Place

: Turtmann (Switzerland)

Date(s)

: 25 May to 28 May 2017

Alternate dates

: 26 Aug to 27 Aug 2017

Website

:http://www.vole.ch


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="12175" ]

Copa Nacional de Parapente Accuracy Tinjaca Boyaca -

Event ID

: 12178    

Bid:

255

Event classification

: Second Category Event

Type of event

: Other

Disciplines / Task Styles

:

Cross Country

Place

: Tinjaca (Colombia)

Date(s)

: 27 May to 29 May 2017


Event Organiser


FAI Member of the Hosting Country

[flickr user=me tag="12178" ]

Upcoming Events

28 May 2017 2017 Open Kazakhstan Accuracy cup Stage III - Almaty (Kazakhstan)
29 May 2017 2017 Belarus Cup - Yaropolets (Russia)
29 May 2017 2017 Belgian Hang Gliding Open - Laragne-Monteglin (France)
30 May 2017 2017 Swiss Open Engelberg - Engelberg (Switzerland)
31 May 2017 2017 Skytribe XC - Clopotiva (Romania)
01 June 2017 2017 International Erzgebirge Cup for Rigids - Hartenstein (Germany)
01 June 2017 2017 Heli UK Expo Cup and World Cup Stage 2 - Marlow (United Kingdom)
02 June 2017 40th Grand Prix CR - Olomouc (Czech Rep.)
02 June 2017 2017 Istanbul Free Flight Cup - Vize - Kirklareli (Turkey)
02 June 2017 25th Valerio Albrizio Trophy - Laveno (Italy)
02 June 2017 20th Int. Schmittenpokal, Austrian Championship - Piesendorf - Zell am See (Austria)
02 June 2017 2017 Ludesch Open - Ludesch (Austria)
02 June 2017 2017 Pernik Open - Pernik (Bulgaria)
02 June 2017 2017 Korea Open Paragliding Accuracy Cup - GagokMyeon, DanyangEub, DanyangGun (Korea)
02 June 2017 1st Subcarpatian Paragliding Accuracy Championships in Krosno - Krosno (Poland)
More events

 

Latest FAI World Record Claims

22 May 2017 Parachuting : Exit altitude : 10'823 m Fraser Corsan (GBR)
22 May 2017 Parachuting : Distance of Fall without a Drogue : 9'741 m Fraser Corsan (GBR)
19 May 2017 Powered Aeroplanes : Speed over a recognised course : 518,6 km/h Michael Finbow (GBR)
17 May 2017 Powered Aeroplanes : Speed over a recognised course : 905,00 km/h
17 May 2017 Powered Aeroplanes : Speed over a recognised course : 920,00 km/h
07 May 2017 Hang Gliding and Paragliding : Number of consecutive accuracy landing with a score of 0 : 4 rounds Anton Svoljšak (SLO)
07 May 2017 Hang Gliding and Paragliding : Number of consecutive accuracy landing with a score of 0 : 4 rounds Anton Svoljšak (SLO)
04 May 2017 Powered Aeroplanes : Speed over a recognised course : 545,0 km/h John DeLawyer (USA)
04 May 2017 Powered Aeroplanes : Speed over a recognised course : 590.0 km/h Raymond Lewallen (USA)
28 April 2017 Powered Aeroplanes : Speed over a recognised course : 795,00 km/h Jason Baird (USA)
26 April 2017 Powered Aeroplanes : Speed over a recognised course : 26.04.2017
19 April 2017 Powered Aeroplanes : Speed over a recognised course : 960.00 km/h Thomas E. Maurer (USA)
17 April 2017 Rotorcraft : Speed over a recognised course : 227,9 km/h Maxim Sotnikov (RUS)
12 April 2017 Powered Aeroplanes : Speed over a recognised course, round trip : 140.00 km/h Patrick R. Lahiff (USA)
11 April 2017 Powered Aeroplanes : Greatest payload carried to a height of 2 000 m : 3'202.00 kg Serhii Tarasiuk (UKR)
More records

36th Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett - Stuttgart (GER) 1992 - Article by David Levin

Start: Stuttgart, Cannstatter Wasen, September 19th 1992   

Article: DOUBLE VICTORY
"THERE ARE TWO OCCASIONS WHEN I LOVE TO HEAR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM. FIRST IS UPON RECEIVING A FIRST PLACE TROPHY, AND SECOND IS DURING AN OTHERWISE SILENT ASCENT INTO THE NIGHT FOR A GORDON BENNETT ADVENTURE."
Article by David Levin
as Published in 1992 BFA Ballooning Magazine
From Collection Don Piccard

2631 36th Gordon Bennett - Germany

 D—Aspen prepares to launch from Stuttgart, Germany in the 36th annual Coupe Aeronautique Gordon Bennett. The balloon would carry David Levin to a double victory:  winner of the 1992 Coupe Aeronautique Gordon Bennett; and World Gas Balloon Champion in the event flown two weeks later in Obertraun, Austria. 

