Hungary eyes double-gold at the FAI World Aerobatic Glider Championships

FerencTothWGAC2016Ferenc Toth stands on the brink of victory at the FAI World Aerobatic Glider Championships in Hungary as the competition enters its final rounds. The current World Champion has defended his title strongly at Matko Airport, south east of capital city Budapest, against a strong field of the best Glider Aerobatic pilots in the world. 

“I’m close to winning,” he said today, “I hope we get the chance to fly again. Normally we have six competition flights, but it seems we will get five. I don’t want to say anything until it’s over but…”

Ferenc is no stranger to the podium, with two world championship and two european championship titles to his name. “I have 15 or 16 gold medals in different championships, including team golds. But overall this will be my third one.”

A professional airline pilot, Toth puts his success down to being relaxed and focused in the cockpit rather than constant practice. “This year I had 50 take offs before the competition, but I think my secret is I can concentrate. Everybody is nervous, of course, it’s a world championship, but when I am in the aircraft, before I release I become calm, and I can concentrate for the next four or five minutes.”

Those next four minutes require total concentration, as well as skill, determination and nerves as pilots perform a routine of aerobatic manoeuvres in a field of play that stretches for a kilometre from top to bottom.

“Pilots are towed to above 1,200m and released,” explained the Manfred Echter, President of the International Jury here during the competition. “When they drop below 1,200m they are in the box and their programme starts. They perform a series of pre-determined aerobatic manoeuvres before finishing above 200m. Below that and they will be penalised.”

Each programme, or run, is made up of manoeuvres pilots and organisers select from a possible 10,000 different aerobatic shapes. “The possibilities are almost unlimited,” Echter said.

With 20 pilots in the competition, organisers work hard to get each glider into the air as quickly as possible. Four tug planes operate in two sessions, 9am-1pm and 2pm-sunset, to get pilots flying.

Tamas Abranyi is the Competition Director. An aerobatics pilot himself he knows that good organisation can make or break a competition. That and the weather. “The pilots are satisfied and happy, this is the main goal,” he said. “The weather has been sometimes marginal, but we have finished four programmes and now the fifth programme is running. We expect to finish it Friday afternoon. With five programmes that means a successful competition.”

He added: “At the beginning we were lucky with the weather so we could fly a lot. And we have been towing a lot, sometimes 10 or 12 pilots in an hour. We have been using all the possible slots we can for weather. The last four days have been a bit difficult, but we have been able to fly.”

In the team competition Hungary is also leading and looks on track to take Gold. “I am very happy,” said Toth, “The last time Hungary won the World Championships was in 2007. It will be a celebration.”


The competition will end on Saturday, when an airshow at Matko Airport will also be open to the public.

The 19th FAI World Aerobatic Glider Championships is the most prestigious and high profile glider aerobatic competition in the sport. Twenty pilots are competing. Running at the same time as the WGAC is the 7th FAI World Advanced Glider Aerobatic Championships, a less demanding class, which is being contested by 39 pilots.

Photo credit: FAI / Mika Ganszauge