I have been to countless glider competitions, but never before in my life have I ever been as an observer. I have always been part of the crew of a competitor, or at least somehow involved. Today I had no such responsibility, and I was able to enjoy my time. And enjoy it I did. My trip today to the FCC (Flight Challenge Cup) will probably be one of my most memorable moments here in Slovakia.
In retrospect, I probably should have prepared more than I actually did. Sure, I knew what bus I needed to take to get to the city of Prievidza where the competition would be taking place, but other than that I traveled with a happy go lucky attitude. The 86 km bus ride went by like a breeze, and I arrived in old town Prievidza just before 11 in the morning. I had no idea how to get to the airport to there, so I went into a bakery nearby to ask for directions. The attendant said she couldn’t explain the entire route, but could give me a general direction. With this in mind, I thanked her and began my trip. I didn’t mind wandering the city for a while trying to find the airport, as the weather was fantastic. Once I had arrived to where the kind bakery attendant had directed me, I searched for someone to ask for directions. Fortunately, there were a few kids playing floorball nearby, and they gave me somewhat useful directions. After about half an hour of walking, I heard a low rumble. Looking to the skies I saw in the distance a yellow towplane slowly towing a glider along. I had found what I was looking for.
Because of the early blooming cumulus clouds, nearly a third of the fleet had already launched by the time I had arrived. I didn’t mind too much however, as it was mostly Club class (older planes) that had departed. During this competition, there are three classes competing: Club class, 15 Meter, and Kombi class. Each are different in their own regards, regarding glider size and type.
While I was walking around taking pictures, I noticed a few other photographers. No more than three or four. Most of which I would give a quick nod to, or maybe a wave if I was feeling adventurous. Nearing the end of the launching period, one thing stood out to me: there was an unattended glider that was only a few spots away from being towed into the sky. Moments pass, and I see a photographer running over to the plane, and begin taking off all of his gear and handing it to his female assistant. That’s when I realise it is the 11 time world champion Sebastian Kawa. I would say not even five minutes pass between the time he was taking photographs of planes and him being in the air. But I guess when you are the 11 time world champion you can do as you please.
Once the planes has finished launching, I decided it would be high time for lunch. After a quick walk to the restaurant I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. All of the memories that ten year old me had made when I visited for the 31st FAI World Gliding Championships. The nostalgia would have stuck with me longer, but I was too hungry to even think. Now I must tell all of those who have never visited airport restaurants. There are only two types of airport restaurants; the really good ones, and the really bad ones. There is no inbetween. Fortunately for me, the restaurant at the Prievidza airfield was fantastic, with the Kofola being just as tasty as I remember.
After finishing up with my lunch (which happened to be some chicken and rice for all those who were wondering), I began a mental debate. Do I stay for an unknown amount of time, and hope to catch the gliders as they land, or do I go off and explore the city a bit? I decided for the latter, as I personally had seen more gliders land than your average airport bum. I wound up sitting down in a park bench, just shy of the edge of the runway. I dove into a book a brought with me, when I begin to hear a slight whoosh. I look up and just about 50 meters about me is a glider, dumping water and making a beeline for the runway. Three more followed suit, each with an interval of about twenty minutes. I tried to get a picture each time, but they snuck up on me and disappeared into the trees before I could get my camera in position.
I spent the rest of my time in Prievidza wandering around the city, and enjoying the wonderful sun that I have missed for the past few months. Even walking around for only a few hours, it amazed me how much the city has changed since I last visited. More stores have opened, and more industry is being developed. I am humbled to be able to say that I have witnessed the growth of a city by an exponential margin at the tender age of seventeen.
After a little scare at the bus station (if the bus is on time, you are not in Slovakia), I made my way home safe and sound, concluding my trip to Prievidza. Although a large portion of my trip was just wandering the city and relaxing at the airport, I still had an excellent time. With the sun out and the early spring in full blast, it was the perfect day for a trip like this. My only complaint would be that I made rookie mistake #1: I forgot to bring sunscreen. I now look like a vanilla and strawberry ice cream bar. Either way though, I enjoyed the trip and I will be looking forward to my next adventure! Thanks for reading!