Eric Schneider | A Rising Star

Eric Schneider will compete for Germany in the coming Junior World Championships. We talk with him about flying electric gliders and how we won the German Juniors.
Eric Schneider | A Rising Star

⏳ Flight hours: 1350
✈️ Current glider: LS 4b
😌 Glider of your dreams: Ventus 3F
🌎 Where you want to go gliding someday: Australia

This interview was recorded before Eric traveled to Namibia as the winner of the Bitterwasser Cup. He has done astonishing flights down there, including flying 1208 km on his first solo flight from Bitterwasser airfield.

Hey Eric, what are you doing at the moment?

I am currently doing an apprenticeship as a metal worker. This will take a total of two and a half years but on some of the best days, I will be able to fly during the week, thanks to my boss.

You have won the Junior’s WeGlide Free for Europe and Germany this year, congratulations. Which flights will you remember?

Thanks - of course, I will remember the biggest flight of the year with about 1050km. On that day I had already taken off half an hour earlier but due to problems with the engine, I had to land and start again. At this point, I didn't expect to be able to do a 1000km flight anymore so I tried to enjoy the free flight. After releasing at 10:15 I flew the first 350km with an average speed of 122km/h but then had some difficulties finding a thermal near the Swabian Alb due to some overdeveloped clouds. Later in the afternoon, I found a little convergence which gave me some free kilometers. To compensate for the lost time from the morning, I decided to use the engine after a long final leg straight to the south.

This year you flew the sponsored Discus 2cT ‘OLC’. The perfect glider for cross country flying?

I really love the Discus 2cT. It’s easy to fly, has a great performance and with the engine, you feel quite safe!

Did you need some time to adjust to the feeling of the Discus?

Not really, already during my first flight in 2020, I felt pretty comfortable. Switching from the LS8 neo to an 18-meter class glider I had to get used to the lower maneuverability.

Flying the Discus 2cT

How much water did you take with you on a typical cross-country flight?

I usually flew with 120 liters of water in my wings. More wing loading doesn’t make any sense when you try to start even before the first thermal. The weather conditions are just too weak in the morning.

Hammelburg was not really known for large-distance flights before. Do you think the airfield is a good starting point?

Basically, it’s a nice airfield for large distance flights but it’s not as easy as for example the Swabian Alb or the Thuringian Forest. The first developments are always in the north over the ”Rhön” sometimes it’s really easy to fly the first 50km but for a wide triangle, you have to cross a big valley to reach the northern part of the Thuringian Forest which also isn’t the best option in the morning.

But in the morning there are many spots in Germany where thermals appear earlier?

It always depends on the weather but in southern Germany for example Eichstätt, Regensburg, Aalen, and especially Bayreuth might be better spotted.

There is certainly a special flight you had in mind from Hammelburg for the perfect day?

Yes, last year with the Ls8 I had the perfect day from Hammelburg. In fact, the beginning of the flight was quite late in comparison to all other pilots. For example, Alexander Müller took off almost one and a half hours before. The weather was great all day long and I could keep an average speed of 105km/h over 1000km. In the evening there was a beautiful cloudstreet from Hammelburg to the northern part of the Thuringian Forest which enabled me to fly until 9 pm and an incredible distance of 1116km in total.

How does your typical preparation look like? Do you have a detailed plan of the flight or just take the weather as it is?

In the last years, I was keen on winning the Bitterwasser Cup, so I didn't declare any tasks. My plan always was to fly as long and fast as possible. Whenever there was a chance to fly a triangle I tried to do so in order to get some extra points. So the most important thing is to be ready before the first clouds appear and then to make the most of the day.

You also competed in and won the German Junior championships in Burg Feuerstein. What did you do differently from other pilots?

Due to the bad weather, it was important not to push too hard on the weak days. The most important day almost got canceled I think, but we all started the task within 3 minutes. So there was a big gaggle when my teammate and I realized that we had to fly fast to stay in the better weather. We quickly left our opponents behind us in weak conditions and were able to score almost 100 points more than the third place.

In September we saw some flights from you in Calcinate where you competed in the E3Glide. Was this your first competition in the mountains?
Yes, it’s not very smart to fly competition in unknown territory, especially if it’s in the mountains but I just had no expectations. I really enjoyed the week and I learned a lot! It was an awesome competition and in the end, I didn’t do that badly. Thank you very much for the glider, Tilo!

You have also competed at the E2Glide last year. How have the tactics of flying electric competitions by you and the other pilots evolved since then?

Since the weather was much better this year I think it made more sense to use as much energy as possible in a short amount of time. My favorite strategy was using full throttle when you pull up under a cloud because you would have flown slowly anyways and the FES is only efficient in the slow speed range. But at the beginning, I felt a bit insecure in the mountains so I saved most of my energy for the last leg which made me slow sometimes because I didn’t use the engine at the spots where it would have been necessary.

It was great to follow your progress to one of the best German cross-country pilots over the last few years. What were the most important learning processes for you?

I think there is no certain learning process. With every flight, no matter how small, you gain experience and on long days you can use all this experience to extend the flight as much as possible.

Do you do any other sports which you benefit from in gliding?

Besides gliding, I don’t have a special sport but I love all kinds of challenging games or sport that can be won by training your skills for example squash or table football.

The last two years were certainly very special flying the LS8neo and the OLC Discus. What are your plans for the next years?

Next year I will take part in the Junior World Championship with the LS4b. In order to feel even more comfortable, I will take part in German Championship as training and I will also do a lot of free cross-country flights.

You will be traveling to Puimoisson in Southern France with WeCoach next spring. What do you expect?

I am very happy to have been selected for the WeCoach program! Since I have almost no experience in the mountains, I think that the two weeks will be very instructive and I will definitely feel safer afterward. I think it’s going to be great fun.

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

You’re welcome. Fly safe!