Sebastian Benz chasing records in Australia: New OZ record achieved –  next goal… 400 km

Sebastian Benz chasing records in Australia: New OZ record achieved – next goal… 400 km

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Since November, the our Swiss friend has been attempting a 400 km flight in Australia. The NOVA team pilot has not achieved it yet, but he has bettered his own unofficial Australian record: on the 24th November 2013 he flew his Factor 2 375,26 km open distance, with an average speed of 44,34 km/h. With a further three 300+ km flights and two 200+ flights he is currently leading the world ranking in the sports class and is second in the serial and open class.

Here is a little interview:


Congratulations on your epic flights, Sebastian. Give us a brief description of your record-breaking flight. Was it easy?

Shortly after arrival in Deniliquin the weather already looked really good – good wind strength with nice little cumulus. I was not very well prepared and had left my phone at home. Luckily Ron lent me one. And my winching know-how was a little rusty, so I required three goes before I could leave. But from then it went really smoothly: perfect clouds showed me the way and I was on full bar to compensate for rather light winds. I had a critical moment around the 200 km mark, where I flew over lots of triggers – a forest, hills and dark fields but funnily enough, I found the thermal only 190 meters above ground level in the middle of a large wheat field. Sometimes you need a bit of luck. At 6pm the day was ending and I slowed down. I was able to climb to cloud base one more time, which incidentally had risen from 1100 to 2700 meters during the course of the day. I took every bit of climb I could and landed as the sun was setting. I only realised that I had broken my old record when I landed. After a three-hour walk I arrived in Forbes where I met someone who took me directly back to Deniliquin!

What climb rates were you getting on the big flights? How high was cloud base?

On good days 3 to 4 m/s, sometimes even 6+ m/s. At the beginning and end of a day I often fly very conservatively and will take anything that is better than 1m/s. Base height often depends on the surface temperature. If the surface temperature is 40°C, cloud base can be up to 4000 meters. And the ground level is only 90m above mean sea level!




In one of your 300+ km flights you had an average speed of 52.23 km/h. That implies high wind speed? Isn’t that dangerous?

The landscape around Deniliquin is extremely flat so there are very few obstacles like hills or forests. This makes it possible to fly in high wind speeds with relatively low risk.

What are the conditions like in the southern hemisphere summer in Australia?

So far pretty good. Windy and a lot of cold fronts, which create instability. There are very few pilots here. We are still gathering experience on which weather conditions give the best XC potential.



In Quixada there are queues on launch. Why does everyone go to Brazil and forget Australia?

Infrastructure is a problem. In Quixada there are people offering the whole package including retrieves. Here in Australia I rely on good friends. Ron McKenzie drives the winch and provides accommodation; mostly I hitchhike back after a cross-country. But that’s not for everyone.

Thank you for the interview and we wish you success in your goal for the 400 km.


Sebastian Benz’s flights:

XContest sports class ranking: