Team Hungary achieved an amazing success at the European Microlight Championship 2015 – but only after a drama with great distances, ticking clocks and a broken aircraft, where Pipistrel Hungary crew played the key role.
After winning the bronze medal at the World Microlight Championship in Hungary last year, the Team Hungary decided to improve their flight skills and try to get another medal at the European Microlight Championship 2015 in Poland.
They spent hundreds of hours both in the air and on the ground to practice navigation, planning and precision. They developed new tools to shorten their preparation time and to get some time for relaxing and memorizing the photos and routes for the tasks. They participated several times at the Hungarian rally flight championship series to train most efficiently – and they caused surprises there, too! They won several bronze medals with their Pipistrel Virus against their competition flying Cessna-s.
As the European championship time was drawing closer, the different opportunities to obtain a lighter and more efficient Sinus sadly slipped away, so the only option remained their 80HP Pipistrel Virus. They improved it with high-performance Beringer brakes for the precision landing tasks, and they built-in an extra small instrument panel. The competitors studied the scenery and landscape of Poland in advance to make themselves more familiar with it. Due to the fact that there was no trailer available for such a long time, they decided to fly the plane to Poland.
The entire route of 850 km required only one stop at the Breclav airfield in the Czech Republic – but only due to airspace limitations. The Pipistrel Hungary crew was helping the competitors again and supported their ideas. They joined the Team for a 1.5-hour part of the flight with their Virus SW. The next part of the flight continued in G-class airspace, and after 3.5 hours in headwind the Team arrived to their destination safely and without any problems. The first two days were used for training flights. The championship began with a big opening ceremony. Around 45 competitor aircraft arrived from 11 different European countries. The competition lasted the entire week with 1-2 tasks being flown each day. The wind was strong during the entire week: between 20 and 25 kts at 1000 feet. This made timekeeping hard at the navigation tasks, but fortunately they completed them all with very good results. Even the strong crosswind was no problem for the Virus at the precision landing tasks. The pilots were touching down within the first 5 meters of the landing deck, grounded within 5 second tolerance, and came to full stop after 39 meters. The Team won the first economy task as well, having flown a 200-km triangle in 50 km/h wind using 9,5 liters of fuel. At the second economy task there was an open start window from 12.30-13-30, and landing time no later than 18.30. The result was 5:58 minutes of flight time, most of it spent soaring. Upon return the team still had 2 liters out of the initial 10l of fuel. The Virus is an excellent glider!
Everything was going great. Until…
“On Tuesday at 6 o’clock in the evening I got a telephone call from Poland,” says Janos Szilagyi, the Hungarian Pipistrel distributor. “We had been on the road all day before. The rising sun found us in Ajdovščina, sitting in the company van. We brought a damaged aircraft to Pipistrel for service.”
“Even then, everything was about timing. If we played our cards right, we could get through factory gates the first when they opened them in the morning… If everything goes right, the plane could be in the workshop within minutes and we’re done, no waiting. The next step is easier. We pick up the spare parts we’ve ordered from the warehouse (Tanja has them neatly prepared, like always), a few brief conversations with friends, and we head home – we have planes to fly and students to teach, the weather is clear and beautiful...”
Just a normal day for the Pipistrel Hungary crew, like every week, right? It turned out to be anything but.
“We spent the entire day to get back. The traffic was pretty lazy, there was no hurry and the kilometers passed by one by one. We took care of everything we had to at the factory, the plane was in good care, the parts we needed were in the van… perfect day. We arrived back home to Pipistrel-Hungary headquarters at roughly 6 PM. It’s good to be home, seeing that we drove to Slovenia all night, done our jobs and drove all day to get back. We parked the trailer and headed to the office. We opened a cold Heineken (this is not a commercial, we just really like it). Right as the can hisses my phone rings...”
The UL Team Hungary, one of Janos’s customers, call him from Poland. They are participating in the UL European Championship with a Pipistrel Virus and they tell him one good news and one bad news:
1) They are in first place!
2) While performing the last task of the day they broke the front landing gear and the plane was seriously damaged.
