From the air, the Nördlinger Ries district looks like a huge
expanse of fields surrounded by a fringe of trees. From 1000
metres up you can barely see the trees that form the vast ring
around the Ries. Right in the middle is the almost circular town
of Nördlingen, with its red tiled roofs. A huge meteorite impact
formed this landscape over 14 million years ago. This district, in
Swabia, with its rolling hills and excellent thermals, is one of the
most popular gliding areas in Europe.
As you cross over the wooded slopes of the ancient crater
and fly westwards, the A7 motorway soon comes into sight,
here running between Ulm and Würzburg. In front of it lies a
narrow airstrip, in a much larger area of grassland and surround-
ing fields. As you make your approach, the flight path takes you
directly over the motorway. On touchdown, you roll past dozens
of glider trailers. Numerous hangars are filled to the brim. There
are even small, powered aircraft packed close together and
hanging from the roof, almost like items displayed in a museum.
Aalen-Elchingen airfield is a long-standing gliding Mecca.
For 41 years, Idaflieg (Interessengemeinschaft deutscher akade-
mischer Fliegergruppen; the Association of German Groups of
Aerodynamics Students), an affiliation of the 10 groups of aero-
dynamics students (Akafliegs), has been hosting its three-week
summer camp here. During this meeting, new gliders are tested
exclusively by students, and complex measurement flights are
conducted. Time and again, alumni come to the meeting, having
been local aerodynamics students (Akaflieger) themselves, now
working in aviation research, the aviation industry or national
aviation bodies. They allow the young flyers to share their wealth
of experience, offer advice, and help out as towing pilots for a
few days. The support provided by DLR has been a part of this
for almost as long as the traditional meeting.
The DG 300 and Discus-2c measure the properties of
By Falk Dambowsky
A ‘saintly’ mission in
the Nördlinger Ries
Young aviation enthusiasts are building gliders, learning to fly them and preparing to become the aerodynamics
researchers and aviation experts of tomorrow. At their summer camp, they had the support of two gliders and an
aerotow plane from DLR.
The student glider pilots carry out a variety of measurement projects.
Threads and cameras on an aerofoil document flow separation
(above). A probe on the aircraft wing is used to measure the angle of
The two gliders DG 300 (below) and Discus-2c (top) during a
comparison flight. The ‘saintly’ DG 300 has been in use for nearly 30
years and tests the flight properties of new gliders. Soon, the newly
acquired Discus-2c will be sufficiently fine-tuned to follow in the
footsteps of its legendary predecessor.
Image: TU Braunschweig, Institute of Flight Guidance