Our History

A meeting in August 1930 saw the establishment of the “Belfast Gliding & Aviation Club”, which later became the Ulster Gilding Centre that we know today.

Ours was one of the earliest clubs to be formed in the UK; the British Gliding Association itself only having been created in 1929. Our first glider was a Reynard primary trainer. The image below gives you the flavour of what early glider training looked like. Your first flight was also your first solo! Very different from today…


14th March 1931 First flying meeting. Gliders hand launch by bungee.

First locations fields at Comber & Ballymiscaw then also at Clandeboye flights of just a few seconds. Activity moves to a larger area at Holestone, Doagh where they do hand launches & auto-tows (bungee attached to car via rope and pulley).

Reynard Primary trainer awaiting launch at Holestone Co Antrim 1931.


Auto-tow from beach Minerstown; flights of 150sec.

Then 5 mins But no proper soaring yet. One or two landings in shallow water… July 1932 Operations tried at Benone Strand, Magilligan; ridge soaring now possible: 25mins.

Pre-war at Benone Strand.


Eight different launch sites used, still exploring…

Including Knockagh, with bungee launches from top, landing both back on the cliff-top or at its foot.

1934: Single Seat Grunau Baby ready for Catapult launch from cliff overlooking Benone Strand.


First flights of over 5 hrs and over 50km.

1936: A Falcon III 2-Seater on Benone Strand.


WW2 no gliding.

Flying resumed 1946; at Benone Strand, Magilligan – but rationing & recession limited the activity for many years.

Single Seat Kirby Kite being rigged on Benone Strand.


Club is re-located to the ex-RAF airfield of Long Kesh.

Launch by auto-towing & aerotowing.

Long Kesh 1967: Members and visitors at the launch point.


Flights of over 100km; heights of over 13,000ft.


Evicted from Long Kesh to make way for military purposes – moved to Newtownards.


Flights of over 300km.


The Club relocates to a rented site at Bellarena, quite close to the present location.

First Site at Bellarena


The Club has an opportunity to buy ground of its own. Moved to current site.

The Current Two Seat Gliders at Bellarena


The Club celebrates its 90th year of operations.

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