Navy Glider Pilots Flying High
In some of the best soaring conditions across Europe, HMS Heron Gliding club took part in the annual Royal Navy Gliding and Soaring Association’s summer expedition to Le Blanc, France over three weeks in May.
During the expedition, attended by Royal Navy flyers from the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, Lieutenant Tim Wills, currently working in the Operations department, achieved the Federation Aeronautical International (FAI), Silver qualification. The internationally recognized qualification is a major milestone for cross-country pilots. To gain the Silver qualification a pilot must, whilst airborne gain a height of 1000 metres, (3281 feet), fly on a straight course of more than 50 kilometres and achieve a flight of over five hours in endurance.
Conditions at the “Mecca for Gliding enthusiasts” in Le Blanc, France were near perfect for the RNGSA Gliding expedition of 2012, led by Lt Will Ellis of 727 Naval Air Squadron from Yeovilton. In all, 16 service pilots of all abilities and experience took the opportunity to gain qualifications and up their standards. Midshipman Mark Huxtable currently working in the Permanent Joint Headquarters in London also achieved the height and duration parts of his FAI Silver qualification together with five other RNGSA members who flew individual parts of both Silver and Bronze levels. As well as the beginners there were some more experienced members achieving personal bests, clocking up flights of over five hours and one as long as nine and half hours.
Distance record markers were also pushed out for the Navy Flyers, one to a far as 700 kilometres. Le Blanc certainly produces the top conditions in Northern Europe. “Le Blanc provided the sort of soaring conditions that we very rarely get in the UK and I learnt a lot from the RN team pilots. There is a lot of support available for those who want to take up Gliding in the RN and I would encourage anybody who is thinking about having a go to take advantage of it.” Said Tim Wills.
Tim recently re-soloed a glider at Heron Gliding Club, and has made rapid progress towards his cross-country qualifications, which will enable him to compete in competitions. Following on from the success of the RN team at last years Interservice Gliding Championships (where we won the team trophy for the first time), Tim looks forward to being including in the Royal Navy team in the future.
Lt Will Ellis would love to see other RN/RM’s take up Gliding. “It’s excellent to see new blood coming into the sport. The opportunity exists within the RNGSA for beginners to make rapid progress up to competition standard and beyond, and it is very rewarding to see Naval Service Personnel taking advantage of this.”
The Inter Services Gliding Championships for 2012 are taking place at RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire this year from 04 – 12 August 2012.A RNGSA development week - An expedition for 12 glider pilots to try gliding for the first time and 6 to develop their skills will be held at Lee on Solent, with the assistance of the Portsmouth Naval Gliding Club from 10-14 September 2012.