A COMMERCIAL airline pilot from Cumbria is backing a national campaign to encourage more powered pilots to discover gliding and explore the possibilities of unpowered flight.

Graham Sturgeon, from Sedbergh, flies an Airbus A380 for a living but when he isn’t working he can be seen flying from his local Lakes Gliding Club in Barrow-in-Furness where he uses invisible currents of rising air known as ‘lift’ to soar vast distances of hundreds of kilometres and at average speeds of around 100mph.

Graham joins high-flying figures in the world of aviation in backing the British Gliding Association campaign to encourage more of us to glide in Britain.

He said: “I’m an experienced pilot with around 15,000 hours and I’ve been flying for 35 years, but I learn something new about gliding every time I fly. It’s also fun and rewarding!

“Gliding isn’t just about booking an aircraft, flying and then going home. Most pilots also enjoy getting involved in the social aspect of half a day on the airfield, learning new skills, promoting teamwork and helping others.”

The Westmorland Gazette: Graham SturgeonGraham Sturgeon

Andrew Perkins, Chairman of the British Gliding Association and a B777 pilot, added: “Gliding is like a big family; you work together in all the activities that get you airborne. It hones all your flying skills and is a great way to learn about engineering, safety, lookout and airmanship.”

Gliding also offers an affordable way of getting airborne. Flying a club glider costs around £40 an hour. Once fixed costs and the launch are paid for, you can fly powerlessly for free.

As part of the literature and social media campaign, pilots share their love of gliding and what it means to them.

Pete Stratten, Chief Executive Officer of the BGA, said: “As well as aiming to attract new people into air sport, we’re also promoting the thrill and passion of pure flying and soaring flight within the powered flying community.

“All forms of powered aviation have a place within General Aviation. Gliding simply offers very different challenges and opportunities from those experienced in powered aircraft.

“Gliding is a great way of broadening and enhancing flying skills. We’re delighted to have the opportunity to work together with pilots who would like to try or even take up gliding.”