Medalist with a Pipistrel Sinus at the 14th FAI World Microlight Championship

16.August 2014
Krisztian Dolhai as the pilot and Lajos Szőnyegi as the co-pilot won bronze medal at the WMC 2014 with a Pipistrel Sinus. Congratulations!

report by: Krisztian Dolhai

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After we won the Hungarian Sirály Cup, we got invited to the WMC, which was held this year in Hungary. As we are beginners in the competition, our front-wheel Virus would not meet the weight limit for FAI standards, and the plane could not take-off and land in the 100 m deck, we were not thinking about to participate. 1 day later we got an offer from Pipistrel Hungary that they would sponsor for us a taildragger Sinus light aircraft with high performance Beringer brakes. After some phone conversations with the organisers, and discussion with our family we decided to give it a try. We only had one and a half weeks for getting familiar with the new plane, all the tasks, and to lose weight. Until the deadline each of us had to lost 4 kgs, and the plane had to lose 10 killos as well.
Janos, the distributor and head of Pipistrel Hungary, delivered the new plane to our base airfield at Balatonfőkajár. It was a calm day, we did some landings, all went nicely and we decided to continue on the next day. The plane is very handy, harmonic in the air, the rudder is going more smoothly compared to our Virus, as you do not need to turn the whole front wheel. It glides a lot better due to the longer wingspan and because only two wheel holders are creating drag at the bottom of the aircraft instead of 3.
The day after there was strong crosswind with turbulence near the ground. I tried to land the plane at the beginning of the airfield, which was a bit bumpy. Everything changed. I could not manage to keep the plane on the ground without some jumps.
Despite the fact I have been flying for 20 years and have landed many different types of aircraft, this taildragger was a big challenge. It just did not want to stay down! It always wanted to get back to the air. My thoughts were: "My thoughts were: - Either the 100 meter deck landing task, or the production of talidragger Sinus should be stopped, I can not manage to land and stop within 100 m with a taildragger Sinus!"

After 1 hour of hard trying, I slowly got better and better, and I got used to the tricky gentle pushing of the stick at the moment of touching the ground. After that, the landing was easy. However, stopping in the remaining length of the deck (80-90m) was not.
Landing and slowing down the plane on the main wheels without braking with the propeller or the tail-wheel was also a hard work until we found out that we increased brake performance immensely by dropping the flaps to negative after landing to reduce lift. The 100 meter deck take off was tricky as well, but possible even with slight back-wind. Pushing the brakes, full throttle, flaps negative for less drag, lean forward to adjust CG, stick in neutral, roll 30 meters, push the stick to lift the back, roll on the main wheels, flaps slowly to +2, lean back, and pull the stick to lift the plane.

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The 100m deck is sooo small, and hardly visible from the air.

Normally there is no need to be airborne after 95 meters (we lost 5 meters as the tail-wheel must be within the deck at the start), and there is no need to land and stop within 100 meters. But on this competition you lose 20-20 percent of your score by rolling out of the painted area. We practiced the competition tasks every day, and prepared our precise map every night.
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Special thanks go to Gyula Vörös and Endre Thuróczy who explained rules to us and taught us a lot about competing. The official training date arrived, and we took the plane to Matko airfield, the place of the World Championship. Over 80 microlight planes arrived, together with fixed wings, trikes, and gyros and in addition over 100 powered paragliders. Oh my god, all were highly skilled pilots or instructors, showing what they can do with their planes. We did not want to be the last, so used the chance and practiced some more. We had some exercises from the national championship which had been held at Matko as well.

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You get a map, scale 1:200.000 with a hand drawn red route between 100-180 km long, and 8-10 photos. You must not use GPS. You choose your speed, take a logger on board, fly the route as precisely as you can, find the objects or locations depicted on the photos and mark their positions on the map. That is it. The allowed deviation off the route is 300 meters in each direction (this is 1,5mm on the map!!). The allowed deviation in time is +-5 seconds on each points of the route. The allowed deviation of the photo marking on the map is 2mm. This is precision flight. They check your logged route by around 10 virtual crossing gates, and 10 virtual time gates. They also check your photo markings on the map against the original. For each gate crossing you get either 100 points or 0. For each gate time-check you get 100 points if you are in the 5 sec time-frame, or 2 points less for each second of deviation. Each correctly marked photo is worth 100 points within 2mm on the map, 0 points within 5 mm, and -100 points over 5mm. Add to all that the -20/-20 percent off the scores for precision landing and taking off, if it is outside of the deck. The best scoring team of the day gets 1000 points bonus, and all others proportionally less accordingly to their original scores.
Sooo easy, isn't it? I told my wife I had to go there to see how the people who can manage all these crazy tasks look like...

