Bernd Dolba | Under the African Sun

Bernd has won the WeGlide Free competition for Africa. An interview about creativity and the right mindset for gliding.
Bernd Dolba | Under the African Sun

⏳ Flight hours: ~6000
✈️ Current glider: Arcus M, Twin Shark
😌 Glider of your dreams: JS3 RES, it will arrive soon
🌎 Where you want to go gliding someday: Morocco once again

You have won the WeGlide Free competition for Africa, congratulations! You mentioned that this season was a bit special?

Thank you very much! Indeed, Covid was still the big topic. While the other airports canceled the season very early, we had a second plan: To send a 'last minute container' to Veronica as soon as the airlines would take up a regular schedule. And that luckily succeeded.

Your furthest flight was 1.273 km. Do you do anything special to achieve these large distances?

To be honest - not much. Living and eating healthy. Getting enough movement or going for a bike ride. I think a positive mindset is also very important.

All of your five biggest flights were with a Twin Shark. What makes this airplane special to you?

It just happened like this, it could have also been an Arcus. Nevertheless, the Twin Shark is without doubt an enrichment for the double-seater class. I like to fly it.

Have you had the opportunity to compare the performance to more established double seaters like the Arcus?

Yes, but that's not easy to answer. I think, above 150 kph the Twin Shark does have the edge. And the Arcus likes the weak thermals better.

On your second furthest flight, you declared a 1000km rectangle, however large thunderstorms often make it quite difficult to plan the exact flight route in advance?

I like to fly tasks. Having a look at the weather in the morning. See what is possible and try to achieve that. I often stick to my task very long, sometimes too long. I'm not the guy who turns around the moment that the average speed drops by three kph. For me it does not matter if I achieve 10 kilometres more in the evening. I fly because I like flying and I want to go places I have not been before.

Flying over the Namibian desert, what are your live savers in case you land out?

We have enough water in the wings, that's for sure. Clothing is very important, you don't want to walk the Kalahari in sandals. The electronic helpers are PLBs and SPOT. Not to forget my old Nokia, the battery lasts for days whereas a modern phone is flat after a day.

You are also the manager for the Veronica airfield which is located 70km north-east of Bitterwasser. Does the location have an impact on the distances that pilots can achieve?

In the start of the season Veronica surely has the edge. We are closer to the clouds in the morning.

Sebastian Kawa has also been to Veronica. Was there something that you’ve learned from him?

We have invited Sebastian to our program 'Discover Namibia' and he flew with a lot of pilots. What impressed me the most is that he really enjoys tho pass on his knowledge.

What I learned personally? Surely you can copy a lot from Sebastian, but you know, in my age you forget more than you learn.

After all these hours in Namibia, is there anything that still catches you every time you fly down there?

For me Namibia is more than just flying. To keep a soaring center like Veronica running is quite exciting and thrilling. Most of all I'm looking forward to my team and our pilots. We have a lot of fun down there and if one or the other great flight comes around for me, what could I want more?

Bernd in Namibia

Who does the most interesting flights in Namibia in your opinion?

I can't give you an answer and if I could it would be very opinionated. Many good pilots fly in Namibia every year. All in all, they make great and interesting flights. Another reason why Namibia is so popular among glider pilots.

Our impression is that you often choose interesting routes instead of just optimising for the most kilometres. Can you tell us something about the flight to Belgium and France that you did in May?

In France I crossed the Meuse on that day and went a bit further. Where I turned around the weather started to get really shitty, but Felix Kries went even further that day on a slightly different route, he reached the coast.

We have this in Namibia sometimes. An experienced pilot who has never been there starts flying completely different routes. He just flies off in the other direction because he doesn't know better - and it works. Of course, it is fun to fly long and fast routes. But I also like to try something new. Just fly to where you haven't been before. Just be creative.

You have also set up an OGN receiver in Veronica the data is used for WeGlide Live. Do you think OGN coverage will improve in the next years?

That clearly has priority, especially since it also serves our safety.

Thank you for the interview Bernd! Do you want to mention anything else?

I have a motto. There is life before death, not after. There are many people who have dreams that they postpone again and again. They say: I'll do it next year. Wrong. You have to do it now. Everything that is postponed is over. If you can do it now, do it now.