Michael Kirchhain’s first gliding experience

Posted 10 years, 3 months ago    0 comments

Michael Kirchhain’s first gliding experience, 7th November 2010, Matamata gliding club. Thanks Tony for the story.

I had met club member Tony Davies on the Warbirds over Wanaka airshow club trip to Queenstown in April this year. Tony has not only got a PPL (A) but also a B-Cat Instructor rating for gliders and is instructing at Matamata. In my training at the aero club, I had often heard of gliding stories, especially from the aero clubs senior IFR instructor and life-long gliding enthusiast John Shuttleworth.

I remember from back home in Germany that there was a gliding club not far and I often watched gliders being towed, in flight or during landing and was very keen on experiencing this different way of flying.

My wife gave me an awesome present for my birthday a few month ago, a voucher for a trial flight in a glider!

I had waited for better weather and since summer is finally upon us, the big day was arranged with Tony. We arrived at Matamata airfield early afternoon on a beautiful sunny and hot Sunday afternoon. There was hardly a cloud in the sky and it made me wonder if this are actually good conditions for gliding or not...

Tony was already waiting with the 2-seater training glider P(apa) C(harlie) prepared for me on the beginning of runway 28. We were the first glider to go up on the day and others were waiting to see how we got on and if there is enough thermal activity to sustain a longer gliding flight.

Waikato Aero club President Richard Small was the eager pilot of the glider towing aircraft and by that time probably didn't know what a busy day it was going to be.

I can only share this and other stories with you because my wonderful wife not only supports me in my passion for flying and makes me presents like this but also takes mostly the great photos to share with all of you readers. I got her to have a sit in the glider first so that she got an idea of what was awaiting me.

Gliders of course need to be very streamlined and therefore there is not a lot of room in these aircraft. It is usually a reclining position and takes some getting used to in comparison to powered aircraft. Luckily, the rudder pedals can be adjusted to fit even taller people in a glider and eventually I found a comfortable position. I brought my headset but because gliders are obviously much quieter than powered aircraft, this was not needed and instead a built in microphone is used to communicate with each other, other aircraft and the ground. Soon I was strapped in and we were ready for take-off. The take-off roll was different seeing it from such a low angle and after only a very short roll, we were airborne. The tow was one of the best parts of the flight but is also the hardest part for the pilot. It is not easy to follow the aircraft without getting behind in following its turns. It felt new and almost a bit scary seeing an aircraft so close in front of us. Usually any other time when an aircraft comes so close (except during formation flying...), you would get a big fright.

Tony decided to have us towed to 2500ft and luckily we experienced a few bumps here and there which are signs of some thermal activity. The towing wire was disconnected, the towing aircraft disappeared quickly and suddenly there was silence… An engineless machine which is suspended only by the air around it and completely dependent on the prevailing conditions and the skills of the pilot.

We flew towards some tiny whisky cloud formations and slowly experienced some slight updraft. There is an instrument called a Variometer in a glider which indicates the gliders rate of climb in near real time. It does this like any other gauge but also by audible signals. These signals vary in pitch and the higher and faster the sound, the higher the rate of climb. We stayed in this updraft doing circling climbing turns and eventually reached an altitude of just over 4500ft which was very impressive for the conditions of the day. It is really amazing to see and feel this heavier-than-air object rising only by the forces of the air.

Once we gained enough altitude, Tony even showed me a loop in the glider which was a fabulous experience. We flew towards another tiny cloud formation and were hoping for some rising air but it wasn't much. This is was gliding is about, reading the sky and winds and finding strong enough updrafts to maintain or regain altitude to continue gliding. After I told John Shuttleworth about my experience the next day, he put it in great words "...it's like chess in the sky."

We continued gliding for almost 55min and at the end had to point the nose down and force a descent as Tony thought that the glider was booked for the next flight. The landing was very smooth and the landing roll much shorter than I had expected.

A fantastic experience came to its end and it was very clear that I have enjoyed this birthday present to the fullest.

The Matamata Piako gliding club is a great way to experience the magic of gliding and the club offers training for starters and experienced glider pilots. It is possible to get a QGP (Qualified Glider Pilot) license there and many of the aeroplane PPL exams can be cross credited.

I can only recommend a gliding experience to any Aviation Enthusiast and it will definitely help your F.L.W.O.P. training. :-)

For anyone who is keen, we could also make it a cheap club trip to fly over with some aircraft and connect it with a trial flight in a glider.

For more information, visit the gliding clubs website: http://www.glidingmatamata.co.nz

Cheers and thanks for reading,


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