They were given a couple of hours from the judges to fix the aircraft and they asked the Pipistrel Hungary crew to bring spare parts and go to Poland to repair their Virus. They wanted to continue the race on the following day!
“Do you see what I meant when I said everything was about timing?”, says Janos.
“There’s calculation and a lot of phone calls… Yes, it seems like we have a chance: Drive 880 kilometers in ten hours, change the damaged landing gear, the propeller, the whole engine mount… Yes, it is possible! (Goodbye, my dear cold Heineken…) We are off to work!”
Just like in the championship, time is of the essence! The Pipistrel Hungary crew scrambles to pack the necessary parts and equipment; they need a mechanic, an electric technician, a van, a driver…
“We were lucky to have everything we needed for the repairs in stock. We’re done with packing in an hour and we’re off to Poland! A quick overview of our tasks, a last call to the pilot of the damaged Virus and its pedal to the metal!”
The van rolls up to the site at exactly 5:45 next morning. Time is of primary concern, but they know that there’s no success without precision and quality. The judges gave them 6 hours to finish all the repair tasks, or else the whole trip was for nothing. Géza and Sándor do what they do best.
“Their repair work seems slow to me, since I am a rally driver… But no, no, no, I must not interrupt, I trust them! I do my best to assist them when I can and stay out of their way when I need to.”
Hours go by and the tension grows, for a moment it feels like they will be able to do it, the next moment, when things turn out slightly worse, it seems like it cannot be done… The audience grows and grows; people are watching the crew and cheering for them. The owner of the aircraft – the Team Hungary pilot is calm, he trusts the Pipistrel crew to finish repairing the plane so that he can continue the race.
“Time goes by really fast,” Janos continues his story. “It’s already 11 AM and we’ve said goodbye to the cold of the morning. Our two mechanics are already working in their T-shirts. Finally, at 11:15 they say the words I’ve been waiting for: Janos, get in and start the engine!
I can’t believe it! The engine starts right away, the propeller is not shaking, and all the avionics are working properly. We’ve done it!!!”
The pilot Krisztián is overjoyed. He runs to get permission for a test-flight. Everything goes well, he gets the permission, the flight goes well, everything is done! The championship can continue!
The Pipistel Hungary crew fills-in the necessary documents for the repairs, packs their tools and heads to the airport’s restaurant for a well-deserved lunch.
“The biggest question now is: should we stay here and have some sleep or should we head home,” says Janos.
“We were really exhausted but we decided to go home nevertheless. The next day was a national holiday, so we had fireworks waiting for us! There were just those 880 kilometers between us and our beds…
The third night seems the longest of them all. We can’t take it much longer; the drivers exchange every hour now. The kilometers seem to crawl by ever slower. We arrive home at three in the morning, utterly exhausted but happy! ”
The next day Janos only gets to his office at noon. It’s a national holiday, so everything is quiet now… but not for long. Sándor and Géza arrive, still contemplating what happened in Poland.
“Is everything alright? How is “our” pilot doing in the race? Is the plane working fine?” they are asking.
From what is known, the last two days were used mostly for complaining about the scores by many other teams, who tried to use the opportunity to win the race on the ground by complaining to the judges, instead of in the air…But the final results were fantastic nevertheless: Team Hungary claimed the first place with a significant advantage! Krisztián is the new European champion!
“We feel like his success is a little bit our own,” says Janos proudly, “So we’re happy to have contributed to his victory!”
The weekend goes by quickly. On Sunday morning the Team started their aircraft and headed back home towards Hungary. The flight went smoothly all the way.
“We decided to escort the champions home. We met them in the Czech Republic and then we flew home together. At the end of the trip, Pipistrel Hungary organized a low-pass with 2 other Viruses which joined the victors in the air. From there on the flight and landing were a cheerful displays of comradery.”
At arrival about 50 people were waiting to greet the champions and celebrate the victory with a champagne shower over the winning Pipistrel Virus aircraft.
We would like to congratulate the winners and everybody who contributed to the victory with their help and support, especially the Pipistrel Hungary distributor crew! You are the best!