Swiss-born Simon Leutenegger (Winterthur) is a very experienced glider pilot. He was a member of the Swiss national gliding team for a good 12 years (1983-1995) and took 3rd place at the 1984 European Championships. He also flew in five World Gliding Championships and won the Swiss Championships twice (1991 and 1994). He has also been able to win a number of international competitions. This includes the “Coupe du monde de vol à voile en montagne” in Vinon (France), which he has won six times. He also won the “Coppa Internazionale del Mediterraneo” in Rieti (Italy) twice. We can now expand this list a little… Here is his first hand report:
“After almost 5,000 flying hours, mostly in the standard class, and as a vehement advocate of the “planeur pur”, the idea of purely electric take-off autonomy eventually appealed to me. Add to that the unique look of this beautiful airplane, which everyone said was so fantastic to fly, and I was happy to jump over my own shadow.
The first time I sat in one of these “machines” was on January 14, 2012, and it was in my own Antares. And you know how they are, these enthusiastic reports. All I can say is: It’s all true! Despite the 20m wingspan, the maneuverability is absolutely comparable with or better than the standard class, which I as a passionate mountain flyer and “costonaro” (Italian for slope soarer) naturally like enormously. Even with water ballast, a maximum take-off weight of 660 kg and a wing loading of a good 52, one can still follow the slope contours wonderfully. The control harmony is very balanced and extremely smooth. The thermalling characteristics are light on the feet, responsive and very thermally sensitive. The aircraft thus happily helps in the search for thermals.
For a person of my size, the cockpit (anatomically) leaves nothing to be desired. Due to my size, I fly without the adjustable backrest, but with a separate headrest. And if this flying wasn’t so “wow-is-this-going-to-be-super”, I’d fall asleep in the comfy “couch”. The view from the cockpit is fantastic and my sun-kissed feet can continue to warm themselves in the sun, well into old age.
The one-man rigging aid is of course part of the take-off autonomy. With this rigging aid, I can rig the airplane independently and alone within a few minutes.* Despite the rather heavy wings, the strain on my back is significantly less than when assembling my previous airplanes with two people. It is perhaps a little more difficult on grass than on hard surfaces, but when I get off my bike at the airfield and after only 55 minutes I can accelerate and take off, “nel blu dipinto di blu”, then all is right with the world.
And the propulsion? So it couldn’t be simpler, but that only applies to the user interface. Of course, there is endless technology behind it and you should have respect for it and familiarize yourself with it a little in order to sufficiently understand the very clear control interface. Meanwhile, the batteries can climb to an altitude of around 3,500 meters when the water tanks are empty. That’s good enough for me to chug along in sawtooth from Winterthur to the Alps, 50 km (27 nm) away, and find a connection there at over 2,000 m (6560 ft) above sea level. If the updrafts should let me down, there are still enough reserves for a safe extension to an airfield nearby.
The performance can best be described as follows: At the Rieti competition 2012 (of course fully ballasted) we had a very long straight flight phase at the end of the last day, starting with a 50 km long glide in the middle of the valley, extremely beautiful… This then transitioned smoothly into a final approach about 100 km (54 nm) long and getting faster and faster. I was flying together with an ASH 25 and the comparison was so remarkable that the ASH 25 pilot was very interested in my plane afterwards…”