On the trail of original flight

Malte Bernhardt has been flying his dream airplane for a season now.. After a long run-up, he is now the owner of a new Antares 20E. What does the former hang glider pilot appreciate about the electric self-launcher?

“I had my first contact with an Antares with the Antares 18 – and then,” explains Malte Bernhardt, “I knew immediately that it was the one for me. I felt at home straight away.” The fact that I ended up with the larger model was due to the 20E’s self-launching capability.

The hang glider pilot had not really wanted to get into soaring at first: “It was all too regulated for me.” But then the dentist, who lives in the Taunus region, got tired of driving to the Alps. The change was finally triggered by Stefan Senger, with whom Bernhardt is friends from his hang gliding days and who today charters out an entire fleet of electric sailplanes. Stefan Senger recommended the 18-meter plane to him. This would be equivalent to direct flight such can be experienced with a hang glider.

By the time he got to know Stefan Senger’s Antares 20E “AT” for the first time, Malte Bernhardt had already gained plenty of opportunities for comparison. His entry into gliding occurred in Unterwössen with an ASW 19, which he maintained together with a colleague in a joint ownership, with the charter of a “worn out” DG-800, a Ventus and with an ASW 28 in the aeroclub in Anspach.

“For Unterwössen I would have stayed with an Antares 18T,” says Bernhardt, but for the Anspach base he didn’t want to do without the self-launch. “I’m an early riser and that only works with a self-launch. I can also use Wednesday afternoons, so I want to be independent.” The electric drive of the Antares is another plus. Noise pollution is marginal, which avoids many problems. Bernhardt: “In Unterwössen, which is particularly sensitive to noise, self-launching with the Antares 20E is also permitted.”

To guarantee a return flight in the event of a breakdown in lift, Bernhardt sometimes has himself towed when flying in Unterwössen: “Then I still have over 3,000 meters of climb available in the mountains.” So far, Bernhardt has not found any reserves missing after self launching in the low mountain ranges of cental Germany. And the family father with two small children attaches great importance to getting home safely.

“In Namibia, however, I did abort a 1000 attempt with the Antares 20E,” Bernhardt recalls, “when the onward flight required flying around and, in the end, across thick showers.” But he didn’t really regret it: “Other pilots with petrol engines continued their flight, but in the end they were also lucky that they weren’t cut off by the thunderstorms.” Bernhardt qualifies this by saying, “Strategically, you do fly differently with an electric plane.”

With an electric plane through rain? Rumor has it that’s a no go. Bernhardt: ” There’s scaremongering and fear of a short circuit. “I’ve now twice made it through heavy rain showers without a hitch because I really wanted to get home.”

The Antares 20E is Malte Bernhardt’s dream aircraft in terms of concept, workmanship, equipment, and even more so in terms of flying. “Even multi-hour flights are not tiring.” Bernhardt therefore praises the high inherent stability, despite which the Antares is very maneuverable, downright agile with harmoniously tuned controls. Bernhardt: “The Antares is very sensitive on the controls, it only needs very slight impulses to direct it into the best climb in the updraft.”

He did not encounter any technical problems during the year of flying. After a season with his own 20E, Malte Bernhardt is thus fully satisfied. Including the flights in Namibia, he clocked up over 220 Antares hours in the OLC season.

Rigging and de-rigging is no problem even for an early bird who is often alone on the airfield. It takes about a quarter of an hour to assemble the Antares. The Lange rigging aid carries the battery-packed wings. Bernhardt: “Of course, fitting the wings onto the fuselage is easier with two people.”

And now the Bernhardts dream machine is being further enhanced. Over the winter, the Antares is given a chic new color scheme at LTB Sebald.