Walney is a former wartime RAF station and has been the Lakes' base since 1962. It is a good year round training site for gliding. The site is owned by BAE Systems who operate 3 Beechcraft King Airs during the week. Other than a few private light aircraft we have the airfield to ourselves at the weekends.
Walney from the North The airfield looking SE ...and looking NW
The airfield has three hard, pristine, runways, all over 1000m long, which allows us to fly all year round (unlike many clubs). Both the tug and gliders use the runways, we do not need to use the grass areas. This is a tremendous advantage and means that we have a number of regular visiting pilots from other clubs who are frequently waterlogged in the winter months.
The best flying months are in the Spring and Autumn when we have a good combination of thermal, ridge, wave and sea breeze lift. In the winter the lift is mainly ridge and wave and in the summer the sea breeze can push the thermals inland. We encourage cross country flying and the best distance flight so far is over 500Km (300miles). The hills of the Lake District and Pennines can appear formidable, but they also encourage better thermals than the flat earth pilots experience. Look at some of the pictures taken by our pilots flying over the hills, the views are spectacular. It only becomes apparent when we visit other gliding sites and see what an extensive range of soaring skills we are teaching our members.
The best ridge soaring is available on Black Combe which is the hill approximately 15km to the north. This works best in a westerly but is acceptable in wind directions right round from north to south, depending upon strength. The hill is almost 2000 feet (narrowly missing out on officially being called a mountain) and will usually provide enough lift to allow exploration of the ridges to the north (particularly the screes at Wast Water) or for the glide back to Walney, including the 6km or so across the water. Conveniently there is a disused airfield at the foot of the hill that can be used when the crossing looks a bit marginal. The Ireleth ridge between Ulverston and Grizebeck also works well in South West to North West winds but The Combe is our favourite.
Wast Water with the screes on the right A glider soaring the screes An aerotow retrieve off a local beach.
As might be expected, we also have a good deal of wave in winds from West through North to Southeast. We regularly have wave to 10,000 feet and higher. There have been a number of diamond height gains from the site and the club height record stands at 23,000 feet.
Wave over Barrow town
Airspace restrictions do not really cause us a problem; there is a weekend airway over the site that starts at FL155. Going east towards the Pennines there are further airways at FL145, FL75 and FL95. However there is plenty of free space in which to climb high as required.
We generally fly Saturdays, Sundays and some Bank Holidays throughout the year. Flying at other times is on an opportunity basis whenever the weather looks good enough for a few members to phone around and organise the necessary instructor / tug pilot to enable flying to take place.
Our members are encouraged to join our regular gliding holidays to other clubs to gain further experience and we are always keen to encourage the younger generation to take up gliding. Helps keep the current members feeling young!
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