Cross Country Soaring


The Adelaide Soaring Club recently celebrated its 70th anniversary. The club has survived at the same location despite the proximity to the coast it is an excellent airfield, close to the city and regularly produces great cross country flying. Numerous record flights have been flown from Gawler and some still stand. With the advent of FRP gliders the dreaded “sea breeze” or as we prefer to call it “maritime replacement air” has little effect on final glide because it rarely extends more than 20km inland of the airfield. In fact the proximity to the coast has the added benefit of meaning that we can often get an earlier start to the soaring day than inland sites.

The prefrontal days that usually occur in cycles during summer vary from 4 to 8 days apart and can offer some of the best flying that I believe can be had anywhere in Australia. On those days the convection height often exceeds 10 000′ so flights can be had that make 400+ km flights fun, fast and cool. Many of the gliders based at Gawler have oxygen fitted just for those days. After the extremely high days there is a post frontal change that brings in a new batch of unstable moist air that often gives cu.

The gently rising countryside to the north of Gawler is mostly used for cropping and grazing so out landing options are extensive. There is a 20 km stretch of mallee on the way to the east, just before the Murray River ends its long trek to the sea. After that the country opens up to the large red paddocks south of Waikerie.

Despite being so close to a major city airspace is very generous. A good working relation with the local RAAF base and the air traffic control means that we are usually given the airspace we require to allow us to use the convection to its fullest advantage. There have been cases where a clearance has been given to 16 000’ that extended from the airfield right out to the edge of controlled airspace to the north. There are some restrictions but as they are south of the field towards the city it has little impact on cross country flight.

There may be better places to fly gliders in the world but few places in Australia can beat the opportunities and convenience that flying out of Gawler offers.