PILOTS: JoeyGlide pilots and coaches competing in the Australian Junior Nationals Championships in Kingaroy.
PILOTS: JoeyGlide pilots and coaches competing in the Australian Junior Nationals Championships in Kingaroy.

LOOK UP: Young gliders navigate South Burnett skies

AUSTRALIA’S best junior glider pilots are navigating South Burnett’s skies this week.

Kingaroy Soaring Club is hosting the Australian Junior Gliding Championships, which started on Sunday and runs until Saturday.

JoeyGlide president James Nugent said the 25 participants were enjoying their flights across the South Burnett on the group’s 16th junior nationals, and second competition in Queensland.

“We’re enjoying the beautiful terrain,” Nugent said.

Thirteen pilots and 12 coaches are competing in the championships, which were last held in Kingaroy in 2011.

Competitors come from Western Australia, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and from across Queensland.

Throughout the week they have been gliding near the picturesque Bunya Mountains and over farming properties.

“It’s surprisingly green here, compared to other places,” Nugent said.

“The Kingaroy valley is a beautiful spot to fly over the cultivated paddocks.”

JoeyGlide committee member Michael Keller said it was great for the competitors to see something different.

“Hopefully we’ll see a decent portion of the countryside while we’re here,” he said.

Australian Junior Nationals JoeyGlide committee members Belen Swart, Michael Keller, James Nugent and Reuben Lane. (Photo: Jessica McGrath)
Australian Junior Nationals JoeyGlide committee members Belen Swart, Michael Keller, James Nugent and Reuben Lane. (Photo: Jessica McGrath)

During the competition, the glider pilots, ranging in age from 15 to 26, race against the clock and each other to claim the title.

Keller said the pilots were given a task each day.

“There’s a certain number of turn points within the time,” he said.

At the end of the day the pilots see who completed the task and flew the course the quickest.

“We all start together, but they’re mostly flying their own flights,” Keller said.

The gliders cover distances of up to 400km in a day and are up in the air for three to four hours each day of the competition.

Every morning, the pilots are briefed on up-to-date-weather reports, and given information about what thermals are present, and the optimal times for gliding.

To participate in the championships, the pilots need a certain level of experience and qualifications.

“Provided you have this, the competition is accessible to all juniors,” Keller said.

Fellow JoeyGlide committee member Belen Swart said the junior championships had a focus on building mateship and cultivating skills.

She said some of the younger gliders were paired up with coaches for the week.

“We have a specific coaching program with experienced coaches who the pilots do little tasks with,” Swart said.

They also have veteran gliders on board as mentors for the week to provide feedback, tips and tricks to the competitors.

The Australian Junior Gliding Champion for the Kingaroy round will be announced on Saturday.

Spectators are welcome to visit the Kingaroy Airport to see the gliders in action this week.