“I have four sons, Jan is the youngest. But you know, when he was very little he was afraid of flying, he would not even touch the glider.” Jerzy Makula is a legend in glider aerobatics, often called the ‘grandfather of the sport’. A commercial pilot he has been at the forefront of developing glider aerobatics for four decades, pushing the boundaries and coaching individual pilots and national teams. He has been Glider Aerobatics World Champion seven times.
Now, his son Jan, 22, is following in his father’s footsteps and competing in the Unlimited class at the World Glider Aerobatic Championships. “I don’t remember when I first went flying with my dad, but I was young,” explains Jan.
“My story is that I was always on the airfield, but I was not planning to fly. I wanted to do something else. But I was flying with my Dad and he showed me how to do a loop. And that was the moment that I thought, ‘Ah! This is what I want to do in my life!’”
Now, “I’m competing in Unlimited for the first time in my life,” he says. Unlimited is the top tier of the sport, one step above the Advanced class.
“The level of flying is very high in Unlimited,” Jan says. “The rolling circles, these figures are much more difficult and this is the biggest difference from other categories.”
Fortunately, he is learning from the best. “My father is my coach,” he explains. They are both members of the Aeroclub of Torun, Poland and have flown together for years. “I started flying solo when I was 15. So seven years ago,” he explains.
At only 22 this makes him the youngest in the class, by quite a long way. Why step up to Unlimited so early in his career? “The Unlimited category gives me much more satisfaction. It’s more difficult, and I decided I wanted to make the step.”
Outside of gliding he is still a student, hoping to follow his father’s footsteps into commercial aviation. “I have passed my airline transport exams, and in the future I hope to get a job with an airline.”
Meanwhile though, his life is busy enough without a full-time job. “Before flying aerobatics I flew cross country. My biggest flight was 550km triangle.” But cross country flying is in the past – his focus now is purely on glider aerobatics. “I haven’t got the time for cross country! I know that sounds ridiculous from a guy like me, but when I am not flying aerobatics I am towing, flying, studying.”
He adds: “Like I said, the difficulty is very hard, but this is the top. Here I can learn from the best pilots in the world.”