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We came to the first official day of the Championship. Competitors from all nations stood in front of the hangar with their flags at the opening ceremony. I saw people from England, Germany, Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, Spain, France, Israel, Quatar, Thailand, Japan, China, and many more. It was amazing, around 300 competitors, and we could be there, together with big names in the microlight World.
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After the ceremony the competition started,. The planes were brought to the quarantine area, from where on no more changes were allowed. We were checked by a metal detector and our telephones got sealed in an envelope which we could only open in the case of emergency. The schedule determined three different times for each crew. The first was the time for the beginning of the planning period: at the exact time we had to be next to the aircraft, where we were given the map and the photos. Then the  take off time, 40 minutes later; and Start Point time, at which we had to be at the start to begin the route. There were 3 minutes between the take off of each crew. The task was, nothing special - I marked the times on the map, Lali was getting familiar with the photos.

After taking off we quickly found the SP, and flew at 300 meters, at 100 km/h and with flaps +2 for the best visibility to the front. I was checking our position continuously and timing in every minute. Lali was finding the photos and marking them on his map. At the end of the task there was precision landing as well. There were lines at the beginning of the landing deck, each 5 meters apart. Landing in the first 5 meters space counted 250 points, in the second one 200 points and so on. We always tried to land in the second (200 point) one, because if we landed in the 250 but the tail touched the ground outside (in front of the deck) we got 0. With around 20 hours of practice flight in the taildragger Sinus, landing in the 200 points area is not bad at all.
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We correctly passed 90 percent of all gates, were were pretty much on time and we correctly marked 5 photos. This was enough for 928 points, so we were at the 5th place of the ranking list. Veeery nice!
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The second day started with a simple navigation task like the first, but we landed at a different airfield. All went excellent.
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We passed all the gates, the timing wasn't bad, we found and marked all photos correctly, and we won this day's navigation task (Task Nr.3) with 1000 points. Very proud!

After lunch, however, we came back to the home airfield to a complicated task:  we had a sequence of 4 hand-drawn routes and 10 photos. Three of them were turning points.
We had to start flying the first route and above the location of the first photo we had to make a 270 degree turn. Then fly to the starting point of the next route, follow it and search for the second turn point, and so on.
Two navigation task were too much for us in a single day. We missed the start-point time frame and we missed the first turning point photo as well, but luckily we saw a trike turning at the right point. After that we decided that the next time we were going to follow somebody, anybody, even just the birds! We scored 661 points out of 1000 - not too bad, but we had to focus much better. At the end of this navigation task there was another precision landing in deck, this time with engine off. At the final, a powered parachute was crossing our path an other was right next to him, so I missed the best angle of attack and landed too short...so, zero points. All in all, this wasn't our afternoon. We had better gone to sleep. The team meetings were held around 10 o’clock at night to get familiar with tomorrow’s tasks, and at 7 o'clock next morning the planes were already in the quarantine to be cleaned, fueled and tied down. But cleaning the plane at sunrise with dewdrops is priceless.

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The next day was our day! Task Nr.7 is my favourite number and our self-chosen competition number was 477 as well. "4" stood for our fixed-wing category, and "77" for luck. I even found a four leaf clover and put it into my competition pass!
Economy tasks are what our plane is built for. We were allowed 10 kg of fuel for this task and there were turning points on the map numbered from 1 to 31. The distance was 10 km between each. When you crossed one of them, the next one you could fly to could only have a higher number; and you were only allowed to fly only on the lines that were drawn. It was mandatory to touch the SP, the point nr. 31, and the FP. After landing the plane had to taxi down a 100m long corridor with the engine on.

We had to be the best today! Not just the best, faaar the best. All we needed to do was get back to the airfield with as little fuel as possible, and find the shortest route between turning points. Starting time was open so we could start when we wanted to: when we found the thermals. There were some, but too weak to be able to make circles, so we only did the dolphin, and got higher in every thermal by 10 to 50 meters. In this way we gained 1000 meters, and in a bigger thermal some further 400 meters, which allowed us to switch off the engine for more than 30 kilometers. We touched 27 points, and returned to the quarantine with 0,3 liter of fuel. Once there we got an especially detailed check by the officials since some of our competitors simply did not believe our result!
Nothing special with a Sinus, if there were more thermals, we could spend our time in the sky till the sunset. It is a glider, isn't it? 270 km with 10 kg fuel without fuel leaning kit, standard plane setup. Special thanks to Ivo and his team! :)
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After checking our logger, it turned out that we have missed 3 turning points, so only 24 were valid. Even so, we won the day with 1000 points, and the second only gained 750. For this task we could bring our phones with us, so I took some videos from our final glide and the remaining fuel, and of Karesz, who has not reached the airfield with his trike, but picked some sunflowers for us. Nice! :)

