Learn to Fly

The idea for this feature started at our holiday hotel on Gran Canaria. Ironically, one of my priorities there was to pop along to Puerto del Mogán for a chance to "Plumb the Depths" in a tourist submarine, but our holiday rep, Jamie, was interested in heading in the other direction, upwards, on his leave back in the UK. Jamie had already had a "Journeys of Delight" experience most of us would envy, - driving a High Speed Train. Flying - that is, flying hands-on, was hovering near the top of his wish list. Like many others, he felt it could be an expensive business. Well, yes, it certainly can be, though the other side of the coin is that you may end up wearing a spiffy uniform and enjoying all the perks that go with it!

In the UK, you don't have to go through a pain barrier - around a hundred Gliding Clubs give you the opportunity to become as good a pilot as you want to be, - it takes time rather than money. My advice to Jamie was that you can turn up at a Club, (phoning the Club Secretary first is a good but not essential idea - telephone numbers are on the British Gliding Association web site), and be given a trial ride for a few pounds sterling. For many folk, that one ride is all they want, or you can become a member and learn how to do it yourself. Instructors give their time free, all you do is pay for launches and maybe any soaring time; this might come to roughly the same order of cost as your car journey to the site. Be prepared to spend at least a whole weekend day every couple of weeks or so, particularly during "ab initio" training.

Not knowing about trial flights, I started straight in with a week's course at Lasham, the UK Gliding Centre. My first (open) glider ride was 20 minutes soaring straight from a winch launch. The week finished with a real treat, a flight with gliding legend Derek Piggott.

These days, other low cost, high fun, alternatives include all the hang gliding variants as well. How about a powered parafoil for example? One virtue of these forms of flight is that transport on the ground is simply your car, so you can take off from the site of your choice whenever it suits you, which also makes life simpler in the event of a retrieval as well. This form of flying has its own association, the British Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association.

Mind you, retrieving conventional gliders from an outlanding is not necessarily done by trailer. At the end of an advanced course at Nympsfield some years ago, the Club's professional instructor, Mike Munday, and myself, took an open T21 trainer cross-country. The retrieve was an extended aero-tow at fairly low level, a most enjoyable experience, returning to base just legal at dusk. You can see this flight in the next pages:-

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