As reported a few days back Ari "Arska" Sahlström flew an astonishing 303 km on Thursday 16 May. Here some more details from Arska (as reported on the forum of ESV, the club of Paragliders of Southern Finland).
In the evening of Wed 15 May Arska suggested that a group of pilots would get together in the morning at the Oripää airfield. They declared Selänpää airfield as the goal. Oripää is located not far from the west coast in the south of Finland. The weather prognosis indicated a westerly flow and good thermals in a west-to-east corridor, approx 100 km wide, in the southermost part of the country, but some 50 km north of the coast. This is close to ideal as it is north of the Helsinki-Vantaa airport, but enables flying south of the other major TMAs (airport zones) and MIL CTAs (military zones). Thu 16 May was also a bank holiday which means that most MIL CTAs were closed. As is quite common here the pilots contacted air traffic control and informed about their plans so that the controllers would know what to say to inquiries....
Arska reports that conditions looked good, but that in the early phase of the flight it was difficult to stay up and that he was down to 500-600m several times. He also had to deviate a bit from the course. The cloud streets didn't really work well, there was typically very strong sink between the lines up thermals. But those thermals! They were strong for Finland, the best ones averaged 6 m/s.
Apparantly the goal was too difficult to reach (a bit too far north ?). Jouni, the other pilot that tried the task, came to within 15 km of the goal. Arska flew south of Uti airfield (picture), with a lot of parachuting activity.
Arska decided to forget the goal and fly as long as possible, in the direction of Lappeenranta (picture after 264 km). He radioed the airport control but control was closed and there was no traffic at all. Meanwhile cloudbase had gone from the initial 2000m up to 2700m. Such a high cloudbase is rare, and in our flatlands allows for long glides. So conditions improved all the time and once Arska had crossed the 300 km mark (picture, see bottom of XC-trainer on the left) after almost 8 hours of flying, he still had 1000m height and had to "work" his way down to land a bit.
Despite good preparations, but in line with Arska's style, his GPS logger didn't save a single track point... However he found some witnesses for his landing (picture). But then, for him this was only a training flight, to prepare for a world record attempt!
All pictures by Arska himself as published on the ESV forum.