By Vinnie Todd
Manilla glider pilot Allan Barnes’ Christmas came early in 2022. Firstly he married his German-born sweetheart of three years, Katie Fobbe early November, then six weeks later took to the skies at Lake Keepit and created four new Australian records in Standard Class (for gliders with a 15m wing span).
Allan modestly recalled his recent achievement where he notched up 1013km to break, amongst others, the Australian Out and Return Distance Record.
“I started at Lake Keepit and flew to my turning point just north-east of Roma in Queensland. We have to pre-declare which point we’ll use as a turning point, fly to that and back, and have to pass back within 500m of the start point to make it valid. We have a GPS logger on board to prove we’ve actually flown what we declared, as it needs to be inspected by the record authorities,” he said.
“The flight itself was non-stop – I launched at 9.45am and landed back about 7.50pm. And it was the first ‘closed’ 1000km flight flown out of Lake Keepit. Near Goondiwindi though I dropped to 600ft and looked like having to land at a farmhouse before getting another thermal and going up to 10,000ft again.”
New Zealand-born Allan quietly admitted to having his mascot “Teddy” beside him the whole trip.
“I take old Teddy on a lot of trips. It was my dad’s and is now 90 years old. He gave it to me as a gift when I was born – 60 years ago.”
Success in gliding all depends on how well a pilot can read and work around the thermals, according to Allan, who can boast seven national gliding titles and finishing fourth (Czech Republic) and seventh (Argentina) in previous World Championships.
Last year Allan flew his ninth World Championship in Szeged, Hungary in the two-seater championships with his flying buddy Harry Medlicott from the Central Coast. Harry, at 90, became the oldest person to actively participate in a World Championship in any sport – an unbelievable achievement.
“We rely on thermals to keep us up. We have to be aware of where we are going, study and read the clouds, and work out where the next thermals will be, though on a cloudless day, it can be harder. Having a knowledge of meteorology helps. I’m not meteorology-trained but have done a lot of study into it, especially micro-meteorology which deals with how air behaves in localisedareas. We also have a lot of online tools which help with flight planning.
“People are amazed at how we stay up for so long without an engine. I love it. Gliding gives you freedom to go wherever you want, and to travel long distances without using any energy – only the energy of the sky. You could travel 1000km in a car and the trip might be much the same no matter the weather. Whereas in a glider, the weather forces you to constantly choose your best route through the sky. Plus it’s a lot of fun – the views are fantastic, especially at 10,000ft.”
Allan, who took over the Manilla Bed & Breakfast ‘Ambleside’ 10 years ago, and coaches upcoming pilots at the Lake Keepit Soaring Club, has been a glider pilot for 20 years.
“I used to be a hangglider pilot until I broke my hip in a hang gliding accident. After receiving an artificial hip in 2001, I didn’t want to risk landing on my feet, so took up gliding.”
With the recent records under his belt, Allan will now focus on the 2024 World Championships.
“We’ll have trials for the Australian team at Narromine in March, then if I qualify, will contest the World Championships the following year, also at Narromine.”