Roli Mäder reports on the NOVA Pilots Team Meeting 2019
Another excellent year
But to organise a big event requires some planning and this can have its pitfalls. Roli Mäder, NOVA Team Pilot from Switzerland described the annual arrival procedure thus: "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. So a small group of us spent Friday hiking the Gratrücken between Wiedersberger Horn and Hamberg. Not as good as flying, but still a lot of fun. A flew little snowflakes danced in the wind. We had brought our wings, but they stayed at the mountain station.”
Alternative programme for a good time
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. It’s a shame when the weather doesn’t comply, but every paraglider pilot knows the vagrancies of conditions. But even the rain couldn’t dampen our, or Roli’s spirit: “There was no chance the previous day, and sadly Saturday also proved impossible, even for a top-to-bottom. 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 for all participants. Finally it was about flying again - even just theoretically. 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. The NOVA team pilots had the chance to have a look behind the scenes. “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.” explained Roli.
Fun, games and excitement make you hungry
The adventure down the mine and the visit to the NOVA head office certainly gave everyone an appetite. So back to the Köckenhof. Roli explained: “We sat down for the first round of the plenary. Team 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. The evening meal was locally sourced Schnitzel and the classic Austrian dessert Kaiserschmarrn. Yummy.” Like every year, after dinner the important part of proceedings takes place. This wasn’t Roli’s first time, so he knew what was coming: “In in the afternoon a certain party mood had already set in and the NOVA bosses doubted whether we could still be persuaded to continue with the presentation. The party animals were already warming up the crowd.” :)
In the end, everyone did return to 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. Roli and the other team pilots wanted to give Wolfi a big surprise: “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. 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”presentation. 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” Salinasand 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.
The “Pipo Show” concluded the official NOVA part of the proceedings. This part of the evening also wasn’t new to Roli. “Chief designer Philipp Medicus introduced the new paraglider projects. Luis Depping reported on his work with harnesses. Then we were all “neuralyzed” like in the film Men in Black, so this information stays confidential. The general amnesia was also aided by the amount of alcohol consumed…”. A fact that we can completely confirm. The Saturday evening of the Pilots Team annual meeting is always the highlight of the event. On Sunday various optional workshops were scheduled. But the previous evening left its traces and after an huge breakfast, a team photo and a bit of relaxation, the first people finally set off for home.
Roli summed up the event: “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 (NOVA Pilots Team) even exists! I am already looking forward to the next season and the next Team Meeting.”