Nothing plane about gliding in South Gippsland
WHILE you might think catching a passenger flight is a thrill, it doesn’t compare to gliding.
The ultimate adventure sport requires the pilot to harness the power of nature to stay airborne whether flying long distances or soaring at high altitudes.
“It vastly contrasts to being on an airplane – it couldn’t be any more different,” local glider, Max Speedy said.
“For starters, it’s quiet, and the view from a glider is brilliant. They have cockpits so that you can see forever.”
Unlike passenger aircraft, gliders are engineless and are powered only by gravity and air currents, allowing them to move silently through the sky.
Additionally, gliders travel at relatively low speeds, with Mr Speedy saying 100km/h was his typical gliding speed.
“We just cruise, it’s more fun that way,” he said.
“It’s graceful and here where we have lots of eagles, you can go flying with them. The eagle will probably outsoar you, but it’s great fun trying to catch up.”
According to the gliding enthusiast, the bush surrounding Leongatha airfield is home to several eagles.
When spotted soaring, they are a good indication of ideal conditions and thermal lift, meaning prolonged flight time for gliders.
“They are the first sign it’s time to get out and go flying,” Mr Speedy said.
For Mr Speedy, it was a sport he was introduced to as a teenager and one that formed his career flying airplanes with the Fleet Air Arm in the Royal Navy.
Following a long and successful career, he pursued gliding into retirement and is now one of five instructors with South Gippsland Gliding Club.
In his nine years instructing with the local club, Mr Speedy estimated he’d made 800 trips into the air.
His enthusiasm for the sport was evident when talking to The Star.
“There are two ways to get into the air with a glider,” he explained.
“The traditional way is being towed up by another airplane on a 55 metre rope referred to as aerotow. We have two or three at the airfield here.
“They can take you to where the thermals are on the day: that’s the greatest advantage of aerotow.”
The other way to launch a glider into the sky is via a winch.
“It’s very much like a kite. The winch will wind the rope in as quick as it can and off you go,” he said.
This method is great for short flights and training.
And for eager flyers, Mr Speedy can even demonstrate some of his acrobatic skills.
“We can do loops and rolls for those who are really game,” he said.
“When you are doing a loop, there is a moment when you are upside down and there is nothing between you and the ground but Perspex – it’s surreal.”
For those wanting to experience the exhilarating sensation of gliding and get behind the joystick, it’s a lot easier than anticipated.
Anyone can have a flight, no licence necessary, guided by one of the instructors at South Gippsland Gliding Club.
“If you like it and decide you want to be taught, you can then become a member of the gliding federation, join the club and work towards flying solo,” Mr Speedy said.
“But nearly everyone can do it. Some take to it like ducks on water. It’s awe-inspiring.”
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