Over the course of more than 40 years, Ludwig Starkl, a trained aircraft manufacturer and businessman from Austria, has already spent more than 2,000 hours in the air. He was a long-time member of the Austrian national team and successfully participated in many international competitions. A few weeks ago in Namibia, as the new owner of the Antares 23E with the serial number 1, he managed effortlessly to fly the two fastest of around 350 1,000 distance flights flown in Namibia this season and submitted to the OLC.

Mr. Starkl, a few weeks ago you were able to gain your first impressions of the Antares 23E and were quite successful – please tell us about it!

After delivery in September, my Antares was packed directly into the container and shipped to Africa, so I had no experience on the new aircraft. At first I had technical problems with the hydraulic pump, but these were resolved within a few days. On my first flight, I quickly felt at home on the Antares, but I was still surprised by its performance. On that day, I didn’t take off until around 12.30 p.m. and, without any great ambitions I flew eastwards rather comfortably and without speeding, not over 200 kilometers per hour (108 kts) . Then at some point, while over Botswana, I started thinking – I’m actually traveling quite fast – when is sunset? I did the math and realized: whoops, with the 160 kph (86 kts) average I’m flying, I’ll even make the thousand. I then turned around in the direction of Kiripotib, flew on, straight ahead along the lines of updraft and barely circled – what can I say, it didn’t let up and suddenly the thousand kilometers were done – 1,002 kilometers to be exact. I hadn’t had ten hours of experience on the Antares yet, so it was more or less by accident that I ended up ‘winding in in’ thousand at speeds that were consistently close to the average for the entire flight, i.e. 165 kilometers per hour (89 kts).

But that wasn’t your only exploit last season?!

Correct. A few days later, the weather was good again and I took off earlier and with a little more ambition. Again the first leg led to the east, but after only 100 kilometers (54 nm) I turned around and flew west to the edge of the Namib Desert. On this day a convergence line was supposed to develop, which promised high averages and thus long flights. I first tried the more westerly line, where there was a visible line of updrafts, and on this section of the route I flew the fastest thermal two and a half hours of my gliding life with an average of ‘only’ almost 200 kilometers per hour (108 kts). In retrospect, this was rather the wrong choice, because the forecast good convergence line was rather in the east – if I had been on the way there right away, an average even closer to 170 would certainly have come out; so in the end it was ‘only’ 167 km/h for these effectively 1,029 kilometers (556 nm). And after this thousand had been completed, I could easily have flown on for well over an hour and a half and even managed 1,250 kilometers (675 nm).

I don’t want to rate my flying performance too highly, because it would not have been possible with another aircraft. It’s fascinating to see how much faster I was traveling on those days than the champions, whose flights averaged around 145 kilometers per hour (78 kts). And I haven’t flown with the maximum wing loading yet either, because on both flights I could have carried 40 kilograms (88 lb) more ballast. In any case, with its high wing loading, the Antares is unbeatable in African weather.

You mentioned the ‘champions’ – what’s that all about?

Under the motto ‘Flying with the Champions’, I am organizing a program in Kiripotib Namibia where ambitious trainees can be coached by real champions. Holger Karow, Janusz Centka, Uli Schwenk, Andy Davis, Steve Jones and Wolfgang Janowitsch took part in November. The aircraft available were four Arcus M, one Arcus E and a two ASH 25. It was a complete success for all involved. As a co-organizer, I unfortunately only managed to get into the air four times myself. Also this year, between November 1 and 14, there will be ‘Flying with the Champions’ again.

I also charter out my Antares, and Janusz Centka flew a new Polish record with it. Centka told me that he had never traveled so fast for so long. For Namibia, the Antares is certainly the best aircraft ever – but it will certainly play a major role at the next World Cup in Poland.

Cover photo: Rent-a-Glider GesmbH