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Another excellent year

Every year, as soon as the cross-country flying season is over and the life of an XC addict is more relaxed again, the annual meeting of the NOVA Pilots Team takes place. This time on the Köckenhof, a cosy mountain farm in the Alpbach Valley that offers group accommodation and is run by a very cordial host called Martina.

Since the 3rd of October is a public holiday in Germany, the German team pilots in particular decided to use the Thursday as an optional extra day this year. But the weather forecast indicated something between “with a lot of luck maybe a top-to-bottom might be possible” and “feel free to crack open a beer”. The vast majority of pilots decided to spend the holiday at home with their families and partners to get brownie points. So only a few team members from further afield arrived: Guro and her husband Kristian from Norway and new pilot Yvette from the USA.

Till, Yvette, Mik, Thoralf, Guro, Kristian

So, a small group of us spent Friday hiking the wide ridge between Wiedersberger Horn and Hamberg. Not as good as flying, but still a lot of fun. A flew little snowflakes danced around us. We had brought our wings, but they stayed at the mountain station.

Thoralf Hase, Captain des Deutsche Flachland XC_Teams ist die Höhe nicht gewöhnt… Thoralf Hase, Captain of the German Flatlands suffers form the altitude…

On Friday afternoon the Köckenhof started to fill up. What would eighty excited paraglider pilots from all over the world most like to do? Flying. Obviously. There was no chance the previous day, and sadly Saturday also proved impossible. So, what to do? Exactly the opposite of flying! Go deep underground. It was a pretty good idea. In the village of Schwaz in the Inn Valley, silver has been mined for centuries. In medieval times, Schwaz was the biggest town in Austria! The extent of the mine is unbelievable. Everyday up to 12,000 people worked in the tunnels, which reached a total length of 500 kilometres. In the 20th Century the mine was closed, but it is still possible to visit the mine’s shafts and tunnels.

As great as it was to do something completely unrelated to flying, the visit to the NOVA headquarters in Terfens was really interesting. Here the paraglider and harness designers brood over their plans, the computers are hot with flow simulations, the prototypes arrive from the factory in Hungary, the test pilots go in and out and test them, things are sold, bought, marketed, etc. In short, this is the hub of the paraglider manufacturer of our choice.

Every team pilot got the information they desired first-hand – from news about new glider projects (of which we can say nothing, unless we want to be killed by Captain Till), to the lightest hike & fly wing. And it’s also just fun to have a poke around the place and to see the NOVA staff at work.

Chef-Test Pilot Fabian Gasteiger erklärt die Test-Manöver für die Zulassungsflüge / Chief Test Pilot Fabian Gasteiger explaining the manoeuvres for the certification test flights

Hans Tockner im Interview

Back at the Köckenhof we sat down for the first round of the plenary. Captain Till chaired the proceedings: news of the brand, a look back at the season, the vision of the NOVA Pilots Team – the legendary brainwashing.

A break for dinner, which was locally sourced Wiener Schnitzel and Kaiserschmarrn for dessert. Both 100 % Austrian classics, both yummy!

And then it got serious… In in the afternoon, a certain party mood had already set in and technical problems in the kitchen during the preparation of the Kaiserschmarrn caused a long delay, so the NOVA bosses doubted whether we could still be persuaded to continue with the presentation. The party animals were already warming up the crowd (no names mentioned to protect the guilty).

But somehow the bosses did manage to heard us back into the meeting room. A lovely highlight got everyone’s attention. Wolfi Lechner, founder and co-owner of NOVA and now part-time member of staff, had his 60th birthday in January. He hadn’t really celebrated this birthday yet, at least not with us, so we definitely made up for that. Wolfi is an amazing guy who achieved so much. And we wanted to show our appreciation. The Team Pilots put together a huge birthday hamper. We love you, Wolfi!

And then the “Pilots of the Year” award ceremony There was no shortage of candidates – so many pilots flew so well this year. And the 2019 winners are…

  • Hermann Klein (GER, MENTOR 6) got his award not only for his excellent flights, but for his outstanding commitment in organising the NOVA XC Team Challenge.
  • Chris Feichtl (AUT, MENTOR 6), in only his third year of flying, was ranked 3rd place in the worldwide standard class of the XContest.
  • Johannes Jakobi (GER, MENTOR 5 and 6) conquered the German flatlands and gave the CCC and EN D wings a run for their money.
  • Uli and Stefan Lauth (GER) became Co-Pilots of the Year. Their massive 232 km FAI triangle with their BION 2 tandem wing earned them the world record.
  • And Victor “Pope” Salinas and his MENTOR 5 had an outstanding flying season in Chile. Not only did he win the national cross-country league in all classes, in the whole of North, Central and South America there wasn’t another standard class pilot who could match Pope’s point score.

von links nach rechts: Sissi Eisl (NOVA CEO), Chris Feichtl, Stefan und Ui Lauth, Hermann Klein, Johannes Jakobi, Till Gottbrath (NOVA Pilots Team Captain)

The “Pipo Show” concluded the official part of the proceedings. Chief designer Philipp Medicus introduced the new paraglider projects. Luis Depping reported on his work with harnesses. Then we were all “neuralyzed” (it’s a Men in Black thing) so this information stays confidential. The general amnesia was also aided by the amount of alcohol consumed…

On Sunday NOVA had various optional workshops planned.  But the night before had left its mark… many decided to depart early as they had long journeys ahead.

I think I can speak for all pilots when I say many thanks to all who attended, for the laughs, the beers, the conviviality, the trust, the generous and warm hospitality – and even that the NPT even exists! I am already looking forward to the next season and the next Team Meeting.

Hugs to everybody, see you next year!

Roli Mäder