Another long “grid-squat” today, this time not interrupted by any dangerous weather. We had cooler morning temperatures and a dryer airmass, which felt encouraging. But southwest winds brought a steady stream of mid-level clouds with just a few small holes letting sun reach the ground. None of these was anywhere near large enough to produce lift that would keep even a lone glider in the air for long, so there was no hope for a fleet of 70 to try for 100 km (the distance 25% must achieve for a valid competition day). Around 3pm the day was cancelled – the 4th consecutive day we have not been able to race.
Spirits seem to be holding up reasonably well thus far. The airfield has a swimming pool and a beach volleyball court (many tons of sand required), both of which have been popular. Kites and RC gliders have attracted interest. We saw an American football being tossed around, something not expected in Lithuania. The city of Kaunas is about a 40-minute drive north, and has seen quite a bit of custom from JWGC participants. The forecast for tomorrow seems notably better, and we all hope that this will put at least a temporary end to the search for alternate entertainment.
We’re pleased to note that in our enforced break from flying, local farmers have been hard at work harvesting wheat, thus much improving the landability of southwestern Lithuania. Various birds seem to appreciate this as well: it’s common to see troops of gulls and storks stalking through a just-cut field, presumably feasting on insects (and in the case of the storks, mice) that have lost their cover.
Storks are a common sight here. Nests are found on platforms atop a pole that’s typically about 15’ high. These are erected by local folks both because they appreciate having these birds around and because it’s wise to discourage storks from building their nests (which can weigh up to 500 pounds) on the roof of your house. They migrate between Europe and Africa, and are skilled at thermal soaring. Unfortunately, they mostly stay close to the ground when here and raising their young (which now are fully the size of their parents, standing well over 3’ tall), so are not much help to soaring pilots.
Less common than storks, Common Cranes are frequent morning visitors to the Pociunai airfield. Their distinctive trumpeting call can be heard at a great distance. They, too, migrate long distances, from here mostly to Africa but also to Portugal and Spain. Wiki claims that during migration they may reach altitudes of 33,000’ (second only to the Rüppell’s vulture, which has been documented flying above 37,000’).
European Swallows are commonly seen chasing insects around the airfield. One pair has a nest high among the concrete rafters of the briefing hangar. These birds seem well adapted to their chosen home: the hangar has many glass windows, but the birds know the difference between these and the open areas that are safe to fly through. Even during briefings, when the doors are shut to darken the hangar and make the video weather display visible, the birds have no trouble picking out the limited safe exit and entry routes.
John Good has been a member of the US Team at many World Gliding Championship events, serving as crew, Team Captain and report author. He was the Deputy Championship Director/ Task-setter at the 2012 WGC in Uvalde, Texas and brings a wealth of international rules knowledge as Captain.