Top Gun Scouts and Explorers take flight

All good things come to those who wait, so they say, and when it comes to airborne adventure a little patience goes a long way.

Two groups from across our county – 80th Reading and 1st Purley & Pangbourne – have taken flight in recent weeks, thanks to the expertise and support of Shalbourne Gliding Club, just a short hop over the county border into Wiltshire.

Even early summer evenings in May and June can’t guarantee smooth running when it comes to gliding. Safety is paramount and Mother Nature’s notorious unpredictability and fickle nature can make air activities touch and go, right up to launch day. Despite the recent hot weather and sunshine, a few of the recent sessions needed a late rain check… but the wait was more than worthwhile!

Some of the Scouts from 80th Reading were rewarded with bright blue skies on their rescheduled visit and enjoyed outstanding views of the local countryside from the cockpit. Even under cloud cover, it’s an exhilarating and absorbing experience.

“The Scouts had a fantastic experience gliding with Shalbourne Gliding Club,” said leader Will Arslett. “Not only do they get to go up in a glider but once they are up in the air and it’s safe to do so the instructor allows them to take control of the glider and learn how to manoeuvre it. Gliding is one of the activities that we try to make sure every Scout gets the opportunity to do once in their time in Scouting and it is a memory that will stay with them forever.”

To prepare for each flight, participants must be measured and weighed so that ballast can be added, if needed, to keep the glider well-balanced for its flight. It’s a process that requires meticulous preparation by the club’s members, as well as by the Scout leaders, with timing of the essence during the evening.

Gliders are attached to winch, located at the opposite end of the field, which reels in almost one mile of cable to launch the pilot and passenger skywards. Accelerating along the field at ‘just a bit faster than a motorcycle at top speed’ creates an adrenaline injection for most first-timers as they find themselves suddenly starting into the sky just seconds after release.

As the glider reaches its altitude, at around 1500 feet, the winch is detached and all that is left is to take in the breath-taking views and stunning scenery. There was some mention of the Isle of Wight being spotted in the distance on a clear evening.

A few weeks after 80th made their ascent, two groups of Explorers from 1st Purley & Pangbourne dodged the showers to enjoy their own experience. There were some Top Gun Maverick moments (perfect poses for Instagram profiles) and a few anxious flyers, but any nerves were quickly eradicated, as they were put at ease by the professional Shalbourne team. The Explorers were all seated at the front, and all landed with big smiles on their faces and a memory to last a lifetime.

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