Wednesday, August 8, 2012

SS Ground: Hannes Linke on 1991; Mennonites on Soaring

At the U.S. Team Party, Hannes Linke, Competition Director of the 1991 World Gliding Championship in Uvalde, reminisced about setting tasks at that contest with Judge Hal Lattimore and Wally Scott. Judge Lattimore, SSA President, had directed many competitions, and Wally Scott of Odessa, a multiple-time Barringer trophy winner and one of Texas’s most active record-setting pilots.

Every morning, Linke said, at 8:00, meteorologists Dan Gudgel and Walt Rogers would give the three task setters a weather briefing. Then starting at 8:15, the three directors worked feverishly and vociferously to assign tasks for the three classes, the Judge recording everything in longhand, “just to slow us down,” said Linke. By 8:45, they were finished. “That thirty minutes every day of those three weeks was the most fun I’ve ever had,” said Linke.

Linke was determined to hand pilots a printed task sheet, rather than one handwritten, something that had never been done at the WGC. One day, lunching in downtown Uvalde, he and Bill Ivins ran into a Uvalde County Agriculture Commissioner. “By the end of that lunch, Bill had talked the county out of their printer for the period of the competition, and we had our printed task sheets.”

After our glider launched today, we made our way over to the tie down area where about a dozen girls and young women sat in the shade at a picnic table and on lawn chairs, wearing black headcoverings, long dresses, and tennis shoes. As they watched the launch, they played with their i-phones, texted, and chatted quietly. Uvalde natives, they belong to the United Church of God in Christ Mennonite, and they were enjoying the competition. They seemed particularly interested in the tow planes and were trying to count how many different ones there were (on a good day, there are eleven). One suspects a romantic interest in one particular pilot—the blue and black checked plane seemed to trigger the most attention. I asked whether they might take a glider ride themselves, and they said no, but friend of theirs had been up. “He said it was really quiet up there,” they said, which is not how I’ve heard competition pilots describe their variometer beeping, radio squawking, ga-jug, ga-jug, ga-jug turbulent cockpits.

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