Melbourne pilot David Wilson, who became hooked on gliding when a workplace scholarship was given to him to the UK, has been fascinated by the sport for 50 years.
Mr Wilson was studying welding technology at Cranfield in the UK when he joined a gliding club. He flew solo there and is one of few Australians to hold a British Bronze C.
On his return to Melbourne he joined the Victorian Motorless Flight Group (VMFG) and is currently an instructor with that club.
His initial training was in a T31 open cockpit glider.
``In winter I remember the rain stinging my face as we came in to land on a snow-covered airfield,'' he said. Later, but still in the UK I flew in Bocian, Capstan, Tutor, Olympia, Oly 463, Skylark, T21 and TG3.
In the VMFG, I flew in many aircraft, including the long-wing Kookaburra, skylark 2, Boomerang Libelle, and, as the years went on, a long list of gliders.
``The club instructors at that time were very focused on teaching thermalling and cross country flying,'' he said. He was encouraged to enter competitions, including the very friendly Horsham week.
``Today the VMFG, now renamed Melbourne Gliding Club, has nearly 100 members, and, in my opinion, the best two-seater fleet in Australia, with two DG1000s, one DG505 and one Duo Discus.''
The club shares Bacchus Marsh airfield with clubs at Geelong and Beaufort and now has an increasing number of power pilots.
``I am also a member of the Gliding Club of Victoria, because I sold half of my ASG29 Glider to Tim Shirley, who has a hangar space there. Tim lives in Benalla, and flies the 29 more than me.
``He keeps it in immaculate condition, and I get to fly it in the Nationals and competitions like this Grand Prix!''
I enjoy seeing the countryside from the air. I enjoy getting an understanding of the way the air works to provide us with lift. Even after fifty years, I am still learning more about that.
What are your favorite flying conditions?
My favourite flying days are when cumulus clouds have bases at about ten thousand feet. Flying over new country, or over mountains where the scenery is spectacular.
He first joined a syndicate of four to buy a Phoebus C which he flew in 1967 in Horsham's third gliding week. The task was a free distance out and return.
``I remember flying north until I ran off the edge of my maps, near Ouyen,'' he said. ``I kept going to Hattah, turned for home and got back to Horsham at just after 4pm.
``With another map I could have gone well past Mildura. We don't get gliding days like that anymore – perhaps because of climate change.''
He also flew that glider in his first Nationals at Benalla in 1968.
``We exchanged the Phoebus for a Kestrel 19, then bought a Nimbus 2 after the Waikerie world comps. Later I became part owner of a Pik 20D, which I flew for nearly 15 years. I then bought an ASW24, which I similarly owned until a year ago. I bought an ASG29 nearly ten years ago, and am flying that glider in this year's Grand Prix.''
He said gliders had become much more streamlined with the introduction of fiberglass and carbon fibre. Maintenance was easier as was rigging. However the improved performance did not appear to be reflected in longer distances of faster flying, possibly because of climate change.
David Wilson flew in the first Grand Prix at Gawler nearly fifteen years ago and has taken part in several since. He enjoys flying out of Horsham and knows the country well.
His longest flight was 777 km in the ASW24, out of Narromine for a 750K diploma. He has two diamonds, but has yet to achieve the height gain.
David Wilson lives in Melbourne and is married with three daughters and seven grandchildren. A new house came with the criteria that it have a workshop large enough for glider form 2 inspections.
Michael P Hogan