Perranporth Aerial View

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Perranporth In 1959

(Air Pictorial January 1959)

There can be few of us who have not at some time watched gulls soaring; we may even have become sufficiently interested to spot the different types. Herring gull, Ivory gull, Black-headed gull, the Little gull and many more. They all have one thing in common, they are brilliant soaring pilots, and for this reason are the motif used in the design of the Soaring Pilot's badge. King of them all is the Great Black-backed gull; he breeds particularly in the Orkneys, the Shetlands, and Steep Holme and Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel. In flight he soars above all others, watching and will attack and take from lesser birds what he wants; his wing span is between five and six feet, and he has been known to take and to fly away with small animals. Most of us who have watched these birds must have envied them, and wondered what it might be like, to fly with such skill and ease, and to watch in comfort everything below; the sea, the sun on the ships, people crowded on the beach and the smelly traffic crawling on hot, congested roads.

The members of the Cornish Gliding and Flying Club know; their gliding site at Perranporth, on the disused wartime airfield, is on the edge of the cliffs, which at this point are 300 feet high, and in the prevailing westerly winds provide one of the finest soaring sites in southern England, and, on the day Air Pictorial visited the Club, we found ourselves soaring high over the Bristol Channel quite close to a magnificent Great Black-backed gull. We were in fact, sharing the same bit of lift, and the gull apparently accepted the Slingsby T.21 as another of his kind, possibly because all the lesser birds were below us, and he would not have expected his inferiors to trespass in his piece of sky. This sea-cliff soaring is something which has to be experienced; facing into the west wind, and poised (with the Black-back close by) one viewed the Atlantic Ocean breaking on the cliffs below, and new seas building up across the old swell in response to the changed wind direction, clearly shown by salty wind lanes reaching to the horizon; far beyond the horizon for those below, one saw many ships, and observed that they were having a much rougher ride than we were, for the sea wind is smooth and there are no bumps.

On our right, and slightly astern, is Perranporth, and its attractive beaches; and to the left, the successive cliffs and headlands of the beautiful Cornish coast, which is seen best of all from the air. This, of course, is only one of the attractions of the Perranporth site, for it can pro-vide extensive soaring all the year round. Club members have, in fact, already completed twelve five-hour Silver "C" legs on their cliffs, and are anxious for visitors who are in search of their "Five-Hour Leg" to visit Perranporth, and find out for themselves just how good it can be; and for those who want to combine soaring with their summer holiday by the sea, special facilities exist.

Although the Club has only been in existence for less than two years it has a fine record, and has trained no less than seventy pilots to solo standard. Its present membership is 120, and these include twelve qualified gliding Instructors under the guidance of George Collins the Chief Flying Instructor. He himself qualified as a Flying Instructor in the R.A.F., and brings to the task not only great experience, but an infectious enthusiasm which is evident in all the Club's activities.

The Club hangar contains two two-seaters used for dual instruction and passenger flying; these are a Slingsby T.21, which as is well known is also a good soaring aircraft, and a Slingsby T.31.


Perranporth In 1959
Aerial View Of Perranporth

The single-seaters are two Tutors, and an Olympia, and two privately owned sailplanes, a Grunau, and a French Avia. The latter is interesting, not only because it is the only one of its kind flying in England, but also because it belongs to Mr. J. A. Brooke and his son, who farm locally. Before the Club came into existence, these enterprising pilots constructed their own winch, and, when the gulls were soaring well, they launched their Avia from their own land, and joined them. As might be expected they were founder members of the Club.

The Club hangar is another example of the enterprise of this Club. The building adjoins the airfield and was once a dynamite factory! It is therefore substantially built, and in addition to giving shelter to aircraft and members it could withstand a siege. One hopes that this will never be necessary, although one received the impression that were any-body so ill advised as to try to eject the Cornish Club from its site they would have a tough fight on their hands.

Membership of the Cornish Gliding and Flying Club is open to all enthusiasts. There is no paid staff, since members do all the work themselves, and this not only ensures that the aspiring pilot receives a very thorough education in all the important ground work that is necessary in any flying organisation, but it also keeps down costs. The full member-ship charge is six guineas per year, but special arrangements are made for summer visitors, and during June, July and August they are permitted to join the Club for the small fee of 2 per month. In addition to this, the Club runs special courses for beginners; these proved so popular last summer that in 1959 they intend to appoint a full-time resident Flying Instructor so that instruction can continue seven days a week. These courses cost sixteen guineas a week, and as this sum includes full board and lodging in an adjacent holiday camp, as well as flying, it is probably some of the best value for money in holidays by the sea that can be obtained. Full details of membership and holiday courses can be obtained by writing to the Secretary, J. W. E. Berry, Parc Sparbles, Green Lane. Carbis Bay, St. Ives, Cornwall.
Air Pictorial has already stressed in its leading article in December, the importance of the Flying and Gliding Clubs to this country. Here is a Club which is doing a splendid job of work for aviation, and the best way that anybody interested could show their appreciation is to join it.