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In support of this year’s Girls in Aviation Day, Claudia Hill, member of the Women’s British Gliding Team and silver medal winner at the Women’s World Gliding Championships 2022 hosted at The Gliding Centre, Husbands Bosworth airfield writes a guest blog for the CAA on starting gliding and her love for the sport.

I’ve been flying gliders since 1994, and first qualified to fly as a member of the British Team in 2013 for the Women’s World Gliding Championships (WWGC) in France. Since then, I’ve flown in several WWGCs and managed to achieve a top ten place in each one. This year’s competition at The Gliding Centre, Husbands Bosworth, was my 4th international championship.

I am not from a gliding background. Nobody else in my family (except my husband) flies, I only accidentally stumbled upon the sport of gliding when I was 22, and until a few years ago had always flown at a small club where competition flying wasn’t part of the natural progression. In fact, I would not have considered it without the support from the Women Gliding initiative, who encouraged me to fly in my first Regional competition in 2006, and my first National competition in 2010 – which led to my competing in 5 international competitions so far!

I fly an LS1-f neo in the Club Class, which is the class for the slightly older, slightly lower performance gliders. My glider was built in 1975 but still managed to do 111kph around a 300km task in the UK this summer.

Why I love gliding

The good thing about gliding is that it’s possible to do it on a modest budget as it’s usually organised in clubs. You join a club, pay a membership fee, and can then fly the club gliders. You don’t have to buy your own. Plus, instructors usually give their time for free (I’m one of those, too), so there is no major investment needed to learn to fly. In fact, all club members usually help out to keep the cost down. Which also means you may gain unexpected skills – like driving the winch & tractors, helping with glider maintenance under supervision by qualified inspectors, etc. Also, there are a number of organisations offering scholarships and grants to help with the cost of flying, For example the British Women’s Pilot Association (BWPA), the Air League, the British Gliding Association’s Launchpoint charity, and the Royal Aero Club.

The Women's World Gliding Championships 2022

I’d been looking forward to competing in the 11th Women’s World Gliding Championship, hosted in August this year by The Gliding Centre at Husbands Bosworth – a World Championship in our own country, where we know the area, the weather, the airspace, the landmarks. So, a couple of years ago I started thinking about how best to prepare for this. I now fly at the London Gliding Club, and fellow club member (and previous British team member) Ed Johnston kindly agreed to do some coaching with me. In our Women Gliding squad and team groups we had the support from our Team Captain Jeremy Pack and coach G Dale, who both put a lot of work into helping us all get the best out of our flying. In addition, I was able to compete in the mixed European championship in Lithuania and the UK Club Class Nationals in Saltby near Grantham this year.

The competition itself was great – I always particularly enjoy the social aspect of international competitions as you get to catch up with and meet new pilots from the other teams. I love the atmosphere, the opportunity to broaden one's horizons and become part of the wider international gliding community. And this year started well flying-wise, too, as I managed to win the first day. Unfortunately, I then messed up the third day, so for the rest of the competition my aim was to work my way back up through the scores. On the last day I was one of only 7 pilots to make it back to the airfield and found myself in third place. A Bronze medal. Wow! But the scores kept changing as the remaining landout traces came in. My closest competitor Ines from the German team, also in an LS1-f, was 10 points ahead of me. Then 5. Then 3. Then we were joint 2nd. And then my teammate Alison’s trace, which was the last one to be scored, did it! It pushed me to second place, by ONE point!

What’s next?

I’m involved in Women Gliding, an initiative started by a number of female British Team pilots in 2005. We’re planning a number of events over the winter and are running a Women’s squad to help more women progress to British Team level. And it seems to be working: Last year 6 of the top 7 places in the Husbands Bosworth Regional competition were taken by female pilots, and women made up 30% instead of the usual 5-10% of competitors in this year’s Club Class National competition!

My immediate plans for the next few months? I want to get back into instructing, instructor training and coaching, as I had put most of that on ice over the summer, to concentrate fully on my competition flying. And I was lucky enough to secure a Ted Lys Award from the BGA’s Launch Point charity, to help me finance adding a motor glider extension to my gliding license. Which I can then use for helping trainee instructors progress (and maybe the odd fun trip out with my husband)!

In support of the WWGC 2022 hosted in the UK, the CAA undertook several regulatory actions. 

We issued an exemption permitting the acceptance of Third Country Sailplane licences and certificates of those individuals taking part in this event for the entire month of August. We also ensured the organisers had the correct permissions for the ground radios to be used by the competing teams met the requirements of ICAO and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). As well we supporting airspace changes for the event.

You can hear more about the World Women's Gliding Championships in the latest episode of our CAA on General Aviation podcast

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