Horsham is gliding on air

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Horsham Flying Club (formally ‘Wimmera Soaring Club’) is the sole club in the Southern Hemisphere selected by the FAI, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, to host a leg of the prestigious International Sailplane Grand Prix event (SGP).  

The Horsham competition, the 8th SPG series, is over seven days from December 14 to 20, 2016, and although restricted to 20 of the world's best competitors is expected to attract many spectators and much international media attention. This event will provide immediate exposure to world class glider racing through GPS tracking and logging devices fed to a moving map display and transmitted via high-speed internet worldwide.

Where this event has been held in Europe, and other countries, it has experienced high visitation levels coupled with very high levels of digital attendance via the live internet broadcast of the races. Horsham and the Wimmera will be showcased during these broadcasts and exposure of the environment will be significant.

Events that led up to hosting this event.

According to club president Arnold Niewand, the club has been trying unsuccessfully to host a major event since 2012.

In 2012, we put in an expression of interest to host the 2014 National Gliding Championships, he said, there were many Gliding clubs across Australia who also tried and we missed out. Early in 2013 we put in an expression of interest in holding the 2015 Junior World Gliding Championships, which were later given to Lake Keepit in NSW.Again, in 2014 we looked at hosting the 2018 Women’s World Gliding Championships, but missed out.

Early in 2016 we decided to bid for the Australian qualifying round of the 8th series of the Sailplane Grand Prix event and by the middle of May we were granted permission.

This did not give us a lot of time to prepare and the pace has been hectic trying to fulfil all the requirements of the International Sailplane Grand Prix organization. With the requirement to transmit in real time the gliders as they race across the Wimmera Plains, we need to provide significant band width and high speed internet.

This coupled with loggers and tracking devices in each glider, has been a challenge but we believe we have all elements covered, Mr Niewand said.

Horsham Flying Club boasts the facilities needed to host an international event. The club has successfully hosted gliding competition events for 50 years and witnessed a steady increase in competition numbers.

In 2015 and again this year, the club hosted the Victorian State Gliding Championships which attracted pilots and support crew from across Australia. This year almost 40 pilots competed for awards. The glider pilots use the sun's energy to manoeuvre a set course which is expected to take about two hours. Pilots will depend mostly on thermals to fly the courses set over the Wimmera plains - and the Grampians, if conditions allow.

Horsham in Victoria's west, has long been recognized as an ideal location for glider flight. Its flat, broadacre farmlands make it a safe area to fly. Horsham Flying Club is the home of the longest continuously run gliding event at the same location in Australia and possibly the world. 

The 2016 FAI Sailplane Grand Prix event will have lasting benefit on the community of Horsham and Horsham Flying Club. The event is expected to attract many people to the Wimmera with pilots, support teams and interested public and media. Horsham Flying Club expects increased membership from the event.  The event will also result in increased utilization of assets and aerodrome infrastructure and increased interest in flying from the Horsham base by glider pilots both in Australia and overseas. 

Indirect benefits will flow to many Horsham businesses in increased economic activity through accommodation, meals, fuel and equipment, as well as increased tourist dollars for the whole region.

The event will result in:  

  • World exposure to the gliding fraternity and beyond.
  • Increased potential membership for the Horsham Flying Club.
  • Attract national gliding participants / clubs to the area as a training camp.
  • Provide opportunities for international tourism in the region.
  • Increase business opportunities for local traders.
  • The event will run for seven consecutive days from December 14 to 20, 2016, with two practise days on December 12 and 13. On the weekend prior to the official event, pilots and crew will arrive in Horsham to rig gliders, conduct site orientation and test type certification/weight requirements.

Public Participation.

The public are encouraged to come out to the Horsham aerodrome to see firsthand some of the world’s best pilots flying in this exciting sport. There will be spectator areas for public viewing of the start and finish of races, as well as wide screen TV sets tuned to the SGP you tube site situated in the Horsham Flying Club hangars.

All races will start and finish over the aerodrome in full view of the public and a public commentary is anticipated.