Gliding is popular with technical types who have time on their hands, but you don’t have to be a retired rocket scientist to enjoy it.
– Martin Sloane; chemical engineer, propulsion scientist and Midland Gliding Club member
Born in 1961, Martin Sloan watched Apollo space missions as a boy and dreamed of being a rocket scientist; unlike most of his generation, he actually became one. With a Master’s degree in chemical engineering, he joined the UK’s leading centre for solid rocket motor production near Kidderminster, becoming R&D Manager, before working overseas including for NASA.
Martin says “Whenever my wife, who is a keen walker, and I were back in the UK, we would visit the Shropshire Hills. One day on the Long Mynd she saw a sign at the gate of the Midland Gliding Club airfield and booked a course for me as a present.”
That was in 2007. Martin returned several times over the years, learning to glide at his own pace on holiday courses, but he knew that flying for a few days at a time was not the best way to make real progress.
“I picked up the rudiments and remembered enough from year to year to take to the sky with an instructor, but I decided to join the Club when my family and work commitments reduced. I like the people, the way the Club operates, and the skill and patience of the instructors – and the Long Mynd is such a beautiful place to spend time, one that my wife enjoys as much as I do.”
In 2016, within a year of becoming a full member, Martin flew solo for the first time. He now flies two or three times a week and finds being on the airfield completely absorbing. He likes the mix of people and enjoys helping to get others into the air as much as his own flying.
“Gliding certainly appeals to technical types, engineers and the like, particularly ones with time on their hands, but you don’t have to be a retired rocket scientist to enjoy it. I often fly with members of an informal group that includes an A-level science student who soloed when she was 15 years old, a professional electrician, a ship’s captain, construction and software engineers and a fast-jet-turned-commercial pilot.
As one of a select few to have flown a Space Shuttle, albeit in NASA’s Huntsville simulator, Martin has some unique gliding experience. Martin has now bought a share in a glider of his own and is spreading his wings by flying cross-country from the Long Mynd.