Who are we?
SAGA is the association of Swiss glider pilots active in competition aerobatics. As a gliding club, we are a member of the Swiss Gliding Federation SFVS and affiliated to the Aero Club of Zürich. Within the Gliding Federation, SAGA is the "competence center" for aerobatics. We own a MDM-1 Fox, which is currently the only fully aerobatic two-seater glider in Switzerland and since early 2018 also a fully aerobatic single-seater SZD-59-1 ACRO. Our ACRO is the first one of the new series with modified ailerons and airbrakes.
What actually is Glider Aerobatics?
Even without an engine, a great number of aerobatic manoeuvres can be performed with the pilot making use of the height (potential energy) and speed (kinetic energy) of the aircraft. The trick is to manage the available energy most efficiently whilst controlling the glider most accurately and elegantly.
Like in power aerobatics, we fly basic figures like loops, stall turns and rolls. The basic figures may be combined to form more complex figures and a given sequence of figures form an aerobatic programme. In competition aerobatics, pilots either fly a compulsory or a free programme, which they compose according to a given set of rules. The programmes are scored by a board of judges who give marks for each figure. Any figure which may somehow be flown is contained in an aerobatic catalogue where they are given a coefficient according to their degree of difficulty. In a competition, the score is computed by multiplying the coefficients with the average marks awarded by the judges.
These competititons are conducted under a strict set of rules, standardised internationally, with safety being always paramount.
The following video with Unlimited World Champion 2012 and 2014, Maciej Pospieszyński, shows graphically the enormous physical stress imposed by this kind of flying.
In Advanced category competition, physical stress is considerably less. The main emphasis here is on precision and elegant performance of manoeuvres. In the World Advanced Championships 2015 SAGA member Jonas Langenegger won the Bronze medal in the overall championship, Gold in the Known Programme and Silver in the Free. In this video he flies his Free sequence which won the Silver medal.
Contrary to that on airshows, the aim is not to fly as accurately as possible under a strict set of rules, but to offer the most exciting spectacle to the public.
The top aerobatic pilots fly freestyle sequences where the laws of physics seem to be temporarily out of force.
Without an engine, comparable stunts are hardly possible. Glider aerobatic pilots, on the other hand, use to perform airshow routines where the emphasis is on elegance and harmony. To watch this kind of noiseless aerial ballet with smoke and accompanied by music, performed by an expert pilot is a unique experience. There is a fine video on Youtube, where seven times world champion Jurek Makula flies his airshow routine.
If you want to see how we practise glider aerobatics, just watch this video by our member Georg Wilckens, taken during our training camp in 2011 at Lodrino.