A non-flying day today, featuring rain and low clouds as a convoluted cold front makes its way through southern Lithuania. This was a “clean kill” – there was no possibility of meaningful flying and the day was cancelled at the morning pilot briefing. Some sun did appear around 4:30 pm, and it might have been possible to keep a glider in the air for half an hour or so. But no one questioned the decision not to attempt a task.
An interesting feature at Pociunai is a gliding program aimed at children. It uses LAK-16 primary gliders (they were made in the LAK factory adjacent to the airfield). These are open-cockpit gliders that look like something from the 1930s, but in fact were made in the 1980s with modern (for the time) materials. Kids as young as age 7 (!) can sit at the controls and be towed around the large airfield at moderate speeds. Beginners start with a metal plate bolted to the each wing (i.e. a semi-permanent spoiler) that limits performance to taxiing. More experienced kids get to actually fly (at around 5 to 10 feet off the ground), and can be towed in a curved pattern that gives “flights” of several minutes. The program seems to have a good safety record and no doubt plants seeds of aviation’s appeal in lots of young minds.
We have no definite word yet on the final fate of the 20-Meter Class task for Day 1. There definitely were some anomalous tows (gliders not taken to specified heights and release areas) and two self-launching gliders motored to nice-looking clouds rather than to where procedures specified. The current approach to dealing with this seems to be the application of carefully judged penalties intended to even things out. But there’s no way to accurately say what the effect of being in the wrong place really was – pilots who tangled with bad local conditions and in some cases landed with negligible distance would no doubt love to have had a chance to do better in exchange for a few penalty points.
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.