Stuttgart, Germany

My first Gordon Bennett was with Frank Rider in 1985. We were launched into the night from Geneva for a low level flight down the Rhone river valley to finish fourth. Although the flight was short in both distance and duration for all competitors, it was exciting enough for Frank and me, two very inexperienced gas pilots.

My second Gordon Bennett was again with Frank (my balloon mentor) in 1986 out of Salzburg. Another night time launch to the sound of the Star Spangled Banner covered us with goose bumps as we stared into the darkness looking for power lines and mountains. Political boundaries and slow winds kept this Gordon Bennett flight short in distance and only about 18 hours in duration. Our lack of experience in flying this type of task (distance within a boundary) kept us in third place, but we were learning fast.

Third try at the Gordon Bennett was in 1988 with Jim Schiller. Jim had far more gas experience than Frank or I and I was ready to learn about long distance alpine flying. Our midnight launch from Bregenz, Austria was the most spectacular of all. The flight carried us over the Austrian Alps with a full moon and clear skies, to another third place finish.

Frank and I came back together for a flight from Lech, Austria in 1990. Unfortunately, the weather was not in our favor. The race was launched in less than ideal conditions. Frank moaned about his demise as he was dragged into the basket for a short flight into Italy and a three day retrieve. We were proud to land first and finish last rather than fly into scattered thunderstorms as most competitors had done. Our major accomplishment was to get a photograph of Mike Wallace flying into the top of a cumulo-nimbus (Ballooning, Winter 1990—91, cover).

1992

Driving from Salzburg to Stuttgart for a fifth try at the Gordon Bennett brought back memories of my four previous starts in the famous competition. One by one I analyzed them to come up with a strategy for this year’s event. I was determined to go the distance and make a two-day flight, something I had not yet done.

The team

My co-pilot was Jim Herschend of Ozark, Missouri. He had taken my Red Dog Balloon competition course in Baton Rouge and after hearing a few stories, had been bitten by the gas bug. He was ready for adventure. Our combined weight of 290 pounds would help us take enough ballast to make it through the second night with plenty to spare to climb above the snow-laden clouds on the all important second day. Jim and I arrived in Stuttgart along with our Austrian crew of Jeff Schendli and Gerald Sturzlinger. We were met there by Roif Goldschmidt of Basel, who was our balloonmeister.
Our balloon was D-ASPEN, a Worner balloon with a light-weight net and basket, both specially made for long distance flights.The balloon belonged to Randy Woods of Aspen, Colorado, who lent it to us for the flight. The event began as usual, with registration and a short, simple reception. The information received from Competition Director Markus Haggeney was voluminous, and included information for landing in any country in Europe, with all telephone numbers, ATC procedures and flight limitations in controlled airspace; and weather forecasts covering wind patterns over the next four days at altitudes up to 18,000 feet.

The highlight of the reception was the appointing of observers to teams. After our names were drawn third to last for launch, our spirits were raised when we saw that our observer was not the usual middle-aged somber Austrian male, but a young, energetic,attractive German woman who spoke perfect English and was ready for fun, as we all were. Petra Oberzig fit right in with our wild and crazy crew.

Planning the flight

Saturday morning’s briefing brought news of excellent flight conditions to come. Once the rain stopped, we were to begin inflation and prepare for a 6:00 p.m. launch. The winds were predicted to take us anywhere from due north at low levels to southeast at upper levels, towards Yugoslavia. After reviewing the various wind forecasts and maps, it was clear that our goal was northeast Poland. We were not permitted to fly in any part of the former Soviet Union, former Yugoslavia, Rumania and Albania. The winds would turn right with height and there was no significant weather to avoid.

Premonition

As we left the briefing just before noon, the butterflies in my stomach started fluttering, but not as much as usual. This was it, a green light for a night launch in the big one, the Gordon Bennett, but I was more relaxed than usual. The weather looked great for a slow two or three day flight to Poland with no major mountain ranges to cross and no threat of adverse weather conditions. These were the conditions I had been looking for for years.

