PNGC National Women Go Gliding weekend

A big success – National Women’s Go Gliding weekend at PNGC

Maybe you were wondering why gliding needs a special weekend for women. That’s fair enough. After all, there’s nothing stopping us coming flying any weekend we want.

Yet somehow there is. Statistics right across the country say so.

The BGA’s National Women’s Go Gliding Weekend in April proved that there is no shortage of women and girls who want to try gliding. When they do, they are very keen to learn. To use a good soaring analogy, it just takes that trigger.

Over the two days of the Women’s Weekend at PNGC we gave the participants and some of their families 72 flights despite some quite mediocre weather. Members gave up their own flying opportunities and came together to show off the best of the club’s efficiency, safe operation, helpfulness and good humor. The participants all said they enjoyed it hugely and remarked on the friendly club vibe.

The photos show some of the (unsolicited) thank you emails we received afterwards.

And here’s what some had to say on the day.

“It was nothing like what I thought it would be like. As soon as you get up there and feel the flow of the air and the sun and the beautiful view – and feeling with your senses what’s around you — it’s absolutely fantastic. I enjoyed it immensely. Thank you so much.”

One woman who wanted to do aerobatics was treated to a sequence of chandelles, a loop and a low pass over the airfield. She was ecstatic. “That was insane! Really crazy. Never experienced anything like it. No idea what the technical names are, but we went up and down and I felt the proper pressure on my whole body. I want to do it again for sure.”

Personal stories produced some interesting insights into what prompts women to try flying. ‘Sarah’  was diagnosed with incurable cancer late last year and wants to try everything she’s ever wanted to do.

‘Anna’ had decided to turn her life round before reaching 50. Over the last two years she has shed over 60kg, won a national award for slimming, and now feels confident enough to do things that have been closed off to her almost since her teens.

A mother of three with her own physical problems came along with her daughter and two younger siblings. We gave her daughter, an air cadet who had never flown, four flights and a certificate to prove it. Then we offered the mum a flight too. She was thrilled and the whole family had to tear themselves away from the airfield at the end of the day.

What did we learn?

We can deduce many of the reasons women have for taking up gliding, or not doing so. A majority who came to PNGC for our weekend had little or no previous knowledge of gliding nor great unrealized passion for aviation, but they were up for a new challenge. For most, the experience was an eye-opener.

Younger women tended to be more excited and daring, and appreciated other young women being around (and younger men!). Women with dependent children may be keen but the possibility of half days at the club would need to be emphasized.

The older women, no less enthusiastic, were notably more cautious and anxious. Asked specifically about their views on barriers to entry, a group of middle-aged women said they sensed what they laughingly called “a bit of willy waving” about how high, how far, how fast. I did counter that these are accepted metrics for measuring sporting achievement. Nonetheless, their impressions are something to mull over.

Could we emphasize that gliding is whatever you want it to be, whether soaring with birds, enjoying the views, learning to instruct, helping with maintenance, or launching others into the air? It’s not even necessary to want to fly solo.

Could we place more emphasis on personal mentoring, or allocate a club buddy?

What else might help? Some women instructors, committee members, a speaker, a regular ambassador program, and influencer(s) with personal/relatable stories on social platforms would be great for the club too. Just my thoughts. I’m sure we will all have more.

Any of the women we introduced would be great members. Hopefully some will go on to join, bringing complementary skills and organizational experience the club could benefit from and adding to the joy of it all.