Gliders are grounded after 59 years of flying

Four Counties Gliding Club members on the runway at RAF Wittering. Photo: Brian Dodson. EMN-141113-111010001
Four Counties Gliding Club members on the runway at RAF Wittering. Photo: Brian Dodson. EMN-141113-111010001

A gliding club has decided to disband after the airbase it called home for many years was chosen to host RAF training squadrons.

Members of Four Counties Gliding Club are looking for new places to fly after bosses at RAF Wittering said they could no longer use their runways.

The base became an active airfield in April to prepare for RAF University Training Squadrons moving in. And the officer in charge decided it would be unsafe for the gliding club to use the same airspace.

In a letter to the Mercury, club member Brian Dodson said it was a “great shame”.

“This is such a shame as this club has a lot of members both military and civilian and held many big gliding competitions at the base,” he said.

“Other clubs including Welland Gliding Club, from Corby, also flew in and out of Wittering.”

The club has a fleet of gliders, a winch and several other vehicles, plus a permanent hangar built for the Royal Air Force Gliding and Soaring Association.

Mr Dodson said: “Now the club has closed and its aircraft could be put up for sale or sent to other units but the vehicles will be sold or scrapped. The permanent hangar will be left behind.

“Such a great shame for an organised club.”

The club was established at Wittering in 1956 and although it had several homes over the years, returned to the base in 2005.

The gliders shared the base with the famous Harrier jets, but only flew on weekends when the military aircraft were grounded.

Wittering will soon become home to five training squadrons, who will fly 25 Grob Tutor planes. Cambridge University Air Squadron, University of London Air Squadron and No 5 Air Experience Flight will move to Wittering when RAF Wyton’s airfield closes in February. East Midlands University Air Squadron and No. 115 (Reserve) Squadron will also relocate from RAF College Cranwell.

A Wittering spokesman said the club had been told it could no longer remain at the base as gliding was “incompatible with the planned seven-day flying operations”.