Experience Gliding in Romania

A chat with Iulian Sorin Chisu-M about this year's 1000 km wave flight and the gliding culture in Romania. Moreover, the big "Ohlmann" question: are there also missing links in Eastern Europa?
Experience Gliding in Romania

On the 14th of April, the Romanian glider pilots Nicolae Bălan and Iulian Sorin Chisu-M amazed us with a huge wave flight with an Arcus M. After this flight some other interesting uploads from different areas in Romania appeared. As this country is not too popular for gliding yet, at least for us, it is time to chat about the wave flight and the possibilities of gliding in Romania. We talked to Iulian Sorin Chisu-M, the Co-Pilot of the amazing wave flight back in April.

Hey Sorin, before we come to the flight, tell us something about you and your gliding career.

I am 45 years old, I started gliding in 1995 at the Romanian Airclub and accumulated over 2200 gliding hours, I am a gliding instructor since 2008, volunteering at the Romanian Airclub.

In 2016, I had the chance to fly at Omarama in New Zealand with Justin Wills and a few other mountain flying instructors and got to learn a lot about mountain and wave flying. In 2017, we have broken the ice on a lucky November 13th day together with Norbert Scarlat, and ever since started cross-country flying in waves in Romania.

In early 2020 I also had the chance to fly to Worcester in South Africa with Andreas Kessler, a great experience. After the pandemic came, I had the chance to rent an Arcus M - the famous V9 (thanks to Andreas Kessler and Uli Gmelin) for the 2020/2021 wave season to explore the unexplored wave patterns in Romania.

Let's talk about the 14th of April. How was the forecast? You started relatively late, right?

Weak wave was forecasted to start around 10 local time and strong wave in the afternoon, but also rain coming along with it.

We planned a short cross-country wave flight before the rain, so we woke up relaxed, had breakfast, a little chat over a tea, went to the airfield and prepared us and the glider for wave. There was no rush.

The flight was bigger than expected. Before we head on, where are the essential mountain ranges of this flight located?

We took off in Brasov (red circle). The idea is that there are lots of mountain ranges in the middle mountains (Ciucaș Bucegi, Postăvaru, Piatra Craiului, Păpușa, Lotrului, Cindrel, Parâng, Șureanu, Godeanu - they all generate wave) other than Făgăraș and Retezat which indeed are the most famous.

Were the weather conditions as expected?

We took off just in time to struggle in the too-westerly-wind weak wave on the Făgăraș mountains and by the time we passed on the west side South of Sibiu around 12 local time, exceptional weather pumped in, as forecasted - luckily, with no rain!

The wave on the Retezat Mountains was excellent, you could see the rain clouds to the south struggling to prevail, but the strong wave dried out most of the humidity - the classic battle between the front coming from the South-West and the wave, interesting to see.

Wave against humidity in the Retezat Mountains

On the second run, things started to look a bit different. There was still an outstanding wave all the way, but the foehn gap on Retezat was getting narrower. Nevertheless, we had an escape plan as the secondary wave was available and looked excellent.

It seems you had a lot of fun!

Yes, indeed, we were making analogies with commercial aviation with little "announces in the cabin" like this:

"Ladies and gentlemen we have reached our cruising level, the captain has switched off the fasten seat belt sign, for your safety we recommend you to remain seated with your seat belt fasten. We are starting our service on board, on the menu today we have homemade sandwiches, water, apples and frozen bananas, no alcoholic beverages available. Unfortunately the heating is not working today, also the toilets are unserviceable, but we can provide you with sealable bags."

Haha, lovely story! So this flight was not too stressful with difficult situations, wasn't it?  

Not really, it was by far the most relaxed wave flight I ever had, no early wake-up, no rush, no pressure, almost no turbulence, and no drama except the cold. A few planets aligned for this fantastic flight to happen. A privilege to watch from the front seats the spectacle of nature for hours with great company, lots of fun, and a special time difficult to express in words.

And a longer flight could have been possible, but we decided to turn earlier on the third run to get home safely before the rain.

What do you think is possible to fly in Romania on the perfect day in wave?

As Romania has several mountain ranges with different orientations, I would see more than one "perfect day". For the middle mountain ranges a dryer than usual day with Southern winds or a stable day with Northern winds, flights close to 1500 km would be possible.

