Chocks away! Norfolk Gliding Club flies high to celebrate 60 years
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Its high-flying members have soared silently over the flat Norfolk landscapes for decades and now a historic gliding clubs is planning a record-breaking year to mark its 60th anniversary.
Norfolk Gliding Club was founded in February 1959 with members who held their inaugural club meeting at Norwich Assembly Rooms.
Based at the former Second World War airbase at Tibenham in South Norfolk, one of the country's largest private airfields, the club's diamond anniversary will be marked by a series of special events throughout the year.
'Our 60th anniversary year looks like being a momentous one for the club, and, with all the events we have planned and given a good flying summer, it really should be a year for the club to remember,' said club chairman Mike Hoy.
'The history of the club goes back to a gentleman called Ernest Cunningham who had the foresight to recognise the need for the gliding club in East Anglia.
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'There were 12 members initially but by the AGM in June 1959 that had risen to 50 and that was enough to justify a loan from the Kemsley Flying Trust for our first glider. That glider is actually still with us today; it's in private hands these days but it is still flying.'
The anniversary year will see the club host the International Vintage Glider Rally in July featuring 100 vintage gliders and more than 400 pilots, as well as a series of opens days; while one of the club's junior members Peter Carter has been picked as part of the British team for this year's Junior World Gliding Championships in Hungary.
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Mr Hoy said: 'We have a thriving junior section. We take people from 13 and youngsters can fly on their own from 14 once they have had all the necessary training and passed the tests. We have about 22 youngsters on the books at the moment.'
The three-runway Tibenham airfield was built in 1942 and used by bomber squadrons flying Liberators of the American Eighth Air Force. It was one of the wartime homes of Hollywood legend James Stewart who visited the gliding club on several occasions.
The club's summer open days will give budding pilots the chance to take the controls of a modern glider. There will also be the opportunity of a flight in an open-cockpit vintage glider and the chance of an aerobatic flight with one of the club's aerobatic instructors.
Flying is now a very different from when the club was formed in 1959, said Mr Hoy. 'Gliders have come a long way and are carbon fibre composites these days. Obviously 60 years ago it would have been cloth, metal and fabric, a very different experience.'
More details on club open days will be published at norfolkglidingclub.com