For the first time in more than a decade Leeton will again see gliders racing above them as the town’s aerodrome prepares to host a competition bringing them back to the skies.
As a young boy one of the organisers of the December event Nick Gilbert says he spent just about every summer in Leeton, which back then he says was the home of regular gliding events.
The sport sees pilots take to the sky without the benefit of an engine, relying on the power of the air to lift them – an experience some liken to the closest you can come to being a bird and something Mr Gilbert clearly felt passionately about.
“I think the appeal with gliding is that first of all we love to be in the air, gliding offers another challenge on top of that where you have to rely on your own skills and instincts to stay airborne,” he said.
“Racing in gliders offers another layer on top of these, where you get to test your skills against other pilots.”
Now living in Adelaide, Mr Gilbert wants to bring that racing magic back to town.
“It [Leeton] seems to have dropped off the list of places where gliding competitions are held,” he said on Tuesday.
“I think that’s a shame because it is such a great site and such a great town in general – there is a great airfield and spectacular weather.”
The upcoming competition looks set to place Leeton back on that list by bringing to town an event that is the first of its kind in Australia and potentially the first of its kind in the world.
“The competition is being operated in a grand prix format,” Mr Gilbert explained.
“All of the competitors will start at the same time in the same spot and whoever gets back to the airfield first is the winner.
“Taking off will be a spectacular sight, coming back will be even more spectacular – they will all be finishing at the same time, racing at high speeds and relatively low altitudes - there will be lots to see.”
The new take on traditional gliding competitions looks to include older generation models amongst the ranks in the sky, according to Mr Gilbert.
“Basically we have limited the performance range to the gliders that we have allowed to a specific range that allows for older gliders,” he said.
While the nine day competition won’t glide into town until December 28 Mr Gilbert said he was already looking forward to bringing people to a place where he learned to love gliding so they can experience the many friendly people, places and businesses.
“There are a lot of people coming who have never been to Leeton, I’m looking forward to sharing it with them,” he said.