Also, for the Eastern mountain ranges there is great potential on WSW winds, I was thinking before the war about flying through Ukraine to Poland and back, I even discussed this with Sebastian Kawa as he had similar thoughts starting from Poland.

Also, a 1000 FAI triangle could be possible in NW winds wave. If you look at the following screenshot, the SkySight wave forecast layer is quite motivating.

Possible 1000 km FAI wave triangle in Romania? @SkySght

Several long-studied wave patterns are waiting to be explored. Now we might get the chance to do this with the first private Arcus M in Romania. Thanks to the great effort and passion of Captain Nicolae Bălan!

Tell us something about the glider, it has a German registration. Is the Arcus M stationed in Romania?

Yes, it is the first Arcus M in Romania owned by Nicolae Bălan - an A350 captain and my mate on this flight. Fortunately, he got all the paperwork done one month before, and the Arcus got equipped with oxygen bottles some days back, just in time for this wave adventure. Luckily, the bottles were already filled with oxygen. Thank you, Peter! It would have been impossible for us to fill them because of the Easter holiday.

Fun fact: the registration of the Arcus is D-KMIA. In the Romanian language, MIA means one thousand - everyone here thought that it had to do with that, but actually, K-MIA comes from the ICAO of Miami International, where I and Nicolae met a few years ago and discussed the eventuality of such an acquisition.

Before we head on with the general part. Something to add to this flight?

Excellent service from all my radar ATC colleagues; we were spoiled. Thank you for your protection, and for assisting us in our adventure! Incidentally, this was the longest XC flight in Romania so far.

The mountain ranges you flew the wave above, how do they perform in thermals during summer?

These mountain ranges are really nice to fly on thermals, ridges, and convergences during the summer, even though it can get tricky sometimes as the landscape varies from high alpine mountains to widespread forested mountains with little outland options, so for those who like challenges there is a lot to explore and discover.

We saw a lot of excellent flights out of Ineu to the north-east as well, are there more interesting flying areas in Romania besides the two?

Yes, we had a great time at Ineu gliding camp this year. Good weather, long flights, and happy people. This year, I was able to do a huge flight in the Ka6. It was my first flight on this glider and a bit more than 600 km, a nice machine. Huge effort there, thank you, Patrick Puskeiler!

Romania has a great variety of landscapes, flatlands, hills, and mountains. You can fly in Namibian conditions on the western, southern, or eastern plains. In addition, you have alpine conditions on the mountains with ridge, convergence, and strong thermals with the possibility to jump from one area to another. Transylvania, with endless hills and valleys is also quite nice.

As I said before, there is a lot to explore with beautiful and challenging landscapes. One of my dreams is to fly on the Black Sea convergence or a big FAI triangle all over the mountain ranges in Romania.

Where does the Black Sea convergence appear? Is it possible to fly over to Moldova or Bulgaria?

The Black Sea convergence runs parallel with the coastline through Romania, Bulgaria, and even Moldova/Ukraine, and it forms almost every day. Unfortunately, in Romania, the area in which this convergence forms is covered with lots of military-restricted airspace with increasing activity since the war.

What about the gliding community in Romania? How many glider pilots and clubs are there?

The gliding community in Romania is pretty small compared to the European western countries but is constantly growing. The Romanian Airclub is sustaining all air sports and constantly investing in new gliders and overhauling the old ones. Young people can fly for free up to the age of 23 at more than 10 locations all over Romania. There are also a few private gliding clubs in Romania and more and more privately owned gliders.

Romania has a long tradition of gliding. Glider manufacturing started after WW1 with factories in several locations, such as Brașov, which unfortunately are all closed now.

What should a glider pilot have in mind if he wants to go on a gliding holiday to Romania? Which time of the year is the best? Which Airfield has infrastructure for guests? Can you rent a glider there?

The gliding season in Romania stretches from April to September, with the best time during mid-summer when the day is long, but nice long flights can be made also in spring or autumn. The Romanian Airclub has more than 10 locations where you can get a tow.

There are also a few private airfields, like Ineu, Poieni, and Topoloveni, where you can get airborne. If you have a self-launch glider, the take-off options are considerably more. The rental options are quite limited, inquiries should be made to either the Romanian Airclub or the private clubs from Ineu to Patrick Puskeiler or Topoloveni to Andreas Kessler.

Thank you, Sorin. We are excited about what to see in the future in Romania.