Background about the Robert Kronfeld Challenge Cup

Courtesy of Fred Weinholtz, as printed in the 30 July, 2003 issue of the "Leszno Lift".

The-Robert-Kronfeld-Cup was awarded by the State Government of Austria on the occasion of the 21st World Gliding Championships 1989 in Wiener Neustadt. It is a challenge cup to be awarded to the pilot who flies the longest task distance during the championship.

Robert Kronfeld was the son of an Austrian dentist living in Vienna. When the young man visited the Wasserkuppe, he was immediately enthusiastic about the glider pilots and their activities. Professor Walter Georgii detected the great gifts of the young Austrian, who flew his A, B, and C Badges within a very short time.

Soon Robert Kronfeld was flying the high performance ships of the late twenties. His friends mocked him for his "apparent great hunger", because, when he entered a glider, he always carried a paper bag for rolls and a thermos flask with him. Nobody knew that he was trying out an instrument which the balloonist already used, the variometer (climb and sink indicator).

Professor Georgii had asked him to test it, but to tell nobody about it, because both of them had not been unsure of its success. But Robert Kronfeld had a lot of very successful thermal flights and was doing a great service for the research of these kind of up currents.

In 1926 with the thunderstorm flight of Max Kegel, a real cross-country fever broke out. The great challenge was the 100 km distance. The "Gruene Post" - a German weekend magazine - offered 5,000 Marks to the first glider pilot flying this distance, which was the amount of 45 monthly wages of a married teacher. But the project was very ambitious, because at those times, cross country flights were made along hill chains by ridge soaring.

Robert Kronfeld found the Teutoburger Wald, a chain of low hills, a bit more than 100 km long, from NW to SE. On May 15th 1929, the ridge lift seemed to be OK. In his glider "Wien" he was bungee-launched near Ibbenbueren and flew - often very low - in the direction South East. When he arrived at one of the many gaps in the hill chain, he was waiting for a cumulus cloud, climbed a few metres in the thermal and jumped across the gap. After five hours he landed at Horn-Bad Meinberg near Detmold, 102.5 km away from his launching point. This was a world record. Enthusiastically, he mentioned the strong thermals above the "Senne", a sandy area near Oerlinghausen, which was the reason for founding the now famous German gliding field, which was - with 54,000 launches per year - the busiest one of the whole world in the 60s and 70s of the last century.

From the award of 5,000 Marks, Robert built the "Austria", with a span of 30 metres, the biggest glider of those times, which unfortunately broke up in a cloud. Robert Kronfeld was a jew. When Hitler and the national socialists took over in Germany, he immigrated to England and became a British subject. He was killed after the second world war, when he was testing a tail-less glider which was spun into the ground.

Now the state museum of Northrhine-Westfalia, the state where the record was flown, wants to open an exhibition on Robert Kronfeld and his first 100 km flight in 1929.

Article contributed by Fred Weinholtz, as printed in the 30 July, 2003 issue of the "Leszno Lift".

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