Wednesday, 14 October 2015

fliegerhorst wasserkuppe

Over the weekend, H and I took a little stroll on the leveled summit of the highest peak of Hessen—the Wasserkuppe outside of Gersfeld and just in the Rhön mountain range over the state border.

We’ve spend quite a few afternoons watching the gliders towed aloft by small aeroplanes crisscross the horizons and come in gentle on the grass runway, and though a lot of others had the same idea as us on this bright October, everything looked somewhat transfixed under that day’s sun and it turned out to be a pleasant little walk around—through a lot more urchins were climbing over the Fliegerdenkmal than five years ago. I knew that there was some provision to getting a pilot’s license for a glider, which could be accomplished at a younger age than the usual minimum age to obtain a driver’s license, that ended up making the end process of the later license to drive somewhat easier, which drove some adolescents’ interest, but the idea—though possibly a little bit scary, is enervating besides. There are quite a few fly-clubs of this sort in our area. The Wasserkuppe, aside from its ideal local, has a long and innovative history, going back to the first decade of the twentieth century with university students experimenting with kites and short flights.
The first sustained, hang-gliding sessions happened here, about two decades after the first mechanical fixed-wing flight—as the properties of aerodynamics were not very well understood until this feat. Interest in the air-sail grew considerably with the end of World War I, whose conditions of surrender forbade German research or use into powered flight, and competitions in glider design were launched centred around the Wasserkuppe and in a few years, test-flights of all sorts of flying-machines, including the Messerschmitt and early rocket-jets, were conducted there. After the war, elements of the American and the French air forces occupied the summit, especially prized for its commanding view into the Iron Curtain, and the radom in the background is a remnant of those days. The recreational use of the mountain, however, was not restricted for too many years.