Gliding club to fly away from Kapiti after half a century

Scenes such as this Wellington Gliding Club craft soaring over Kapiti could become rarer when the club moves operations ...
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Scenes such as this Wellington Gliding Club craft soaring over Kapiti could become rarer when the club moves operations to south Wairarapa.

The success of aviation in Kapiti has come at a cost.

Congested skies and a busier airfield have led the Wellington Gliding Club to seek a new home.

Club president Brian Sharpe said the club's lease at Kapiti Coast Airport was due to expire in 2020, and the airfield had become more difficult to operate from alongside commercial airline flights.

Increased air traffic had also brought more restrictions on the use of Kapiti's airspace.

"Knowing that, we started to look around at where else we could go," he said.

The new home from April next year will be at Papawai airstrip, east of Greytown.

"Papawai is pretty much fit for purpose – it's a wonderful site for gliding," Sharpe said.

A quarter of the club's 58 flying members lived on the Kapiti Coast, but they voted to move because the new site was ideal, he said.

Paraparaumu had been the club's home for 51 years and Sharpe said members were grateful for the Airport company's cooperation and support as it made the transition.

The centrepiece of the club's new operation will be a new, state-of-the-art Skylaunch winch being manufactured in England.

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One of the barriers to people entering the sport was cost, and the mobile winch allowed silent, economical launches in any wind direction from either of two air strips, he said.

Sharpe wants residents to take advantage of the club's final summer on the Kapiti Coast and try a flight.

The club has six to 10 prospective glider pilots in training at any time.

It is a sport which appeals to people who enjoyed a connection to nature's forces and many surfers and sailors took part.

The real challenge in gliding is that you can never say you know it all, he said.

"Once you have learned how to fly, then comes soaring – catching thermals and staying up – and then flying cross-country."

Wellington Gliding Club members regularly flew as far as the central plateau and back, Sharpe said.

"Flights of five hours are not uncommon."

One of the club's members had summed up the essence of gliding, Sharpe said.

"Soaring for hours on rising air currents without assistance from an engine requires a high level of skill and awareness, which gliding develops in any aspiring pilot".  

 - Kapiti Observer

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