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Gliding club hosts national championships at airfield
SOME of the UK’s best pilots will be flying high over Bicester this month as the town hosts the National Gliding Championships.
It is the second time in Bicester Gliding Club’s history that it will host the event. The first was in 2008 when it was a much smaller competition.
About 40 competitors from across the UK hope to win the title and the chance of a place in Team GB.
Over the nine-day event, from today until August 25, there will be more gliders than usual in the Bicester sky as pilots race their 18-metre wingspan craft around a course of up to 500km.
Bicester-based glider pilot and instructor Derren Francis is the current 18-metre national champion and will defend his title.Also competing is Dave Watt, of Bicester, who along with Mr Francis is joint 15-metre national champion.
Mr Francis said: “I am looking forward to flying against the best pilots in the UK in the most competitive class in sailplane racing.”
The competition will be opened today by directors of Bicester Heritage Ltd, who own the site.
Club chairman Bob King said: “Bicester Gliding Centre is proud to have been chosen to host one of the premier events in the British gliding calendar, the 18-metre class championships.
“This event will see all of the leading glider pilots in UK gather together to compete against each other for the coveted title of British 18-metre champion.
“Bicester Gliding Centre is the home club of current champion, Derren Francis, and all of us are supporting him to retain his title.
“The UK has an impressive record of world gliding and is one of the leading nations in the sport.
“The leading competitors in this event will be ranked among the world leaders.”
The airfield was part of RAF Bicester and was sold to the consortium Bicester Heritage.
The group plans to develop the site as a specialist motor and aviation business park, but will retain the flying field.
- People can watch the event from the club site, but must book in advance by calling 01869 252493.
- Airline pilot Derren Francis, has been gliding since 1985 and volunteers as tug master at Bicester airfield.
Current 18m national champion and joint 15m national champion.
His glider is a schemp Hirth Ventus 2cxa, and he flies an average of 100hrs per year in gliders covering around 10,000kms.
- Former British Airways pilot Dave Watt has been gliding since 1968.
He is the chief flying instructor at Bicester, but had worked for BA for 33 years.
Mr Watt is currently joint 15m national champion.
Dave flies a Schemp Hirth Ventus 2a, and flies about 6,000kms a year.
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