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Research into SIV / pilotage courses

One of my goals for my 2022 Europe trip was to research the latest on SIV or pilotage or progression courses. NZ suffers from a distinct lack of such, partly because we stopped offering SIV courses in NZ a while ago due to a lack of usable and suitable sites.

We used to run such courses at Klewenalp in Switzerland long ago, some in Australia towing in Victoria, some in beautiful Bled in Slovenia, some towing out of Wanaka with Rob Darby's super professional tow set up, some in Nelson at the Nelson lakes. Sadly, NZ is becoming more and more restrictive in what you can do.

Now Blake Round is offering towing in Cromwell to us which opens a new window of opportunity which we will grab to offer our pilots great progression in their flying through practicing those things which are not safe enough to do over ground. Towing in NZ is expensive, so it adds significantly to the cost, but hopefully it will be well worth it.

Before embarking on new SIVs, Eva travelled Europe to observe and participate in a variety of such courses in different countries. Here is (the short version of) her impressions: "To develop the most beneficial new SIV or progression course for our pilots in NZ, I stared by reading DHV / German association literature and requirements as NZ doesn't haven't any such thing. I then picked a couple of prime SIV locations in Europe to research how the modern, big, good, popular schools run such courses.

Lago di Garda

Malcesine at Lake Garda in Italy with Monto Baldo beside it is one of the most popular sites due to the high altitude of the mountain so close to a good size lake, as well as the fabulous infrastructure offered by the local club and their amazing club president Bomba. Depending on the glide performance of their gliders, pilots arrive above the lake with somewhere +/- 1000m. That is pretty much as high as you want them before you need binoculars to see much as in instructor positioned on the landing by the lake.

I picked Flugschule Salzburg, one of the most popular course and SIV providers in the country as my first baseline stop. Young Niko Sobek is an amazing instructor who, much like Lukas, grew up in the PG training environment and has since developed his own professional style of teaching. His father Helmut Sobek is the founder of the school. Their courses are run in German (with slight Austrian accent), so perhaps not suitable for most NZ pilots, even though Niko also speaks excellent English. Niko's teaching and communication style is what impressed me hugely: super knowledgable, calm, approachable, very relatable to all levels of pilots which makes it so easy for all pilots to comprehend and learn fast and with ease. Very impressive.

His course was run with the competent assistance of acro pilot Bernie who completes the the course so well.

Their courses run so smoothly, the program was progressive and easy to follow, modern, well-adjusted to new modern gliders and their reactions. From observation and lots of discussion with Niko, I learnt a lot about the difference between gliders a few years back when I ran plenty of such courses, to now. Niko has also come up with new ways of teaching and inducing e.g. Full Stalls, spins etc. It's all about installing confidence in pilots, preparing for the events of disturbances, learning what to expect and how to react in case you missed your chance to prevent e.g. collapses, as well as knowing when to throw reserve.

The same Garda site is used by a number of other schools at the same time, which made it easy to compare approaches and their outcome as taught by different instructors which was exactly what I was after.

Niko is planning to visit us in October or November 2022. I'll twist his arm to offer some of his knowledge in Auckland.

Lac d'Annecy

Next stop was Annecy where seemingly endless numbers of instructors teach similar courses, in German, French and English. Spending some time at the SIV landing between the different schools, listening in on their radio instructions and watching the outcome above the lake with a continuous rain of pilots coming down, was priceless for me.

The altitude above lake Annecy is a lot lower which alters what instructors and pilots can do. It is about half the altitude we can at Garda. but probably twice as many schools operating there.

I got a close look at the operation FLYEO which is run by wonderful Malin and Fabien. Malin runs most of the English speaking courses, while Fabien focuses on the French speaking ones but proved to be amazing in English as well. His enthusiasm and sense of fun are hard to escape.

Discussions with Malin - or me picking his brain - helped me immensely to gain an understanding of his philosophy and techniques of teaching. The insight he offered me with his generosity of joining and observing several courses was great learning for me and in extension NZ PG training. He is an impressive instructor who developed his own unique version of progression training. The focus is on teaching pilots of all levels those sort of skills which can prevent vast number of accidents caused by 2 major issues: Unintentional and out of control spirals which are not recovered and stall / cascading events that are caused by badly timed or simply unhelpful pilot input after collapses. Malin / FLYEO have developed a set of training exercises to help pilots understand these situations and recover them successfully. This is a rather crude short summary of an extensive training program.

Malin is planning a NZ trip during the summer 2022/23 and I will pester him to share his knowledge as much as possible.

After this broad look at modern progression courses, Reuben, Lukas and I are preparing what suits NZ pilots, our sites, our weather, our pilots best in order to offer regular courses over the lake in addition to our existing range of beginner, intermediate and thermal and XC courses.

The first course above water is 8-11 September in 2022 Cromwell. More to come as long as Blake can tow us and the weather plays the game. Please register your interest in our courses, so we can contact you for available spots.

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