An Aussie's travels to air shows, aviation museums and related events around the world, with a bit of aerospace history along the way!
FAI Sailplane Grand Prix – Australia 2018
Here are some highlights of my time checking out the Australian leg of the FAI Sailplane Grand Prix held at the Horsham Aerodrome in Victoria from January 22nd to the 28th, 2018. The event was hosted by the Horsham Flying Club with sunny, hot, blue skies for most of the days (unfortunately a couple of races had to be cancelled due to unsuitable flying conditions).
In 35-40C+ summer afternoon heat, the gliders were taken up one by one by tug planes to race over the Wimmera region. Some of the race legs are completed over 200+ kilometre distances with scoring speeds of 100+ km/h – for example the Race 1 course was 244.71 km long: Horsham – St. Arnaud – Antwerp – Horsham.
It was fun watching the gliders being hooked up, towed, released and getting into position for the start of a race. Watching them coming into land with water ballast being released and just the sound of the air passing over the massive 18 metre wingspan of the gliders as the wing flaps are deployed, and the wings themselves flex before you was quite something to experience too!
Each afternoon you could also just look up above Horsham and catch a sight of the tug planes towing and releasing the gliders or also see the gliders themselves circling about awaiting to form up, then head to the start line of the race over the aerodrome. It was quite fascinating seeing so many gliders formed up together high above the town.
I headed out on Australia Day (January 26th) to watch the gliders be towed up from a viewpoint near the end of the runway. Three gliders had been taken up but the race was cancelled due to unsuitable flight conditions (a hot day of around 36C but with very overcast grey skies).
I was taken by surprise though when two of the gliders, AG a JS-1C and LP a JS-3 soared into the sky low over the runway under their own turbojet engine power! Both gliders are built by Jonkers Sailplanes in South Africa and have a small retractable MD-TJ12 turbojet engine mounted behind the cockpit. It turned out both had been launched earlier by the glider tugs but fired the engines up while they could for a bit of fun by the looks of it!
I missed the last race day due to travel commitments but what a fantastic event the FAI Sailplane Grand Prix – Australia 2018 was for a rural city to host and something unique to see up close out at the aerodrome. The local members of the Horsham Flying Club and the glider pilots were more than happy to have a chat about the races, rules and the gliders themselves. which was great too! They all are to be congratulated for a great and well run event!
Final overall race event results for the top three places: First – Pete Temple flying PT, an ASG-29 glider (42 points), Second – Graham Parker flying TF, an ASG-29e glider (37 points) and Third – Andrew Georgeson flying AG, a JS-1C glider (32 points).