002. The Cloud Making Machines

1000km from Flanders.

After a lot of planning in the winter of 2011/2012, I came up with this plan on how to maximize the gliding distance with a start from my home airfield Keiheuvel, in Belgium. The goal was a minimum of 1000km. It seemed very doable.

What would make this possible, are the massive coal powerplants in the Rhein-Ruhr area, who trigger thermals till into the night when the weather is right. Pilots like Wilfried Großkinsky had been using them for their large flights for many years.

These power plants are located between 85km and 130km from Keiheuvel. So strategic turbo-engine use, highly accurate weather forecasts and very good planning are thus necessary.

I used this planning in my 1000km straight distance flight to the Spanish border. My first thermal on that day was the powerplant of Weisweiler. So you could say it succeeded on the first attempt.

When I went for the actual plan as I prepared it in the winter, I needed two initial attempts (2x900km) to fine-tune and familiarize with all facets of this type of flight. On the 3rd attempt, everything worked exactly like planned: 1020km declared task. And 3 days later another one: 1058km declared this time.

Over the past few years I completed 8 flights like this above 1000km. There were many more opportunities, and I missed out on even the best days. I think, 1200-1250km with an 18 glider should be possible on a brilliant day.

But, the days of the powerplants seem to be numbered. We do notice that they are throttled down when lots of solar power and wind energy flood the grid. Closing them completely is becoming a realistic scenario. If that comes to pass, it would be a good day for the planet, but I admit that I will miss them…

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