LAST weekend, thanks to winds producing a phenomenon known as atmospheric wave, glider pilots from the Canberra Gliding Club at Bunyan (near Cooma) were having a ball.
While most of Canberra was being buffeted by the freezing winds and the skiers at the snow resorts were cursing the poor visibility, a dedicated group of high-flyers relished the opportunity to use the winds to their advantage.
Canberra’s gliding fraternity waits expectantly for the winds that enable flights to be extended to potential heights above the passing jet airliners and to travel considerable distances without engines.
On Saturday, the conditions allowed me to achieve a flight that has been recorded as the highest height gain for several years reaching to well over 24,500ft, travelling from Bunyan (near Cooma) the home airfield of the Canberra Gliding Club to Bredbo then on to Adaminaby and the Snowy Mountains, near to Perisher, and Jindabyne, and back to Bunyan, via Cooma.
Glider pilots, like skiers, are drawn to the region at this time of the year to experience the wave conditions. Some will try to break height records while others will attempt to obtain the ultimate badge a glider pilot can win, the much valued diamond badge.
Diamond badges are so hard to win that only about 200 have been awarded in the last 80 years that the sport has been conducted in Australia. As part of the badge requirements, a glider pilot must make a recorded flight that records a gain of height of more than 16, 404 ft (5000m).
The Canberra Gliding Club services the Canberra region and welcomes any member of the public to join them on weekends or public holidays. The club flies from a field 12km north of Cooma, at Bunyan on the Monaro Highway.