GYMPIE Gliding Club president Ray Parker may describe her as being only "knee high to a grasshopper", but eight-year-old Lydia Stewart has proved herself a natural when it comes to flying.
Parker said the youngster "handled her first-time flight better than many of the older boys" when she took to the sky in a glider as part of the Air League Cadets annual gliding camp at Gympie Airfield during the weekend.
Stewart held her own at the camp, even holding on to the wing of a 17-metre glider as she helped push the aircraft back to the flight line.
The camp saw about 70 Air League cadets and their officers from across Queensland gather at the airfield for the 10th annual event, hosted by the Gympie Gliding Club.
Parker said the meeting for the cadets, which ended yesterday, was a major event for both the Air League and the Gympie Gliding Club.
"The Australian Air League is a youth organisation for boys and girls from eight to 18 years, which provides cadets with leadership and life skills while encouraging interest and participation in aviation, as a career, or as a pastime," Parker said. He said Air League members attended the camp at Gympie Gliding where the aviation knowledge they acquired was expanded with some hands-on awareness and with practical aviation experience
"It is in partnerships with the Gympie Gliding Club that real life flight is experienced," he said.
"The event is hosted with the enthusiastic support of the Gympie Gliding Club members and their flight instructors."
Parker said this real life flying experience was supplemented by intensive, on-site aviation education conducted by Air League officers.
Air League members are treated to the experience of a winch launch in a two seat glider under the control of a flight instructor, rising at the end of a rope cable to a height of some 2000 feet in under a minute.
"Air cadets find the take off to be very much like a very fast roller coaster ride that takes one to the 'top of the launch' where, after release, the aircraft becomes the true sailplane that it is and a search for thermal activity to keep the sailplane aloft begins," Parker said.
On those days of good thermal activity the glider can climb as high as 8000 feet which provides a fantastic view of the scenic Mary River Valley. Parker said cadets were able to experience true glider flying with some cadets able to fly the sailplanes with the guidance of their gliding instructor
He said children of eight to 18 years interested in aviation can join the Australian Air League and enquiries could be made by calling 1800 502 175 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those interested in a new experience or perhaps learning to be a glider pilot, the Gympie Gliding Club will hold an open weekend during October 21 and 22.
The open day offers people a chance to see the gliders in action and go for a trial air experience flight, as was carried out for the Air League cadets.
Parker said bookings for an air experience flight were essential and would be offered at a reduced cost for the open weekend.
To book, contact chief flying instructor Trevor Burke on 5485 1895 or club president Ray Parker on 5447 7647.
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