A Pilot, a Judge, a Friend …
Helmut Stas, a long-time member of the aerobatic community, alternate delegate of Poland to CIVA, an aerobatic competitor, judge, and chief judge died on 30 June 2009 after a long illness. Most of us last saw Helmut at the CIVA plenary meeting in Salzburg, Austria in October 2008.
Helmut Stas was born in Jelowa, Poland on 23 February 1938 and was immediately attracted to aviation as a young boy. Like so many young people, his first activities were in aeromodeling and then with gliders. At age 17, he began flying gliders in Gilwice. Later in that same city, he learned to fly powered airplanes and began taking part in various championships, ultimately winning the Polish National Championships in 1972 in Bielsko-Biala. His first World Championships as a pilot was the 1968 WAC in Magdeburg, German Democratic Republic. He went on to fly at Hullavington, United Kingdom in 1970 and Salon de Provence, France in 1972. In 1974, Helmut’s life was forever changed when he was performing a “mirror formation” routine with another Polish Team member, Pawel Pawlek in two Zlin 526AFS’s. During a formation loop, the aircraft became too close and Helmut lost his left arm in the collision. As Annette Carson says in her book “Flight Fantastic”: Helmut’s personal loss as a pilot was to be the gain of aerobatics a sport, for he took up judging in 1976 and has since become Poland’s foremost International Judge.” Annette’s book was published in 1986 and not only was Helmut Poland’s foremost Judge at that time, in subsequent years he became one of the leaders in judging in the FAI and CIVA family.
Undoubtedly, Helmut had the most extensive CV in judging on the FAI scene of anyone who ever lived. Along the way, he also served as Contest Director at FAI Championships as well, heading up the EGAC in Radom, Poland in 2008. At European Glider Aerobatic Championships, he served as Chief Judge or Jury member at competitions in Italy, Hungary, Poland, France, Germany, and the Czech Republic. At European Aerobatic Championships in Unlimited Power, he served as a Judge or Jury member in the Czech Republic, Austria, and Spain. At World Glider Aerobatic Championships, he served as Chief Judge, or Jury member at competitions in Austria, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, France, Hungary, and Russia. He was present as a Chief Judge or Jury member at the first two World Air Games in Turkey and Spain. At World Aerobatic Championships in Unlimited Power, he was an Assistant Judge starting in Kiev, USSR in 1976 and subsequently served as Chief Judge, Judge, or Jury member in subsequent WAC’s in the Czech Republic, Hungary, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Hungary, and the USA. Finally, Helmut also supported the new “Advanced” category when it first appeared on the scene and subsequently served as Jury member at the AWAC’s held in the USA and Germany. He was Assistant Chief Judge at the AWAC in Poland in 2006.
If this was not enough, Helmut appeared at the 2003 WGAC in Per, Hungary as a competitor – after an absence of 28 years. To recognize his vast contributions to air sports, he was nominated for the FAI Gold Medal in 2009. As I look over these accomplishments and the long list of volunteer duties that Helmut carried out, what comes to mind is the man. I am sure that everyone involved in international aerobatics has a “Helmut story”. I certainly do – in fact, I have several. My first stint on the International Jury was at the WAC in England in 1986. I had only been attending CIVA meetings for a couple of years but was fortunate to be elected. Helmut was Chief Judge that year. I had carefully studied the rules but was very “green” and unknown to most of the Europeans at the time. It was a lonely job. One time, while serving on the judging line as Jury member, Helmut had called a conference and had made an error in his briefing. I pointed this out to him at the time – as I had to do but with reluctance – and his reaction was totally professional and very much the Helmut I came to know in subsequent years. He was disappointed in himself for getting it wrong and immediately corrected it. The messenger bearing the bad news was not killed. I was greatly relieved and immediately came to hold him in very high regard.
In 1990, Helmut drove all the way to Yverdon, Switzerland in his small car but did not judge that year. Wanting to be useful, he volunteered as a “Line Judge” (a corner or boundary judge). He would do anything to contribute and be a part of our community. During the AWAC in Radom, Poland in 2006, Helmut was already ill with his disease. During one of the social gatherings in a park near the airport, he approached me with an interpreter as he wanted to get it right. He told me that despite his problems, he wanted to continue to work in aerobatics. We both had tears in our eyes at that moment and I told him there would be a job waiting for him anytime he wanted it. He went on to be the Chief Judge at the WGAC in Niederöblarn, Austria in 2007.
I will miss Helmut very much – his smile, his strong handshake, his many courtesies, and his warmth. Those personal qualities go far beyond any list of accomplishments as they are the things we will remember about him and why we will miss him so much.