Gliding club hits turbulence

Taking flight . . . Participating in various roles in the NZ Airwomen's Cup competition are (from left) Holly Lyttle, Paul Marshall, Leah Ruddick, Allie Thompson, Roger Read, Alexandria Swain, 15, and Graham Erikson. PHOTO: CONNOR HALEY

It is fight or flight for the South Canterbury Gliding Club (SCGC) as a public meeting about the club’s future is to be held.

The club was founded in 1954 and operates out of the Richard Pearse Timaru Airport.

Several factors, including the lingering effects of Covid, have seen the club’s activity at a low ebb.

SCGC committee member Paul Marshall said the club was facing one of the most challenging points in its history.

‘‘A lot of factors have meant we’ve been very inactive these last couple of years.

‘‘We are at a point where we have to find out whether there is that interest in the community to have this thing going or make alternative plans on how we continue to operate.

‘‘Or not operate.

‘‘That’s the threshold we are at.’’

He said the first step the club is taking is holding a public meeting.

‘‘We want to get people who may be interested in learning to glide or being a part of the club to come along and see if it is worthwhile to keep it going.

‘‘We’ve got all our own assets, we’re not beholden to anybody and don’t have a big mortgage or debt so we are well placed from that perspective, but we just need more people to fly.’’

Mr Marshall, who had been with the club for multiple decades, said the club was currently sitting at about 15 members.

‘‘The problem is a lot of them aren’t local.

‘‘That’s the challenge with it.

‘‘They’re all obviously important to our club, but it is a challenge to get enough coming out on a regular basis to make the whole thing function.

‘‘If we had maybe four or five students turning up on a regular basis that would be sustainable and if you add between two to five every year to learn to glide that would make it work.’’

He called gliding a ‘‘selfish team sport’’.

‘‘The selfish part is you’re learning to fly, but you need a team to make it happen.

‘‘It’s also time demanding in a lot of ways and maybe we need to adapt.

‘‘The difference between an aero club and a gliding club is they have an engine, you can turn it on and off and book a specific time, whereas you might be coming out and spending an afternoon at the gliding club for one or two flights.’’

Club days are held every Sunday, with members making bookings for their flights.

Touching down . . . Alexandria Swain comes in to land after her competition attempt.

As part of looking to increase their activity, the club assisted with the NZ Airwomen’s Cup as part of the New Zealand Association of Women in Aviation rally last week.

Before attending the rally held in Ashburton over the weekend, four female gliders took part in a gliding contest held at the Richard Pearse Airport.

The club supervised the competition and also provided their glider for it.

The women took part in two competitions, the first being a tow to 2000ft with a series of flight exercises and the second a blind instrument flight.

They were marked on exercises like out-of-position recovery, precision landing, general airmanship and several other technical recovery manoeuvres and turns.

Mr Marshall said it was great to be able to support the rally and they would not have been able to do so without the financial support they were receiving.

‘‘We’ve had a bequest from the Jack and Enid Hutt Trust which helps us subsidise the flying for these operations and keep the outfit going.

‘‘We also use it for the school electives.

‘‘It’s really helped us be able to do these types of things.

‘‘The club is very grateful to the trustees that have helped the club along to be able to do this.

‘‘We’re really happy to have been able to offer the opportunity to the people attending the rally and have them come here to take part.’’

The club will now turn its focus towards organising the planned meeting, with the aim to figure out a new course of direction in July.