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Gliding

Gliding, or soaring as it's known in some parts, is another interest of mine.

Formerly in the UK I flew with Cambridge Gliding Club, whist here in Australia I am with the Wimmera Soaring Club. Gliding conditions here in Australia are superb, especially when compared with the UK.

WSC's Twin Astir

Gliding Conditions in Victoria, Australia

Even in Victoria (latitude 37S) it is soarable every month of the year, although in winter you have to pick your days. Like glider pilots everywhere though, most don't bother to fly much outside of the main summer season. For any UK or European readers, here's an idea of the typical conditions you might find in different seasons at Horsham.

To set the scene geographically, Horsham is approx 300km NW from Melbourne, 200km from the nearest coastline, and just NW of the Great Dividing Range, which means that it's often on the border between the continental and coastal weather systems. It's in a vast wheat growing area, known as the Wimmera, so the potential outlanding fields or paddocks are often larger than the airfield.

Winter (July-Sep). Dayime temps typically 12-18 degrees, over night lows typically around zero. Soaring flyable days, probably 20-25%. Cloudbase anything from 2500-4500 feet, thermals up to 3-4kts, but mostly scratching in anything from zero sink to 2kts, whilst taking care not to drift downwind too far. Local soaring conditions, but equivalent to those occasional late Autumn or early spring days in the UK where you spend plenty of energy concentrating on staying up but not really getting anywhere.

Spring (Oct-Nov) Daytime temps going up into mid 20s, but highly variable, as with minimums, but generally 5-10 degrees now. Cloudbase gradually sneaking up 3500 - 6000 feet, thermals gradually getting stronger wit the longer days, you might find the odd 5-6kts, typically 2-3kts. Conditions are more similar to an average summer's day in UK, with the prospect of a challenging cross country if all the other conditions come together.

Summer (Dec-Mar) Daytime temps typically high 20s, low 30s but can go as high as 40 plus. Minimums typically 15-25 degrees. Cloudbase 6000-8000 feet typically, but can go well over 10,000 feet on good days. The problem is that many days that look good, go blue and are hard to read. Thermals are strong (some off the end stop) and most pilots would give away anything less than 4kts. When it all comes together, some epic cross countries are possible. From a UK perspective, there is really almost no equivalent, other than those handful of diamond days, but even then the temperature is nowhere near as high as you will experience in Australia.

Autumn (Apr-Jun) The gradual loss of the good conditions of summer, gives conditions similar to spring. Farmers burning off stubble at the end of the summer gives rise to a short season of smoky, rough thermals to pit your wits against.

Just going back to those summer conditions, they take some getting used to compared with UK and northern European conditions. Thermals are often much stronger than anything you can encounter in northern Europe, but they tend to be spaced further apart. The country here really does dry out and with low humidity leads to some very high cloud bases, day after day. But often the days can turn out blue, which makes it hard to read the sky, and when everything is brown on the ground, potential thermal sources aren't always that obvious. Good potential sources are often farmsteads, silos, dams or watercourses, and the usual urban concentrations. After 3 years here, I still have a lot to learn about the summer conditions and efficient soaring.

Some useful links if you are interested to learn more about gliding in Australia are:

Australian Soaring - Links to many Australian gliding clubs and gliding information downunder

Gliding Federation of Australia (GFA) - General info on gliding downunder

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