I’ve always been intensely curious about the German soaring world, but felt cut off from it due to the language barrier. When I saw that Segelfliegen, the German soaring magazine, was now available in English, I jumped at the opportunity to get a glimpse into the hidden world of German soaring. Germany is the birth-place of the sport and the global nexus of the gliding industry. What secrets are waiting to be discovered in this foreign world?
Segelfliegen recently began offering an English-language edition, in digital form. A one-year subscription, which includes 6 issues (semi-monthly), costs 59 euros, while a single issue costs 10 euros, as of this writing. You can download the issues as PDF files. Since there is hardly any savings in paying for the annual subscription, it might make sense to buy individual issues if you’re not sure you want to commit.
I signed up for the annual subscription, and immediately downloaded the 2023 September-October issue. It contains an impressive 84 pages. Refreshingly, the number and size of the advertisements in the magazine are small compared to typical English-language magazines. Perhaps this is because ad sales have yet to ramp up for the English-language version, but I hope it remains this way.
I will focus my review on some of the more notable articles in this issue, but first I want to talk about the quality of the translation to English. Unfortunately, the quality of the translation varies from article to article. Some seem to have been automatically translated by software, or done by translators so lacking in skill as to be equivalent to software translation. The more interesting articles appear to have received some human attention, and the quality is acceptable for those. Hopefully, this is something that will improve over time. I would expect it to scale with the number of English-language subscriptions they sell.
The September-October issue opens with an opinion piece regarding Gordon Boettger’s recent world record distance flight of 3,058 km from Minden, Nevada. The gist of it is that the use of night-vision goggles to fly at night was “unfair” in the context of the record-breaking game. The author accuses Boegetter of essentially buying his way to a world record. He compares the flight to the insane endurance records set by glider pilots back in the day before such flights were excluded from official world recording-keeping. I agree that endurance flights should not be a thing for safety reasons, but does Boettger’s flight count as one? Maybe. I’ll leave that discussion for another time.
One article I particularly enjoyed was titled Traps in warm air-masses. It draws a line between the characteristics of thermals in warm versus cold air masses. It presents the “standard model” of a thermal and includes a discussion of the role that moisture content plays in lowering the density of the air in a thermal. It’s a fairly advanced discussion and it made a few points that I hadn’t thought of before.
Safety was a well-covered topic in this issue, with articles about flying safely in the Alps, flying safely in the mountains in general, safety on the ground, and the safety benefits of using Dynafoam, or other energy-absorbing foams, in seat cushions. I’m a big fan of this practice, and I use a Confor foam seat cushion that I find extremely comfortable. Hopefully it will protect my spine in a hard landing.
Overall, I’m glad I subscribed to Segelfliegen magazine. The topics covered by the articles are certainly interesting and worthwhile. The quality of the translation leaves something to be desired, but hopefully that will improve with time. I look forward to learning more about the German soaring world and how another culture thinks about my favorite sport.