This article by Justine McCullagh-Beasy was first published in The Wimmera Mail-Times on the 1st of February 2012, Picture: Paul Carracher.
THIRTY-TWO glider pilots are learning how to fly cross country at a week-long coaching course at Horsham Flying Club.
Victorian Soaring Association's Ian Grant is teaching the course, which involves practical and theoretical work.
Mr Grant said the course was intended to coach pilots who were preparing to fly cross country for the first time.
Cross country refers to long distance gliding.
"We typically fly 150 to 300 kilometres during the training week but in gliding, in general, flying 500 to 600 kilometres is quite common," Mr Grant said.
"People go for badges of achievement. It's still very much a sport.
"There are badges for 50, 300, 500, 750 and 1000 kilometres.
"Pilots aspire to get their 750 or 1000-kilometre badges and that's eight, nine or 10 hours in the air."
It is the sixth time the course has run in Horsham.
Mr Grant said Horsham Flying Club was the ideal host.
"The beauty of the Horsham site is how safe it is," he said.
"What can happen is you can't get back to the airfield and you might have to land in a field.
"The farmers' fields are enormous and safe to land in."
Horsham Flying Club president Arnold Niewand, Michael Sudholz and Chris Griffin are the three Wimmera-based gliders taking the course.
Niewand and Sudholz will compete in Horsham Week Gliding competition, which starts on Saturday.
Niewand said the annual competition attracted 40 glider pilots to date.
He said it was a tough contest.
"I'll find it a bit tiring near the end of the week," Niewand said.
"It's a demanding sport from a concentration point of view.
"Being physically fit is not a high priority. You're in a confined space in the cockpit for anywhere between five and six hours depending on the length of the competition."