Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Rain, Bowling, Contest Complete

The rain overnight continued without a break all day. It was pretty obvious there wouldn't be any chance to fly today, so the day was cancelled, making this two-day contest nonetheless valid. The results were:
1. Victor Panafutin 18 pts
2. Tim McAllister 14 pts
3. Vladimir Bessarabov 13 pts

There was actually a tie for 3rd place, but Vladimir was determined the 3rd place pilot by a tiebreaking method in the SGP rules.

So Victor and Tim have qualified for the 2007 World Sailplane Grand Prix in New Zealand. It's quite a long way off, though, scheduled for December 2007. It's an exciting prospect. However, it doesn't ease our dissapointment with the weather here. Tim said that he had really looked forward to flying in Russia, almost more than the French Alps. Maybe we can come back some day? The people have been great, and we have had a good time here. The weather, well, what can you do? Everyone says it is really unusual for this time of year to have any rain. I have to say to Sabine Prasser - I think I am winning the rain competition!

So a bunch of us went bowling this afternoon at the nearby mini mall in Protvino. I took a bunch of pictures then promptly deleted them instead of copying them. So I am sorry, but no pics of bowling. It was a real American Brunswick bowling system, all computerized and fancy. I think I took last place with several frames of zero points. Well, someone has to be last!

After the closing ceremony tomorrow at noon, we will travel to Moscow for a few days before heading back to Dallas. Seems like a good idea to see some of the major sights other than the Drakino Airfield, although it is very nice.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

August 8 Day Cancelled

When we woke up this morning, we saw this:

Although we were not quite sure what it was (apparently it was the sky), we took it as a sign that we might have a chance to fly today. Sure enough, two warring airmasses were doing battle right over our heads. Just to our northwest, there were cumulus clouds. Over our heads, the deck of clouds remained. We sat on the grid (change of pace!) until 3:30, when the sniffer reported that it was just "flat" so the day was cancelled. We have one more chance to fly, but the forecast for Wednesday looks slightly worse than today.

Tim considers the better weather to the northwest, just outside of the task area.

Someone was asking me about some of the Grand Prix rules, so here is a very short summary.

The contest is limited to 20 aircraft and pilots. Typically they are from one class. In this case, they are all exactly the same kind of aircraft. After the gliders launch, the start time is announced. Pilots must be behind the start line one minute before the start. These times are announced on the radio and in larger Grand Prix, announced over a PA system. Once the start line is open, the clock is running for all competitors, just like in auto racing. There is no penalty for starting late, but you have to find a way to get in front of those who have started before you if you hope to win.

With the start line and this type of "regatta start" the spectators below can really see the pilots as they get behind the start line and then start.

The tasks are all racing tasks. So how do you win? By making the best choices for that particular day.

The length of the competition period is shorter, the tasks tend to be shorter, but they do not have to be. Oh, and you don't get any real bonus or penalty for your speed. The first person to cross the finish line gets 10 points. The second place person gets 8 points and so on down to 9th place, which gets 1 point.
It doesn't matter if you beat someone by 15 seconds or 15 minutes as long as you come in first. Interesting, right?

In the Grand Prix rules, the task setter may also give bonus points for reaching a certain turn point first, which can change the game on a particular day.

If you really want to get into the rules, which are still featherweight in size compared to the Sporting Code Annex A, you can read them at

Monday, August 07, 2006

Aug 6-7 RAIN

August 7, 2006 (Monday)
Heavy rain last night. Now we are re-connecting with the world since the internet service was restored. When people start discussing which glider DVDs to show at the morning pilots' meeting, you know the forecast is bleak.

August 6, 2006 (Sun)
We had thunderstorms last night, complete with lightning. Quite the storm! It is still raining this morning, and the forecast really does not look too promising at all. In fact, it really doesn't look good for the next few days. So everyone looks a bit depressed, the way pilots look when things get drippy like this. They are showing pictures from their nationals in Novosibirsk (with dust devils!) and making paper airplanes.

I am hoping to go to Serpukhov (the nearby town) this afternoon to visit the flea market and to just take a look around. (We did get a nice tour of the town by Alexander, a local who is helping out with the press for the contest. He speaks English and German, so we understand each other pretty well.

Yesterday's festivities were very nice, in spite of the weather. There was a big show, with folk dancers and karaoke singing, and a sort of power house of dance-style cheerleader show.

We were treated to a luncheon of many kinds of hors d'oeuvres and vodka, cognac, and wine. Main courses were also served, but we couldn't even eat them - we were too full of hors d'oeuvres!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Rainy Saturday - Aug 5

Rainy morning...
We are all ready for the spectacle that was/is planned for today. The giant stage and sound system have been erected. All kinds of security people, event set up people, policemen and official types are hovering around. Unfortunately, it is raining. At times it is raining heavily! So we are inside waiting for the ceremony which we assume will take place at noon regardless of "moisture."

The fancy stage!

