Sunday, June 22, 2014

Opening ceremonies and other adventures...

WGC2014 – Rayskala, Finland
21 June   (Final practice day)
by John Good

Variety was the feature of today’s weather: we had sun, rain, graupel, and even a few flakes of snow - on this the first official day of summer. There were intervals that would have provided some decent soaring, and a few gliders did in fact fly.  But the day before the start of competition is typically seen as a rest day by most pilots, and so it was here.
We did get some serious weather luck for the opening ceremonies, held outdoors at 7pm.  Yes it was cold (around 45 F) and a bit windy, but there was no rain, nor much in the way of dark clouds.  In fact, there was even a little sun.  This favorable interlude allowed a really elegant “airshow”, consisting of a beautiful PIK-5 glider (made in Finland, in 1946) doing a winch launch and pattern, then landing near the assembled competitors to deliver the FAI (international aeronautic federation) flag, signifying the official start of our competition.  This vintage glider is about as beautiful a wood-and-fabric aircraft as you’re likely to find anywhere – someone has restored it to a standard of quality rarely seen.  It was swarmed by pilots of the best modern composite aircraft, and quite obviously impressed them all.
The opening ceremony was good – which is to say sufficiently short that no one froze to death. Flags for all 25 nations represented here were raised.  We appreciated a comment from a representative of the Finnish Air Sports federation, welcoming us to one of the first-ever winter gliding competitions.  We then retired to the briefing hangar for a good meal.  This facility is a bit small for 400+ people (the announced total present tonight) but there was enough food for everyone (very commendable), and that many bodies provided enough warmth for a decent level of comfort. 
The PIK-5 flight was sedate, but some serious aerobatics took place several hours earlier.  A Turbo Arcus two-place glider was approaching for a landing when the pilots decided to start the engine.  This engine start attempt didn’t work, but the two pilots persisted with it until the option to land on their selected runway had gone by.  They then did a frightening low-level excursion of the airfield, scattering several pilots among the parked Club Class gliders and convincing most onlookers that a crash was imminent.  Yet they somehow managed not to cartwheel their glider, nor take out any of the parked aircraft or trailers, and managed to land on the grass and roll to the runway.
I missed last night’s bonfire, but apparently it was a big success.  It was held at the lakeshore (the large lake to the northwest of the field, not the one to the east, south or west).  The festivities wound down around 3am, and some number of folks here emerged in late morning looking as if they weren’t too sorry today wouldn’t involve much flying.  This view of midsummer’s day is apparently standard around Finland – pretty much all stores are closed as the population slowly recovers from the festivities.
For more views of the Bonfire Party please see Team ARC Blog at:

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