Every weekend, students from Kuranui College are given the unique opportunity to reach new heights. Weather permitting, the college’s Aviation Club heads to the Greytown Soaring Centre at Papawai to fly in an ASK13 glider with their instructor Vern Grant.
Grant’s aim is for all of his students to have their solo licences by the end of the year. “A single 10 to 20-minute flight normally costs around $150, but each student can fly multiple times, without any of the worry of cost, as they work their way towards their solo gliding licence,” said Grant.
Kuranui College is one of only three colleges in New Zealand and the only secondary school in the country to offer glider flight training at NCEA. The course provides NCEA credits which go towards the National Certificate in Aviation Level 2, but these are merely a bonus given the opportunity to enjoy the wonders of flight and the chance to learn exceptional aviation skills.
Last year Joshua Wiegman won a competition run by Youth Gliding New Zealand which resulted in the two Kuranui students winning a day of gliding at the centre. Wiegman is now a dedicated member of the club. “After the summer holiday, a new group of people joined to get some credits but mainly to fly!
“When we’re at the airfield and are not flying, there are still heaps of things to do, from helping to maintain the gliders and the clubhouse, to assisting with the launching,” explained Wiegman.
“We launch not by plane but by winch. A winch is a big machine at the end of the runway with a long cable attached to it. The cable is also hooked onto the glider. The glider then gets pulled up by the winch amazingly fast. Some people say it’s the same feeling of G-force as being in a Formula One car. Once high enough in the air, the cable is released by the pilot. From then on, it’s just hoping to find a thermal that gets you up even higher.”
Grant retired from his full-time teaching position at Kuranui last year, but he still loves to share his passion with the students. He comes in each week to teach the Aviation Club students, both in the skies and in the classroom. They learn about civil aviation rules and laws, history of aviation, and units on gliding.
“As a hobby, or a career, flight is an experience like no other, and Kuranui students are determined to make the most of every opportunity which comes their way. Only the sky is their limit,” added Grant.