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(PPÖ/Wels) – The regional aerodrome in Wels, Austria, saw an historic event earlier this month: more than thirty Caravelles and Explorers, known as CaEx, aged 13-16 from the Upper Austria region of Pfadfinder und Pfadfinderinnen Österreichs (PPÖ, the National Scout Organisation in Austria) took part in the first Air Scout Camp to be held in the country in more than sixty years.
“We called this event BELT-UP, as in ‘fasten your seat belt and lift off up into the air’”, explains Chris Shaw, a Scout Leader in Upper Austria with past experience of Air Scouting in the United Kingdom, “and invited any CaEx in the province, who would have an interest or was curious about the various fields of aviation.”
Many more than the thirty-odd participating Scouts and Guides would have pitched their tents just next to the runway for this unique experience but due to recent disastrous floods effecting the region, a number of local Scout Groups were in fact offering their services to communities requiring help in clear-up operations.
“Many of us share mankind’s dream that once made Ikaros construct some wings to take off and fly like a bird and admire the landscape from a bird’s eye view” Chris recalled as some of the reasons which had motivated him and his team to plan and run BELT-UP, “And the history of Air Scouting goes back to the early days of Scouting itself.
How do birds fly and how do aeroplanes stay in the air? – these were just two questions participants dealt with at the beginning of their adventure: “The weekend’s programme was really packed,” told us Sebastian Brunschütz one of the participating Scouts from Ottensheim, “We only just had pitched our tents when we gathered in the big hangar for an intensive safety briefing. Each of us then built a simple Balsa wood model glider, which helped us understand some basic principles of aerodynamics.”
This was followed on the second day with initiation to basic aerial navigation principles: “This was not so difficult”, recalls Birgit Wögerer, one of the participating Scouts from Freistadt, “most of us had already acquired useful skills in Scouting when we prepared hikes and other expeditions, although the scales and potential obstacles are different. And of course there is not just ahead and back and left and right but also above and below!” This part also including properly planning and plotting the participants’ own flight plans.
With all these preparatory work done, the moment came for which an excited group of Scouts and Guides had been waiting for: the first of a series of flights in a two- or four-seats sports plane with qualified pilots from the hosting Weisse Möwe Wels Flyers Club in command and control.
“Of course many of us had decided to fly towards the picturesque Salzkammergut or even over our town or village like myself”, remembers Sebastian Brunschütz , “We all wanted to see what it looks like from the air!”
And so a memorable day continued. With more experience gained after several flights, the Scouts were allowed to take over the controls and actually fly the aircraft. And not just in motorised planes. Some experienced flying gliders with just the pilot’s skills and the wind keeping the aircraft in the sky and bringing it back down safely. Yet others tried their skills at power kiting. And when not up in the air, the Scouts and Guides discovered that the airfield was a small nature wildlife haven for certain flowers, plants and animals only to be found in that particular environment.
Day three of the Air Scout Camp began with another series of skill sessions on subjects like meteorology, the use of the phonetic alphabet in radio communications, aircraft marshalling and signalling, and on how aircraft engines work.
In the evening, the Scouts, Guides and their Leaders entertained their new friends from Weisse Möwe at a typical campfire and barbecue and thanked them for having made this event such a success.
“We are immensely grateful to Wolf Ruzicka and the team at Weisse Möwe,” said Chris, looking back on a memorable weekend, “They really did a wonderful job. Most of our participants were able to fly three or four times during BELT-UP 2013. And they learnt a lot about modern aviation sports and how aircraft fly.”
At the end of the weekend each participant received a certificate and was awarded a special “Young Aviator” pilot’s Scout badge. And many have indicated that they would not hesitate in encouraging their friends and others to attend the next Air Scout Camp in 2014!
Additional background information:
– Upper Austrian Scouts and Guides on the web and on Facebook
– More images from BELT-UP on Facebook
– The hosting Weisse Möwe Wels Flyers Club at Wels Airfield on the web and on Facebook
© images: BELT-UP 2013, Upper Austrian Scouts and Guides
© contributing author: Chris Shaw, Upper Austrian Scouts and Guides
Rupert comes from Austria and is the Executive Assistant to the Regional Director. His responsibilities include internal and external communications and administrative assistance in Regional events.
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