Soaring association looking for more women
It’s the thrill, it’s the friends and it’s the silence of gliding in the sky that draws a group of gliding enthusiasts to the Innisfail airport almost every weekend from April through to October.
“A big draw is the camaraderie,” said John Mulder, a member of the Central Alberta Gliding Club at the airport Saturday morning. About six members of the club took out one of their powerless planes and were getting ready to take it up in the air.
“We camp out and share stories of our flying experience,” he said of weekend excursions.
The club pays into and maintains three planes — two of them seat two people, the other is just for one.
Because they don’t have engines, the planes have to be hooked up to a tow plane by a 200-foot rope. The tow rope, powered, takes off dragging the gliding plane behind it until that glider lifts up into the air. Once high enough, the rope is released and the glider goes.
It can get several thousand feet in the air and most flights last about a half hour.
“It’s a fun sport” said president of the club Valerie Deschamps. She said club members are welcome to bring their families. Currently, the youngest training student of the club is Ethan Brown, 12.
“I’ve probably been doing this since I was three,” said Brown who would go up with instructors or his licensed father.
“It’s cool to see the country from a different perspective.” He will be eligible for a student pilot permit when he turns 14, allowing him to go on solo flights. At 16, he can apply for a licence.
While Deschamps said it’s great to get youth involved, it’s also important to attract more women to the hobby as well. That’s a goal not only of the club but the Soaring Association of Canada.
This is the first year women from the various clubs in the province are hosting a Chics Take Flight event this July in Black Diamond.
The purpose is to provide an opportunity for interested, like-minded women to see and experience what flying can offer as a hobby and potentially a career.
“We would like to make this as an annual or biannual event,” she explained. She said gliding is a great way to enter the world of aviation because while some of the techniques are similar to a powered flight, it is done in a club atmosphere and is less expensive.
She said for example, the Central Alberta club requires an annual membership but gives students access to the club planes and the instructors volunteer their hours. Deschamps said their club has a female instructor which can be beneficial for women wanting to learn.
“We have different learning styles and while the instructors have gone through the same training and know the same curriculum it’s in the delivery that you notice a difference,” she said.
The all-woman event will offer opportunities for women to fly a glider with a qualified instructor at reduced rates as well as trying out a soaring flight simulator. There will also be sample ground schools running throughout the day. The event will run July 21 at the Cu Nim Gliding Club at Black Diamond, 20 minutes from Okotoks. For more information or for directions, visit www.chicstakeflight.ca