If this book helps you to understand more of the factors that influence your soaring, passes on some competition experience, and thus leads to better decisions, it will have added to the joy of our sport and have fulfilled its goal. - H.R.
Surely, man’s age-old dream of flying has found its purest and most beautiful expression in soaring. Nature opens up to the soaring pilot of a world that would have been thought unreachable only a few years ago – a world of mighty forces, gentle or wild, majestic and mysterious. The pilot enters this realm, flies in it, makes use of its dynamics, and tries to explore and fathom its mysteries. The burden of everyday life is left on the ground and becomes inconsequential compared to the freedom that the wings of a sailplane can provide. The better we understand nature, the more adroitly we can make use of her powers to fly higher, farther, and faster.
The characteristics and performance of our sailplane set the bounds of our possibilities; we ‘feel’ some things almost instinctively, while others must be laboriously learned and practised. Our bodies are called upon to function under stresses for which they were not designed; our minds must constantly assimilate new situations, weigh new factors, and make decisions. There are probably few other sports in which success requires not only good physical condition, but also correct recognition of natural processes – a fact which makes soaring a very special sport indeed. The soaring flights of today, which would have appeared impossible some years ago, are due only in part to the improved aerodynamics of modern sailplanes.
The development of the aircraft over the last 15 years has been as rapid and visible as it has been successful. The development of flying, of tactics and techniques, while perhaps not so obvious, has been equally important, if not more so. Mastery of the sailplane itself, that ‘feel’ for its controls that used to be so highly prized among top pilots, has become merely another prerequisite for performance soaring. It’s true that talent still plays a role, but talent alone is no longer sufficient – it must be linked with a great deal of knowledge and practice. Talent and practice complement one another to some extent: the talented pilot may not need as much practice.
There is no substitute, however, for knowledge. In today’s cross-country flying, for example, in contests, a pilot must have a good grasp of the theoretical basis on which his techniques and tactics are grounded, if he wants b have any chance of winning. These theories cover my good deal of meteorological knowledge, as well as more limited areas of mathematics and physics.
Many of these relationships are simple and easy to comprehend; others are quite complex in their ramifications, and lead to whole chains of logic that can play important roles in cross-country flight. This is the reason that there isn’t any single secret to winning competitions or making long flights, even though some pilots still seek such a philosopher’s stone. There are a tremendous number of factors that must be considered, weighed as alternatives, and used to make a decision. If the most important of our soaring decisions are successful ones, we have a good chance for success, even if it’s impossible to make all decisions completely correctly. It is quite common in large contests for top pilots to gain or lose large distances among one another, only to meet once again when crossing the finish line.
Obviously, each pilot has made different mistakes, but the end result remains the same. If it were really possible for a pilot to make optimum use of the weather and the properties of his sailplane, he would probably do 10 to 20 per cent better than even current world champions. The quality of the good pilot, then, is largely that of making somewhat fewer – or less serious – mistakes than others. Heinz Huth had that in mind when he told a reporter who asked him about his ‘secret,’ ‘Well, the others let me win.’ I wonder if the reporter really understood what he meant. If this book helps you to understand more of the factors that influence your soaring, passes on some competition experience, and thus leads to better decisions, it will have added to the joy of our sport and have fulfilled its goal. —Helmut Reichmann
In order to avoid overwhelming the reader divided into two parts:
PART I: FLYING PRACTICE AND TECHNIQUES
PART II: THEORETICAL SECTION