Growing up as a child in Ireland with a father who had spent his early twenties in Australia and who often spoke fondly of his time there it had always been a wish of mine to visit. Then I heard it had almost always perfect soaring conditions well that just made it imperative that I go .

So early this year l called Qantas and took a flight to Brisbane. Looked up the web for some soaring sites. Found a few in the Brisbane area, but one stuck out in particular.  The Darling Downs Soaring club, how could you not love the name and they had many glass ships including a Duo Discus . But would they let me fly it?, it would be a nice change from the schwitzer 233's I'm used to. 

I called up Kerry Klein and he said "come on out mate." So I got in a rental and headed 200k's west  through rolling farmlands until finally arriving at McCaffrey Field, a huge grass strip. Now I have to say I immediately felt at home because it looked a little like my club's strip back in Long Island,  just much bigger and with lots and hangars (wish we had that) and the same sleepy guys hanging out at the flightline (only different names). They invited me to sit down and we exchanged stories made comparisons, the usual stuff. 

Then the Duo Discus landed and they said would you like to fly. Well they didn't have to ask me twice and a very nice lady instructor called Jenny Thompson sat behind me in the Duo. She let me do the takeoff and tow helping me when I needed it (which wasn't too often I hope). I later found out from someone else that Jenny held several Australian soaring records but she never once let me feel inadequate for my sometimes hamfisted soaring techniques. 

Jenny has a very subtle instructional style, in the two and a half hours we were flying I really learned a lot and felt very comfortable in the Duo when the flight was over. 

Later I was invited to stay in the club accommodation and as the club was having a going away party for a former club president and his wife, I was invited to attend. Good food, good wine and good company made for a great night.  Speeches were made and the renowned Aussie wit and friendly banter was in full evidence,  I met many other club members, everyone made me feel so welcome and a great time was had by all(especially me).

My trip to Australia was meant to be a once in a lifetime one,  but my experience with the Darling Downs Soaring Club has made me want to return there and I hope to in the near future. 

Peter Flanagan.

Long Island Soaring Association.

http://www.longislandsoaring.com/