Club History - MBGC

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A short history of the

his note is prepared by Emilis Prelgauskas, drawing on the records held in the
Ferries McDonald Technical Library at Monarto, South Australia –
The core source is the November 1983 club newsletter celebrating the 25 th anniversary of the current club.

The Murray Bridge Gliding Club today operates its motorgliders based on the Pallamana airfield on the northern side of the Rural City of Murray Bridge.

back then
A first gliding club was initiated by R.H. Harvey in Murray Bridge, it formed in 1931 and a Zoegling primary glider was built over a 12 month period. Harold Bottrill came from Saddleworth to test fly it in March 1932, after modification it was in use by club members. Launch was by auto-tow, the first flying site was the Kutzer property on the western side of Murray Bridge. The next year the club moved east of Murray Bridge to land made available by Hon. J.Cowan MLC. Club operations ceased in 1936, the Zoegling went to Waikerie in 1939.

In 1956 Bob Mills and Ralph Farquar had introductory flights at Waikerie through Ray Killmier. A formation meeting was held at the Great Eastern hotel in Nairne in November 1958, the club taking the name Great Eastern Gliding Club. An ES52 MkIII Kookaburra VH-GLJ was bought. It was loaned to the GFA National Gliding School and Adelaide Soaring Club, and the Great Eastern pilots also first flew it at Gawler until March 1959.
The club Opening Day was held on 10 th May 1959, on C.B Thiele land.
In 1961 the club moved to land on the northern side of Callington, but returned to Pallamana between crop rotations, then moving to the highway junction on the eastern side of Tailem bend in 1965.
In 1970 the club moved again to Pallamana, which has in the decades since evolved from farm paddock to gliding club home to broad based aviation centre.

The original club ‘Nissan’ hangar and Kookaburra sailplane accompanied the club on its various moves. Launching at the time was by winch.
In becoming entrenched at Pallamana, the club began its evolution. In the mid 1970s the club changed its name to Murray Bridge Gliding Club. With the availability of an Auster for aerotowing by R. Hein, the club progressively evolved to a Pawnee tow plane (VH-IGR) of its own in 1979, and in the end to self launch motorglider. The current ‘windsock lounge’ was originally the clubroom built by the club. The original hangar facing the main runway was removed and new hangars built in the taxiway area (hangar 19).

In the 1980s the club was active in visiting other gliding clubs, attending competition sites and camps, including flying wave and ridge in the Tothill Ranges.
At Pallamana the club held annual get togethers for sailplanes and pilots across South Australia. While the airfield was principally gliding operations, contests were staged here.  

The club purchased a succession of 2 seat and single seat sailplanes, and attracted a succession of associated privately owned sailplanes. A Bocian was in use with the club for a few years, replaced with a Blanik (VH-GVL). Single seat sailplanes included H201 Libelle (VH-GCO), a Pilatus B4 (VH-GCC) was later replaced with a Grob Single Astir (VH-IKJ). Private gliders over the decades have included Kingfisher (VH-GRH), Sagitta, (VH-GQS), Diamant (VH-GEC), Twin Astir (VH-IKO), Libelle (VH-GYN), Single Astir (VH-GDO).

By the 1990s Pallamana was evolving as an aviation centre, attracting general aviation and ultralight flying schools and an ever expanding cadre of privately owned power aircraft of all types. Flying sailplanes from the airfield from winch launch became very rare, and aerotow operations from the grass verge of the runway less appealing.
The Murray Bridge Gliding Club and some of its private owners evolved their aircraft to motorglider types. These included Dimona, RF4, and Grob G109. The club today operates VH-FFQ bought in July 1994.

The club activities expanded to include regular excursions to other sites of interest. Wave and ridge soaring in the Flinders Ranges were annual events, excursion to Burketown (north Queensland) to fly the ‘Morning Glory’ weather phenomenon has been undertaken a number of times.

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