Flight of fancy
By IAN THOMSON
DES Muir of South Grafton is flying high at the moment.
The 73-year-old has been where no man has been before ? a record-breaking flight at the controls of a silent glider.
It started out as just another routine flight from the Grafton Gliding Club's base at Eatonsville and finished an amazing six hours and 10 minutes later.
That is an all-up trip of 468km, an extraordinary feat never achieved before in a coastal area.
Extremely rare weather conditions served up a cloud base of up to 11,500 feet and produced the thermals so vital in keeping gliders in the sky.
"I couldn't believe my luck," Mr Muir said yesterday.
"I flew over Lawrence, then Baryulgil and followed the river to Jackadgery, Buccarumbi, Nymboida, then Ebor, the Bellingen Valley, up to Nana Glen, Glenreagh and back to Eatonsville."
Grafton Gliding Club president Val Preston said he had never witnessed anything like it in this neck of the woods.
"It's fairly common to do trips like that way out west where there are favourable weather conditions, but as far as I'm concerned it's the first time its been done on the coast," he said.
"Des will tell you he was lucky, but it takes a great deal of skill to read thermals like he did and to stay aloft for so long."
"My stats show me that if Des had flown in a straight line south, he would have finished up on Narrabeen beach in Sydney."
The Grafton Gliding Club is putting together the facts and figures of the flight to have it officially recognised by the Gliding Federation of Australia. Mr Muir was at the controls of a glider he rebuilt after it crashed into five pieces in an accident in Victoria.
"I originally bought the wreck to use the wings on another glider I was building, but then I decided to rebuild the whole thing," Mr Muir said.
At times during the flight Mr Muir reached 12,000 feet, the temperature in the cockpit dropping to just five degrees.
Mr Muir and Mr Preston are both founding members of the Grafton Gliding Club, which first got off the ground in 1974.
The other two foundation members are the late Norm Milne and his wife Jean.
When Mr Muir was asked what was going through his mind during the epic flight, he said: "I just kept thinking that there was no place in the world that I would rather be."