Team NZ World Hang Gliding Champs, Brazil 2017


After Team NZ has finished fighting it out on the water in Bermuda in July and hopefully bringing the silver wear home to NZ the Kiwi Hang Gliding Team will be off in August to give it their best shot in Brasilia, Brazil at the 21st FAI World Hang Gliding championship.

This is the first-time NZ has had a team at the worlds in Brazil and they are all looking forward to competing there as it will be the last time that goal will be in the middle of the city at Esplanada Park due the airspace being increased. The team have had a busy season competing both here and in Australia over last season. John and Derek have bought gliders in Brazil, Derek a T2 and John a 2015 full carbon Laminar 4.1 which he is excited to fly since last flying Viv’s Laminar at Dalby 2 years ago. Jonas will be competing on a RX3.5. Jonas is already in South America as he has a job in Santiago, Chile. He will make the 3,911.5km drive to Brasilia from Chile with his girlfriend Eilysh and one other to help with the driving. what a road trip! Hagen will also be flying to Brasilia as he is the team manager and ground crew along with Eilysh. Hagen will also be sending live updates which will be posted on the NZHGPA website. The pilots will have live tracking at the worlds but it will be up to individual pilots to post themselves on Airtribune. The Aorangi Club is helping out sponsoring John and Jonas with part of their entry fee and it looks like the Clanterbury Club will be doing the same for Derek. The Hang Gliding committee is also giving the team free entry to the next Nationals to be held at Murchison next year.

The team have a sponsorship page here. Any contributions would go a long way.

A bit of background on our Team: 

John Smith  is ranked 87th in the world at present and has had a colourful career hang gliding both here and around the world. John learnt to hang glide in 1993 and was the best up and comer pilot at the 1994 Nationals in Queenstown. Having a passion to fly at an early which lead to desire to fly fast and low to the ground took John to 2nd place at the speed gliding champs in Queenstown in 1997 and a first place in 1997 and 98. In 1997 he made his way to South Korea where he placed 2ndthere. At the World Speed gliding championships in Greece in 2000 he came 2nd and at Kitzbuel, Austria he placed first at the Red Bull Speed Run in the same year. This gave him the number 1 placing in the world at speed gliding for 2000 – 01. His passion was then turned to instruction which he did both in Queenstown, NZ and Canungra, Australia. There he started to compete at events in NSW and Queensland, his best result was coming 2nd at Dalby in 2013. John has won the NZ National three years in a row 2014-17 This record only to be equalled by Dave Newton who won it 2007 -2009 but 5 times overall. He also holds the NZ XC distance record where he has bettered his own record twice, which now stands at 202km. His first trip to the worlds was at Forbes where he came 15th at the pre-worlds in 2012 and 47th at the Worlds in 2013. 

Jonas Lobitz learned to hang glide aged 13 under the instruction of his dad, Hagen. He went to his first Nationals aged 15 in 2008 at the Wairarapa and ended up coming 16th. The following year aged 16 he competed at the Havelock nationals and finished 2nd behind Dave Newton. That year he also competed for the first time in Manila, Australia at the New South Wales State Titles and placed 16th. Since then Jonas has competed in many competitions in both Australia and around the world. He was placed 42ndaged 17 at the world championships in Italy in 2011. At the 2013 World’s in Forbes, Australia and the 2015 World’s at Valley De Bravo in Mexico he came 25th, both times placing as top New Zealander. After Mexico, Jonas and Wolfgang Siess (Austria) launched a promotional hang gliding project targeted at young people called “The Rhythm of Flight”. The two flew and competed at various flying sites and competitions around North America.  The two filmed a twelve episode YouTube web-series and released various social media content. One of their stops was at the Canadian Nationals where Jonas placed 2nd. Last year Jonas completed his Mechanical Engineering degree with Honours at the University of Wollongong in Australia and then worked for 5 months in Dunedin; at present, he is currently completing an internship in Chile. The Brazilian World Champs will be his 4th World Championships. 

Derek Mckee was FAI ranked 2000th 2 years ago and is now ranked 452nd. He took up hang gliding 7 years ago and has put his heart and soul into it. Three years ago, he decided he wanted to compete at the worlds for NZ. This will not be the first time he has competed for NZ internationally. After winning National pole vaulting titles in Junior and Senior classes, Derek competed for NZ at the 1990 Commonwealth games in Christchurch. Starting hang gliding late in life Derek had a lot of catching up to do so that he could keep up with his fellow pilots. Over the last 2 years Derek has been to Australia 4 times to improve his flying and get enough FAI point to go to the worlds. Last season Derek flew with John Smith to try and beat the NZ hang gliding distance record, came 9th  at the Nationals this year at the Paeroa’s, won the Omarama Classic for the longest flight, 116KM and the cup for the best distance over 3 flights 276Kms. Derek is very committed and has a track record of achieving his goals.

There is provision for 150 pilots to fly at the worlds, and with 156 on the list there will be a few unhappy pilots.
John and Derek fly out on the 2 August and they will all meet up in Brasilia on the 4th.

Good luck boys! 


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