And for the rest of the day...
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At night at the team meeting we got instructions for the next economy task, a triangle. No thermal circles are allowed on the first two legs. 30% of the score is calculated from the average speed on the first leg, 70% of the points are calculated by the area of the triangle flown. Starting times open from 13:00 to 16:00. The corners of the triangles should stay on the official Championship map. 10 kg of fuel. Nice task.
Looking at the weather forecast, we got wind from north-west. Normally a glider would try to fly the first leg against the wind direction, to get home easier. But we decided to fly tailwind, as the speed was relevant on the first leg. We cut a piece of string, about 130 cm long, which was representing our range, 260 km on this map. Our flatmate Carlos saw that, and as a trike pilot he said: "Even if I sew my socks with that string, I would still have enough left for the range of my trike!" :)

Getting back to the map we realised that we could not fly both bottom corners of the map only by fuel. It would have been too easy. Another thing, we did not know the exact amount of remaining fuel. But we did know that yesterday the Dynon calculated 3 remaining liters while we only had 0,3. We also had a reserve canister built in for the last 2 liters. But 2 liters were not enough to get back from anywhere from that big map.
We lifted the tail of the plane on the ground to get it in flight position. We started to fill the tank and put lines on it with a permanent marking pen, one after every liter, onto the transparent fuel checker tube. These markings were useless in the air, they were unfortunately not showing the correct amount of remaining fuel, just like the originals weren't. Probably when the end of the wing lifts a little in the air and since the vertical size of the tank is small, we could not get the precise fuel amount. Next time we will have a tank like the English guys - fuel reserve canister with 100 cm vertical length and 10 l volume. This gave them 10 cm/liter scale, which was much more accurate than ours. Not bad.

Anyway; I have seen in the weather forecast that at the end of the first leg, above 1200m the wind would be changing to East around 3 o’clock PM. We had to be there and start the second leg with tailwind, or no wind. We had to be there! And on the second leg we had to take the hard decision - when to turn back towards home. Rules were the same as yesterday, to touch the finishing point and to have enough fuel to complete 100 m taxi on the ground with engine on. Quarantine time started at 10, engine warm up as usual. We checked the wind forecast many times and decided to take off after 2 o’clock PM. We walked to the plane and I suddenly realised that I had left the Dynon on and the battery went flat. not even the LED was shining! We could not get any help, no replacement of battery was possible. But I knew that this was our day, and our task, and one mere battery could not stop us! If you were in our place, you may have found out what we did - yes, we busted the myth that a 912 can not be prop-started by hand. It can! Even a brand new one! Nothing is impossible... The only thing I missed was that during our engine starting attempts 4 planes queued up for start and we had to wait, thus wasting the fuel for further 5 minutes. But we got to fly! First leg was easy, good visibility and we gained some height by dolphin jumping. Second leg had bad visibility and we missed one village, we flew off the map and we did not have any larger map with us. We found our way back, it was not a big mistake, but every cent of misused fuel was counting. We gained another few hundred meters, which we could add to our calculation. We decided not to fly the whole map, as the thermals were not strong enough today either, so headed to the finish point. We only switched the engine off when we were 200% confident that we could get home with the final glide... Since we may not have had a chance to restart the engine because of the battery. We landed with the engine off. It turned that we could restart it and we did the 100 meters taxi successfully. But then the blood froze in my veins: I usually positioned my logger above the starting key of the plane to be sure not to forget to switch it on before takeoff. But since this time I hand-propped the Sinus, I forgot to start my logger. I only realised this when I switched off the engine! I turned to Lali and said: "This time I have forgotten to switch on the logger!" He was smiling, and answered: "But I did mine." Whew, God bless! We only had 1 logger running and it lost the signal around the second turnpoint, therefore the indicated triangle was smaller than what we have flown, but miles better than nothing. Yet nevertheless, despite all the problems, it was still 1000 points for us, 826 for the second and 523 for the third one today!
Winning 3 of the 5 big tasks was an excellent start to our competition career. All we could hope for now were bad weather conditions for the rest of the competition, since we knew that we could only fall from our current position.

