A flying recipe for success

A special event set by the GE Women Network in Bielsko Biala saw the presence of Sebastian Kawa, a gliding champion with a long list of achievements and many common traits with our people.

Mar 2022

At Avio Aero Bielsko-Biała, 8th of March has been celebrated in a very special way this year. The GE Women's Network group hosted an event open to all GE employees in Poland  and invited Sebastian Kawa - one of the most outstanding pilot in the history of gliding, 17-time World Champion and 9-time European Champion in gliding – as a special guest. The broadcast was attended by over 200 people on line.

Sebastian Kawa has many interests and an outstanding career: before becoming a pilot, he competed as a race sailor in Cadet, Optimist and 420 class, winning multiple titles in national championships. He also participated in the world championships and twice in Europe swimming in the Cadet class, in addition to this he wrote several books, he is also a member of the Bielsko-Biała Aero Club.

Sebastian is also known in the Polish gliding community for numerous web essays and films which made the sport popular. He co-authored the book “Polskie Szybowce 1945-2011. Problems of development” and authored “My wings. The second means the last”. He is also a qualified physician.

During the the event in Bielsko, our guest shared his rich experience and his own curiosity, determination, self-confidence, but also mindful teamwork. He revealed how he copes with pressure and growing expectations, as well as with emerging challenges and difficulties. How he motivates himself to continuous improvement, and discussed with the event's attendees the women’s presence in gliding.

Sebastian Kawa during his speech in Avio Aero Bielsko Biala, the event was also broadcasted.

What was the most difficult achievement in your sports career so far, was any of the dozens of championship titles won special?

“I won three times in a row the World Championships, even though my biggest success was in 2018, when I won 3 medals of the World Championship in various competitions. The toughest hurdle has been the start in the Chile’s Andes: that place is a huge desert, surrounded by high mountains with no end in sight, there is no way for foreign pilots to get to know this area. For me, an additional challenge was that the glider I was supposed to fly has been damaged during transport, the coating of the wings was rippling. So, I spent the week before the competition not only training, but also arriving every day before everyone else at 7:00 am to polish my wings and smooth them out to take part in the competition.”

Are there women in the sport of gliding and do they compete?

“Women are present, there are a few women who compete with men in the competition, for example Joanna Bidermann, but yet there are not enough of them. Very often there are a lot of girls in the beginner course, but they leave the sport very quickly. Either they treat gliding (just like many pilots) as a start of their professional career to then move to larger planes, or they go to professional or commercial aviation and take the captain's seat. Eventually, the rivalry in gliding is not as interesting for women as it is for men, who find it a lot of fun. In Poland, we have young women players who fly and we are able, probably among few in the world, to field a whole team of women. Ladies can fly and can do that way better than men! This is not a physical sport, you win here with skill, dexterity and with your mind, indeed”.

We live in fast times, many of us complain about the lack of time, please share your thoughts on combining professional life and passion, professional career?

“You can't!” Sebastian laughs. “Honestly, you need to have a very specific job, I personally know professional civil pilots who can arrange their schedule to end up a week in Nice, enjoying the weekend in a beautiful place, but, where is the family in all this? It is really very difficult if you want to take gliding seriously, it is actually a full-time job and, even more, you have to set travels, to train and keep an eye on the equipment. I try to limit participation in competitions, after 34 medals in the world and European championships, each new medal will not change much in my career. I also set myself new goals: this year I will head to the championship with the new Polish glider Diana3, if not for that, I would have likely given up. I am trying to limit my presence in competitions, to then have more time to train with youngsters, fly with two-person gliders, do new courses”.

A group picture with Kawa and the Avio Aero Bielsko Biala team taken right after the event.

The event gather much interest, especially because, through Kawa’s recounts, it boosted the distinctive spirit that also belong to the women at Avio Aero Polska

Have you wondered what you will do after your career ends?

“It can’t come to an end”, Sebastian laughs again. “In addition to world championships, I’m still wondering about several endeavors, like record-breaking, then to create new glider constructions, or take part in glide expeditions towards interesting places. The remaining challenges are, for example, flying over K2 or (even if very visionary) flying on a glider over Antarctica. There are even waves there, strong winds are blowing and there’s a large mountain range. It would be very interesting if you could go there.”

The event gather a lot of interest, especially because, through Kawa’s recounts, it boosted the distinctive spirit that also belong to the women at Avio Aero Polska. And the comment by Jacek Przygoda, plant Leader at Bielsko-Biała, can effectively summarize such experience.

“It is important to notice that the impulse for change - which Sebastian reported to us from his own experience as a key factor of his success - stays in many impulses for change around us, so the question is: can we perceive them, revive this motivation and take advantage of the environment in which we find ourselves?” said Przygoda. “In our business, we can find many similarities: sometimes we have motivations, and find new ways to use teamwork, support each other, communicate, or unconventional ideas ... I really wish everyone can find impulses that mean something to us, that make our hearts beat faster, and harness as propulsion.”

One of Sebastian Kawa's numerous gliding flyovers.

"The moment we accept that we may fail allows us to get rid of stress and act creatively”

At the end of his speech, Kawa left with a thoughtful message. "Very often in life we ​​have to decide on something. The moment we accept that we may fail allows us to get rid of stress and act creatively”.