Sandy and John Williams like to have their heads in the clouds. John has been gliding for 47 years, his wife for 19.
“You shouldn’t be nervous,” says Sandy, “because when you get up there, there’s such a beautiful, peaceful tranquillity of looking down at the patchwork quilt of fields.”
The couple are two of the 60-member Trent Valley Gliding Club, and they spend most days at its Kirton airfield base.
“It’s the thrill of flying without an engine and using the challenge of your skills to stay airborne and go places,” John says of gliding’s appeal.
This Sunday, July 13, the club stages an open day to show the public how inexpensive and fun gliding can be, letting them go up in a two-seater training craft, as I was shown. The open day also includes a flypast by the Battle of Britain Dakota plus Second World War fighter aircraft- the Spitfire and ME 109.
Before we set off, John and a colleague checked over the plane to ensure safety, something they do every day. Despite the apparent fragility of the craft, they are made of tough materials and pilots and passengers do wear parachutes. The British Gliding Association reports just 10 deaths over the past 40 years.
Soon we were pulled along and catapulted quickly into the air. Admittedly, it was a little scary at first and after a few choice words we were stable and gently gliding along, able to see the patchwork quilt of fields below Sandy mentioned earlier.
It was only a short flight, but if you let it, the wind can take you away for hours. We glided above nearby towns and villages for 10-20 minutes, having topped 1,000ft, before gently heading back down. Looking at the fields, houses and even horses, it reminded me of coming to land in a scheduled airliner.
Despite some nerves, I certainly enjoyed the flight. Gliding is definitely something to try at least once in your life. If you fancy more, you can also learn to fly solo, something typically taking, 70-80 flights, with the club keen to help.
“We have a club atmosphere. You need other people to get you airborne. We are a self-help club. Everybody volunteers.” John added.