We were not lucky. The next day's task was a double circle with 7 turning photos. As soon as you miss one, your time scores are over of course. We did the planning pretty well. We recognised the photo of the turning point no. 5 already from the ground, only by comparing it to the shadows on the map. In the final score one of the points was unfortunately not correct, so that was the time gone for us more or less. Watching the crossing gates, I did a great slalom between three of them and I crossed none, since I knew where they were - like skiing.

545 points for this task, fortunately neither Grimwood nor Yakovlyev did much better. At the end there was precision landing again, this time with the stopping distance as short as possible. Not our strong point... 135 points out of 250, as expected. The only surprise was that there was no wind, we arrived into the 150-point square and stopped 19 meters before the end of the deck. This means that the sinus can be stopped in 70 meters, wow. Good to know.

At night our team leader was talking about very funny tasks. It took us half an hour until we realised that he was not joking, he was telling us about the task for tomorrow. Quarantine at 6:30, we get 2 sets of photos (Carlos called it a magazine! ;) )  and three parts of route, all on one map. First part - easy. Fly straight, then above a circle, find a yellow alphabet marking on the ground, and fly to the outer circle. 1 photo-set is over. Free flight to one of the one three routes which is marked on the map with the alphabet letter you have found. Fly the route and search for the photos, keep the timing. But noooow... free flight to a small airfield next to Kiskörös, which is almost unreachable because there is prohibited airspace around it, and perform a touch-and-go into a 6 .. SIX!! meter deck! And as if this was not enough, the 6 meter deck is divided to four parts of 1,5 meters each. Touching the first one counts 250 points, the second one 200 points and so on. Then you have to fly out to the next staring point, follow the route, find an alphabet letter mark and choose the correct one of the 3 paths accordingly. You don't understand, do you?! No, me neither.. We had a chance to redefine our speed until 23.00, and it was possible to give 3 different speeds for the 3 different part of the task. As all of our ruler was created for 100 km/h and north wind was forecast, and only the first part of the path (which was straight) had tailwind, we decided to keep our speed by doing S bends.

Here is the map:

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The 40 minutes preparation time was almost too short. I had to draw the minute lines for double length of route and Lali got 2 sets of pictures. Official travel time from take off to starting point was 15 minutes today. For us it was only 5 minutes, but we should not cross the starting line earlier than appointed, so we did a small loop and we found the first 2 pictures already before we even crossed the SP. Nice visibility, all photos found, good timing, the marking found, so we flew to the next route marked with "H". We did well and arrived to the 6m deck landing. From 300m height it was almost invisible. My God, are we crazy? The wind was strong and it was turbulent. Strong wind was good for our ground speed, but turbulence was not our friend. But we did it!! We put the main wheel into the second square for 200 points. Wooow. And we did the sharp turn to the right to avoid entering the prohibited zone. Just about "nothing" is better than to fly low, slow, and to turn into the tailwind... But the Sinus increased its speed fast, and we were safe. We started the last part of the task, found the T marking, and fortunately not landed next to it, but continued the task at the correct path. We have found all photos, marked them correctly, found the two letter markings, crossed all gates, and we were even not too bad with the timing!

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Scoring 982 points on this complicated task was more than wonderful! This time we did not know the overall scores, but we could calculate from the score table now - we were the 1st!
The last days task was something easy to evaluate. We were hoping for a thermal task or a slow-fast task. Both of them would be optimal for the plane and for us. Instead we got a short take-off and short landing task over an one-meter obstacle. You chose how far you set your plane from the obstacle; breaking it means 0 points, the shortest take-off gets 250, and you accordingly in proportion. We have seen the others practicing. Some planes managed to get over the tape within 60 meters, and at landing they stopped within 30 meters after the tape by sliding on the nose of the plane. We did not risk the plane, we could not gain too much by doing 100 meters takeoff and 80 meters landing at the edge of the planes limit. So we did 115m takeoff, and 128m landing. This is just a game.
So we have not collected many points today.
Even worse - the task nr.3 was deleted! The navigation task which we won was deleted due to bad weather condition!  Apparently some of the trikes could not finish the route. None of the aircraft in our category were affected, only the trikes, but the whole task was deleted for all the participants!
This is really a shame, but we still won the bronze medal, which at the beginning of the competition we could just dream about. To be honest, this is better for us - more fair, at least - than being first or second. The teams in the first and second place were better and we only had a nicer plane. We learned a lot from our mistakes, and now we know we can perform a lot better. So the next time...
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And on the cloudy way back home…
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