Don't you wish you had one of these cars? It is about the size of a Yugo.

Close up of the MI-2 helicopter used by the Mo-Atck aero club. Possibly produced in the 60's. Twin-turbine initial flight training! As much maintenance time as flight time, or so it seems.

Aerial view of the Drakino airfield looking roughly southwest.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Tim Wins the Day - August 4

Hello All,
The day really didn't look that promising this morning, and even until 12:30 - 1:00 it was still pretty overcast. We were promised a clearing area / better weather if we would just be patient. Sure enough, it started to clear out about 1:30 and we were out on the grid in the sunshine at 2:30. The first launch was at 3:00 and the start time was 3:45.

The task, in retrospect, was a bit of an undercall at 113.5 km.

For those of you following along at home (Rick Howell) the TPs were: 001 start, 027 Suxotino, 06 Velejevo, 003 Pfin, 002 Fin (and there was another new tp file this morning with a change to the finish coordinates, so your results may vary.

Tim called the last TP and asked "who else is home?" I answered "nobody". So as you all know, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. Tim appears to have won the day with an approx. speed of 75.6 kph, but we're waiting for the scorer before we celebrate in the traditional Russian way - with beer and fish! Apparently, dried whole fish is the favored food pairing with Russian beer. I will report about this later.

We are expecting a big crowd for this weekend's flights, air show, folk dancing(!) and general pomp and circumstance. I will continue to offer full reports as I am able.

Our FAI/IGC Referee, Bruno Ramseyer (Ireland) admires the improving sky on the grid today.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Results from Day 1

Hi everyone,
Today (Thu) has been cancelled due to high overcast and increasing winds ahead of some more weather (see my link to the weather sites at right for the "aktuelles" forecast). I look forward to a trip to a big Russian groceery store later today, if I can catch a ride with someone.

We achieved task 1 yesterday, with a 165.5 km 3 turnpoint task. The weather was pretty good, although below average by local Russian standards. There were cumulus clouds, although not all were true lift indicators, and Tim fell victim to a "sucker cloud" that separated him from the top group and dropped him to 6th place on the day.

A pretty good showing for his first cross country day in a Jantar, though!

Things went pretty smoothly from an organizational standpoint, although there was some confusion about the start order. Before the first comp day, lots were drawn for line numbers, which is pretty standard in international competition, right? Then you take off from left to right by line, so your start order depends on when you get to the grid. Here, they were trying to take people in the order they had drawn the lots, which resulted in slight confusion (I think mostly on our part) but it all worked out.

We have ended up with 13 competitors instead of 15 - two had to withdraw at the last minute. Just to put this event in perspective, there are about 300 glider pilots in the country. There aren't any "modern" gliders herre yet, although people are working to change that. There are about 100 Jantars, 100 Blaniks, and 30 Lak-12s. Russian contest pilots are given different titles, such as Master of Sport and something else I can't understand when they say it in Russian.

This airport is pretty active all week long with helicopter training and aerobatic training as well. Of course, I am tempted by the go-kart track, but so far no one will race with me. Perhaps that falls under the "don't do nothing dumb" heading anyway.


The flying center, constructed for the 2005 World Glider Aerobatics Championship

A Wilga tow plane...with a pair of Antonov 2s - one in original Russian Airforce marking and one in more modern paint job.

Iakov Shrage, our host.

The weather man, Sergei Stepanov points at the less-than-promising forecast for today.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Contest Day 1

August 2, 2006
After a morning of preparations, a contest day is underway now! The Competitors were able to get enough height in the start area and headed out on the task at 2:35 pm local time.
Tim was interviewed by Russian TV this a.m. - here is the link - if they do a story, you should see it in a few hours. There has been press all over this comp - two TV crews today, one yesterday, one over the weekend, and a flock of print reporters. So we are keeping busy with interviews as well as the usual contest stuff.

Here is our glider...lucky '66'

Note air museum of old Russian planes in background...oh wait, it is not a museum, they are all in use!

I'll let you know how the racing turns out in a couple of hours.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Pictures from Russia

Hi everyone,
I finally had time today, because the weather was still too overcast and damp to support a task, to resize a bunch of photos.

Today was contest day 1, so we started the morning with a special opening ceremony complete with 1. speeches by local dignitaries, 2. playing of the Russian national anthem, and 3. a young woman singing a special song about airsports - wait, what was that last one? Yes, it was a specially composed song done for the World aerobatic championships held here at Drakino airfield last year.

So anyway, it wasn't exactly raining, so we cleaned the glider and readied ourselves for possible launch, although it looked pretty unpromising. Tim and several others flew anyway. He really enjoyed flying the Jantar, and although we can't understand anything the controllers say to us on the radio, Tim managed to fly without any problems.

We expect taskable weather tomorrow, so tune in then...

Cloud streets over Belarus, on Sunday.

Chaos at Domododevo Airport.

Cloud streets as we approached Drakino on Sunday.