The Fafnir
A life history of a 1930's German Sailplane and of it's pilot, Günther Groenhoff

A decade of research by
Vince Cockett


Flight along the mountain route

On 15 April, Peter Riedel towed the three ' Griesheimer' pilots Otto Fuchs, Kurt Starck and Günther Groenhoff with the Flamingo to a 1000m releasing height. Fuchs and Starck landed south of Heidelberg, Groenhoff carried on to Buehl, Baden-Baden. That was 138 km and a new German distance record. Here is the report of Günther Groenhoff.

My sailplane flight from Darmstadt to Buehl

April weather! Sunshine, followed with a light showers and a fresh wind from northwest: the suitable weather, for which I had waited. Already, for weeks, on Griesheim Airfield attempts to tow gliders by a powered aircraft into the had been made with the 'Darmstadt' under the supervision of Professor Georgii. Now the first opportunity had come to put the lessons learned so far into practice.

Successively, three machines were towed up. I am flying the "Fafnir" in third place. At a height of 1000m I released from the tow-rope of the powered plane and have the luck to find a cloud front. Slowly I am lifted ever higher and even disappear for some time in the cloud. When I can see downward again, I was already over Odenwald. But now the descending air forces me very strongly downward so that I must fly fast into the lift of the slope at Melibokus. After soaring there for some time, I suddenly find favourable lift, which pushes me in few seconds from 900 to 1600m. I come out alongside a cloud and can fly away now in somewhat calmer air, directly towards Heidelberg. Like a holiday traveller I set off accompanied by the quiet whistling of the machine, I fly in the marvelous sunshine over the pretty cities of the mountain passes. Laterally, in the west, the bright glisten of the Rhine accompanies me. From down below came noises of car horns, bustling humans and hammering in a quarry. It is so beautiful, so quiet to glide! From time to time I lost height, but recovered again under a cloud. Time passes. It is now four o'clock. I want to cover a good distance before the evening calm. Thus: no time to lose!

At the turning point of Heidelberg comes the difficult part of my flight. Between Heidelberg and Bruchsal there is no slope in whose lift I could regain lost height. It is a distance of thirty kilometers.

At the turning point strong turbulence began. The lift at the slope did not give any height gain. With 1000 m I flew on and lost height slowly more and more. I saw another sailplane, which had started before me, in a meadow below. The comrade had thus failed today, exactly the same as in previous flights and had been forced into this difficult landing area. I begin to fight for each meter of height. In completely weak lift I win 200m, but this is sufficient in order to reach directly the first slope with Bruchsal.

I am pleased, however, to have overcome all the difficulties and enjoy in this happiness the view of the pretty Bruchsal with its wonderful castle. At low altitude I now have to fly along the slopes. I see many pretty small cities to the west of Karlsruhe whose names are unknown to me and fly over at approximately 50m height. The inhabitants shout and make signs to me. I answer only: “Hello, hello!” I have enough to do with my flying.

I am now at the Black Forest. The mountains become ever higher, and soaring should become easier now, but the evening comes and the wind turns and diminishes so that it becomes ever more difficult to get over the forests and villages. I still see close on my left Murgtal with its castle ruin, then straining hard I can see Baden-Baden, however, I have to decide to the land in a meadow at Buehl. The joy of the arriving at Buehl is great. Someone addresses me with my name. An acquaintance from Wasserkuppe.

How far had I flown I noticed by the dialect, which sounded strange and nevertheless so friendly to me. In three hours I had covered a distance of approximately 138km on a direct track and had brought with it the German distance record for me.