Aiming for a record flight in a glider, by circumnavigating the Baltic Sea from Norway, I was thwarted by the FSB (formerly KGB). It sounds quite James Bond-ish but in truth, the moral of my tale is less glamorous; it is classic Boy’s Scout motto, Be Prepared…
Be prepared to confront regulations well in advance. Had I done so I could possibly have visited Russia, our massive and mysterious neighbour, about which most of us Scandinavians know very little.
As it was, a few days into my trip but before arriving in Russia, I was informed that I better re-route pronto. Entering Russia would involve flying at a horribly low level, applying to yet another authority or having a Russian member among my crew (which numbered one Norwegian – me).
Otherwise, the planning was great, with RocketRoute proving invaluable and luggage selected oh-so carefully. My ASH 31 MI had to carry underwear for ten days, minimalist toiletries, battery, charger, 1 litre of oil, fuel hose, wool sweater, mooring equipment, hood pull, iPad, iridium sat- phone, lunchbox, small water bottle, documentation and absolutely nothing more. As any glider pilot knows, that is a maximum load. You cannot prepare the weather of course, but the Gods smiled and conditions ranged between quite good and a tad ropy which, for the Baltic in May, is wonderful.
The clarity permitted me one of the great joys of gliding; flying at relatively low levels, compared to planes anyway, you get to revel in the landscape. I got a bird’s eye view of lots of dreamy forests, mountains and lakes in lands I had never glimpsed before. I also got to spend time in Estonia, Finland, Poland, Germany and Sweden. Getting to this latter involved a glorious leapfrog across the Sea, courtesy of those lovely cumulus clouds which propel gliders by way of lift. Thankfully, I achieved my record despite the recalcitrant regulations of Russia. However, the joy of spending ten days low flying around the awe-inspiring vistas of the Baltic meant more to me than any record.
To live in a time when you can do such things solo – admittedly with assistance from RocketRoute and advanced glider design – is to learn that the Golden Age of Flight did not end in the late 1970s after all. For the common man, it has just begun; this thrilling holiday, mostly
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