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Thermal Flying: Burki Martens Q&A

Tuesday 12 February, 2013

Author, pilot and publisher Burkhard Martens has updated the English edition of Thermal Flying. We asked him about the book, and himself

Burkhard Martens, author of Thermal Flying

Burkhard Martens, author of Thermal Flying

Hi Burki. The new book is great, well done! First, tell us what is new in it?
I asked some very good pilots to write articles on thermaling and cross country flying, which really adds to the book. I have changed and updated a lot of pictures to show new gliders, and I have added by a lot of new tips and updated several of the chapters. It’s bigger – now the book has 296 pages.

Let’s talk about you. When did you start flying?
In 1989 in central Germany, but in 1990 I went to south Germany to the foothills of the Alps.

And do you get the same buzz out of flying now as you did when you started?
Interesting question, and first I would say yes. But it is little different. I am very enthusiastic in cross country flying and now, in contrast to my earlier years, I am much more careful. I am afraid of turbulent air and try to avoid it wherever possible. But still, flying is the best sport in the world for me.

You’re just back from a trip aren’t you? Was it a flying trip? And what were you doing?
My wife and me have been on a trip in South America for one year. It was not only flying, but every place we went flying was possible. We were in Patagonia for three month and we flew only five days. The weather was great. We started in Brasil in October to December, then we went to the south in Jan to March. When it was getting cold there we went back to the north of South America. From May on there is the dry season. All together in this year I counted approximately 20 rainy days.

You fly hang gliders too. Do you fly both regularly?
I started hang gliding in 1998 and had some great flights but at this time I was running a paragliding school and tried to win the German paragliding cross country cup (this took a long time, and I did it in 2004 and 2007 – after I sold my school!). So I did not find the time to do both. But still I am interesting in hang gliding.

Where do you do most of your flying?
Most of the time I fly in the Eastern Alps up to Switzerland (south and north side). But I have also flown a lot in France, and all over the world.

And what are your personal bests? Longest flights, any records etc?
Oh, this is hard to remember. There were a lot. My furthest was 293km in Quixada, Brazil in a poor year 2011, this was the best flight in the Quixada Trophy 2011. In 2012 they flew much further. I have some speed records in Triangle and I flew an Out-and-Return 200km with an average of 34km/h.

I flew a goal flight of 280km, also a German record. The oldest FAI record I have is my tandem speed-over-25km-triangle. The longest in time flight was in 2003, 245km in 10 hours – there I flew 30km in the valley convergence and landed at 9.15pm.

Paragliding has been through quite a lot in recent years. Does the updated Thermal Flying take account of that?
Yes, I have updated everything in the new edition where things have changed.

Apart from your home sites, where in the world have you enjoyed flying the most?
Quixada, Brazil is a perfect place to fly far. I also love very much flatland flying. In Spain I had some nice flights in Piedrahita. I love to explore new flying sites and lots of them are great places.

I have flown in America, South America, Africa, Australia and in most countries of Europe. But to be honest, up to now the best sites of the world are the Alps. From the east to the west and south to the north.

If money and time was no object, describe your perfect ’round-the-world’ flying trip…
This is not complete because I don’t yet know the Asian sites. So, from experience I would recommend as follows for the XC-Cracks:

March: South side of the Alps, foothills – Bassano
April: South side of the complete Alps foothills
May/June: North and south side of the complete Alps foot and centre hills
July and August: the Alps, but only the central Alps
September: Dolomites and other absolute high regions of the Alps
October/November: XC-flying in north Brasil
December: Manila in Australia
January: Rift Valley in Kenya
February: I’d take a holiday!

Thermal Flying

Thermal Flying

You are a mini publishing powerhouse – Thermal Flying has been published in everything from Russian to Japanese. When you first started, did you expect it to become so successful?
This is a good question. It took me one-and-a-half years to finish the German edition. I printed a lot of books because the printing costs are not so high when you do a lot. But the risk for me was enormous. A lorry came with 12 pallets of books. I said to my wife: “Hopefully we can sell this seven tonnes of books, otherwise we have a big problem with the money.”

But to be honest again, yes I believed in the book. I wrote it in the way I wished to have one when I started. And I think I am a normal person and that most pilots are like me. So there was a good chance that it could be successful. But after I had done the English edition, also on my own, a lot of other countries approached me to translate and sell. And this was really a miracle to me.

It’s a great book, a classic. Why do you think it’s so popular?
Because it is simple to read and understand. This doesn’t mean that the content is simple. It is hard to explain complicated matters in a simple way. I try to explain everything with a picture and write a few easy words. If I do not have a picture I paint an illustration. Some young pilots have told me that this was the only and first book they have read from the beginning to the end. The best praise for me.

And you have new projects too I think… what’s on the horizon?
I have a project and this comes in April/May this year. The continuation of Thermal Flying. “Cross Country Flying” is my next project. There I write everything after coring and the basics, how to fly far and how to plan flights. This book comes with interviews and tips from top pilots and a flying site guide of the best XC-Sites of the Alps with an exact description how to fly there.

And finally, you have 10 seconds to sell me the new Thermal Flying… why should I buy it?
It is a must have. You will become a better pilot because you understand better nature and how it works. And If you know this, you can react in the right way. You will make fewer mistakes, and fly further!

OK, thanks very much Burki – best of luck with the new book.
Thank you very much!

Thermal Flying was released in February 2013 and is available through the XC Shop

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