Mr Sebastian KAWA is one of the best glider pilots in the world, won an impressively long list of golden medals around the globe. He’s confident, knows his own abilities, but good-tempered and friendly at the same time. He is the winner of the 2nd FAI World 13.5m Class Gliding Championship in Szatymaz.
- Congratulations! You are world champion again. What is your secret, if there is any?
- I always do everything as precise as I can. As usual I prepared myself, the glider, and we have had very good weather conditions as well. If all these factors match, you can win, there is no secret at all.
- From the age 8 to 18 you raced in sailing classes Cadet, Optimist and 420. You regularly placed first in National Championships and was representing Poland in World Championships. What happened then, why did you change for gliding? Both driven by air flow, but nothing else is the same – I guess.
- My club went bankrupt. In the meantime, at the age of 16, I completed a gliding training and became a student pilot in July 1988. That happened in my home airfield in Jar, close to Bieszczady mountain region. I flew the first time with my father in a two-seater. For the next 2 years I advanced in subsequent stages of glider pilot training, logging over 200 hours. In 1989 I gained my first "diamond" to the gliding badge (declared 300 km closed loop flight) and made the 3 km+ gain of altitude flight. I trained extensively in Pirat, Junior, Foka and Cobra gliders. I also obtained glider ratings for night and instrument flying. During this time, I also commenced extensive cross country flight training. It was my father who transferred me the knowledge and experience what is necessary to compete effectively in this sport.
- Not an everyday story to make a change like that.
- It was not an easy way to start something completely new, but it became clear that it is running pretty fine as well. I already knew how to compete. I had to learn some new technical tricks. So, on my first competition in Poland I won almost every day.
- You are a natural born talent.
- It is not that easy, it was deep water for me. I was a junior, and there were many good senior pilots in Poland. But suddenly, I had a chance when nobody wanted to fly on a mountain competition in XX in 1997. The local (Polish) pilots didn’t have much experience with mountain flying, and they were afraid a little bit. I could enter, but only with an old two seated glider – “no problem, if you destroy it” – they said. I won some tasks and this was the moment when I seriously started thinking about gliding. Until this point gliding was a switch- off hobby, as I had studied and had had a family. So I took it more seriously and flew nearly all my free time, but you just can’t make your money on that basis. I’m also a medical doctor, (just like my parents) working at the General Hospital in Bielsko-Biała. I enter four major competitions annually, in different classes.
- Your major titles list is quite long, you have won everything. You can compare many airfields, WC and Grand Prix. How do you fell in Szatymaz? Please, give us an honest answer!
- The greatest competition I’ve ever participated was in New Zealand, the second in Chile, and Szatymaz is the third one. It is very well organized, including task setting, accommodation, facilities and so on. I really feel great here. Not to forget: weather was on our side too.
- You are quite successful in 15m, 18m, etc. Why did you start to compete in 13,5m too?
- It opens new horizons technically: light-weighted, easy maneuverability and with the help of a small electric engine your limits are far behind as it used to be. You can overlap disadvantageous circumstance and fly further. We need some new FAI rules to make possible to use our engine while competing, but I’m sure that a new era is coming soon. On the other hand I’m actively promoting the sport and teaching and training gliding enthusiasts at all competence levels (including student pilots). I think 13,5m class is cheaper, so this is a great chance to involve more people to our wonderful world of gliding.