What is fascinating in the sport of gliding is also the fact that there is no separation into age groups, gender or handicap status.
What is fascinating in the sport of gliding is also the fact that there is no separation into age groups, gender or handicap status. At the European Championships verybody competes against everybody else, as equal.
In gliding, the tradition of the sport participation by the handicapped goes way back, to the very origins of the sport. The legendary German pilot, sportsman, designer and enterprenuer Wolf Hirth had lost a leg in his youth, and this did not stop him from competing at the highest level. What is more, Hirth was also flying aerobatics, an area seemingly reserved only for the fittest of the fit.
Yet another remarkable story of a handicapped glider pilot is that of Harro Wödl of Austria - who won the 1968 Open Class World Championships in Leszno (see the photo) - and who was a lifelong glider instructor.
One of the competitors at the 17th EGC in Ostrów is Adam Czeladzki. Despite his handicapped status, he (after 5 days) currently places 5th in the 20m class, with a fighting chance for a medal, in the field of 23 top European competitor crews.
Adam Czeladzki is a very active pilot, for example his solo flights in Southern Africa in 2011/2012 season were for a while top ranked in the OLC.
His participation in the current Championships was made possible after acquiring a suitably modified glider. This glider will be subsequently used for training handicapped student-pilots in a newly established for this purpose center in Leszno.
Currently, two types of gliders are currently available with controls for the handicapped: the Discus 2c/ct and DuoDiscus, and both happen to be machines with a slightly inferior performace compared to current top models in their classes. This would be a barrier for the handicapped pilots. Luckily, in the continental Championships in the 20m Class the correction coefficients are being used. The correction coefficients are assigned to glider types (based on performance), regardless who flies them and regardless of the fact if they had or had not been converted for the handicapped. This allows the handicapped pilots to compete in this class equally against other pilots and vice versa.
At the World Championship level, in 20m Class the equalizing coefficients are not used, and this unfortunately currently presents a barrier for the handicapped. The best glider types are not available with suitable controls.
Note: there are separate Championships organized in Junior and Women categories, but the main events are open to all.