Reach for the Skies – A Gliding Adventure

Pre-flight checks
Pre-flight checks

For several years I’ve been interested in the idea of gliding. I particularly liked the idea of flying in silence. As a birthday treat Deborah booked me a lesson at the Surrey Hills Gliding Club based at Kenley Airfield.

Kenley was one of the key airfields for the defence of London during the Battle of Britain. It seems to be open to the public and is only now used by the gliding club and air cadets.

There was almost no preamble or training, it was just ‘pop on this parachute’ and ‘be careful when you get in the glider’. Before I knew it I was strapped in and received the few instructions necessary. There were a couple of pre-flight checks and someone showed me how to get the canopy off in case of emergency and we were ready.

Take-off
Take-off

A winch was attached to the bottom of the glider and we had a quick three…two…one….and whoosh, the glider was accelerated from 0-60mph in a couple of seconds. The nose was pointed at the sky and in no time at all we were at 1000m. This was some roller-coaster ride.

The weather on the day was a little grey and cloudy which meant that there were few thermals to keep us airborne for too long. I’d taken my camera though and was able to get some shots of the south london/kent landscape. We could see a considerable way, right into the centre of London and with clear views of the millennium stadium and docklands. All too quickly the trip was over and we came in for a very short and slightly abrupt landing.

Kenley Airfield
Kenley Airfield

Due to the short flight time of my first trip I was allowed another go without paying again. This time I left the camera on the ground and decided to just enjoy the ride. When we at maximum altitude the instructor let me have a small go on the controls. First I lowered and raised the nose and then I had a go turning to the right then left. This was a lot more nerve-wracking than I expected it would be, but i’m really glad that I had a go.

Looking casual after my trip
Looking casual after my trip

All in all a really enjoyable time, i’d definitely do it again. See all the pictures from the day.

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