Getting ready

We checked out of our hotel, picked up a few last minute munchies and headed for the launch field. The rain had stopped, the ceiling was lifting and breaking up and the inflations were going smoothly. Rolf Goldschmidt expertly prepared D-ASPEN for the launch, and everything was looking good for a long flight. After a late lunch, it was time for final preparations of the balloon and basket. The basket is my job, and it’s mind-boggling how much stuff gets carried aloft when you’re taking only the essentials. In addition to radios, transponder, ELT, GPS, etc., we also had to stock up on cold weather gear, food for up to three days, maps, charts, batteries, etc., etc., etc. Six p.m. approached and the balloons at the top of the launch order went through final preparations. A last minute checklist, turn on the barograph and flying lights, shake hands and kiss the crew good-bye. Then the best part—a slow climb into the night with the sound of your National Anthem fading as you gain altitude. Soon there is only the faint city noise and the occasional chatter with ATC Stuttgart.

First night

We made a slow climb to 8,000 ft, which was the altitude we needed to catch a wind heading east. Two hours after our launch, we found ourselves headed out of the Stuttgart area in a heading of 070º, pretty close to our optimum direction of 060º. The night went smoothly. We stayed between eight and ten thousand feet for the best speed and direction. We also wanted to limit our altitude to conserve ballast and not get too cold. The temperature wasn’t far below freezing, but when you’re sitting still for hours, it feels colder and colder. Down suits and warming packs were in order. There was only one major problem the first night. We had difficulty picking up a strong signal with our Global Positioning System (GPS) and had to play with the antenna to get a signal. Our second GPS did the same. Subsequent talks with other pilots indicated the system just wasn’t working properly that night.

First day

Early morning found us just south of Nuremberg and a beautiful sunrise over eastern Bavaria. We didn’t have to use too much ballast during the night to maintain altitude and things were still looking good for a two-day flight. We crossed the border into Czechoslovakia around midday after climbing to pick up speed. At this point our strategy was revised. At altitudes that took us east northeast, we couldn’t get enough speed to make a boundary after two days. At higher altitudes, we headed due east and with more speed. Our goal was now to get as much speed as possible without going southeast as this would cause a shorter potential due to the border with Romania. We spent the day around 13,000 feet. After making a late afternoon descent south of Tabor, we reorganized and prepared for a second night in the balloon, a first for both of us.

Night two

Our crew was almost constantly in radio contact, and at Tabor, they had time to make a few calls to get weather updates. We were advised that the lower levels would slow down and turn left so we kept the balloon high during the night to take advantage of stronger winds.

And morning again

Morning brought us into Poland and clouds. We needed the sun to warm us up and take us to higher faster winds, but the clouds were too thick, and it started to snow. After lengthy discussions, we decided we would spend our ballast to get above the clouds rather than save it for a possible third night. We climbed to 17,000 ft and picked up the speed we needed to reach the border with Ukraine before sunset. Once speed was not a problem, we came down a few thousand feet to get a slight turn to the left. This kept us north of the mountains and took us to better landing areas.

It also gave us more potential distance, as the border went northeast. The day went smoothly as did the entire flight.

Approach

We began our descent for final landing from 15,000 at 4:30 in the afternoon. This gave us thirty minutes to get down at 500 fpm, and one hour to be found before sunset. We needed to get down fast because the lower winds were backing up and we didn’t want to lose any distance. Our crew was in position to watch our descent, but the surface winds were brisk and we had to land and deflate before they could find us.

Landing

I told them to go toward the hill with the fire, whereupon they told me every hill had a fire on it, as the Poles burn their weeds. After two hours, they finally reached us with the help of the local police. Two hours later we were on the road to Przemysl to look for a hotel and a hot meal. We found a hotel, but no hot meal. All we were really interested in was a bed. We weren’t thinking about winning at this point. All we knew was that we had just made a truly fantastic flight lasting almost 46 hours and hopefully we would finish in the top three.

Results

The next day we took care of the details, an official stamp from the local police and a measurement for the landing spot. Next we took our balloon mail to the post office and Petra called back to headquarters. We noticed she was having trouble speaking and turning red. I started to get chills as she told me the news. All the balloons had landed, and it looked like we had gone the farthest, but nothing was official.

We celebrated with a hot meal, and even some Romanian champagne to wash it down. It wasn’t until two days later that we called back again, and this time it was official. We celebrated all over again, but this time, we called everyone we knew to share the incredible news. We had won the Gordon Bennett, and our names would be in the history books.
Winning the Gordon Bennett is a double treat. Not only do you get the prestige of winning a major event, you get to share it with your countrymen by hosting the event the following year. I hope many BFA members will get to see this incredible event next year.

Very special thanks to co—pilot James Hersehend, Balloonmeister Rolf Goldschmidt, Balloon owner Randy Woods, Crew Jeff Schendi and Gerald Sturzlinger and Observer Petra Oberzig.

 2631 36th Gordon Bennett - Germany 2

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