Ulster Gliding Centre is run on a voluntary basis by its members. While gliding can be seen as an ‘individual’ sport it is a team activity with everyone joining together to ensure a safe and smooth operation. Before flying gets underway there are lots to do beforehand.
The day starts with the Duty Flying instructor arriving at the Centre at about 8.30am. The instructor will already have checked the weather and will prepare a briefing for the day’s flying. As soon as there are enough members on site to help out, the aircraft are then unpacked from the hangar. Gliders and the tug aircraft have their daily inspections completed (DIs) and are prepared for flying – canopies cleaned, emergency parachutes put onboard, batteries (for the electronic instruments) fitted etc.
The Duty Instructor will then provide a briefing for the day’s activities before flying commences. Duties (logging flights, retrieving gliders, running wings etc) are allocated to volunteers. The gliders are positioned to the selected launch area in the airfield and the Duty Instructor then provides individual briefings to their pupils on the exercises to be flown. At the discretion of the Duty Instructor, pupils may take two or three back to back flights depending on weather conditions.
The pilots who operate the tug aircraft are also busy. They need to launch gliders into the air in as efficient and safe a way as possible. This requires a sharp special awareness of where gliders are in the sky and a good understanding of prevailing weather conditions. Unlike glider pilots they need to manage a hard-working engine and keep an eye on fuel consumption and refuel at opportune times!
There is generally no formal stop for lunch. If possible, if there are enough personnel on site, flying continues right throughout the day. Members who have been helping out in the earlier part of the day often fly themselves in the afternoon swapping their roles with the pilots who have flown earlier.
At the end of the day, gliders have to be cleaned and re-packed into the hangar. Parachutes are put away, batteries are put on charge, the tug is washed and re-fuelled, the flying logs are reconciled to ensure all flights have been logged and paid for.
As mentioned elsewhere, it is a team effort and members are expected to help out rather than just come for their flight(s) and go home immediately afterwards. It is a rewarding experience to be able to help someone get their flight knowing that when your turn comes others will help you. There is great camaraderie between members and it is a great way to make new friends. Spending time at the club and socialising with other gliding enthusiasts will increase your familiarity with all things gliding and speed up the learning process.