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Sky's the limit for wooden wonders at Shropshire flying club

By Toby Neal | Church Stretton | South Shropshire entertainment | Published:

The Midland Gliding Club on the Long Mynd has been flying back in time with a special week devoted to flying the wooden "dinosaurs" of the gliding world.

A 65-year-old Slingsby T21 glider being bungee-launched from the Long Mynd

And some of them have been literally catapulted off the top of the Long Mynd using a giant rubber band.

"Wood Week" is an annual event at the club and this year attracted wooden gliders from countries around the world.

Despite huge leaps in the design and performance of gliders, with modern gliders typically being of shiny white carbon fibre and fibreglass, the wooden and fabric-covered airframes of earlier eras continue to be in use.

"The aviation dinosaurs are still with us, alive and well," said Chris Ellis of the club.

"The great advantage of gliders is that there is nothing to wear out and, given some tender loving care, they will keep flying for a very long time."

The Wood Week rally started some years ago with a few local pilots gathering with their old gliders, and over the years it has attracted more and more interest.

This year's rally brought a wide variety of pilots and aircraft including some from overseas, including six from the Netherlands, one from Belgium and two from Australia – the Australians were in the UK anyway touring British gliding clubs. There were also 13 from other UK clubs.

Club chairman Jon Hall said: "The weather was fine for most of the week. We flew 129 hours from 293 launches, 13 of which were bungee launches.

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"A bungee is the method used in the very early days of gliding. Using industrial strength shock cord attached to the glider, six club members run down the hill and catapult the glider gracefully into the prevailing wind.

"We at the Midland Gliding Club are one of a handful of sites in the world that can still offer this gentle method of getting airborne."

Other methods of getting the gliders to the skies are winch launching, and using a tow plane.

Jon added: "We welcome new members. Full details are on our website www.midlandgliding.club or telephone 01588 650206 and speak to Martin, our office manager."

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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