What is gliding and why more women should try it

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The absolute Italian title of gliding belongs to a woman. Margherita Acquaderni, in mid-May, she was awarded the first step of the podium of the Absolute National Championship of the 18 meters class, on the occasion of the Varese City Cup (CCV) competition in which sports pilots of national interest participated. Yet, only the fans know it and they too often turn their gaze the other way when Margot arrives because the world of aeronautics in Italy is still very macho: being a pilot is not a “woman affair”, in conclusion.

Yet to fly with a glider glider without the use of mechanical propulsion systems, neither physical strength, nor speed, nor muscle mass is needed, but technique, competence, perseverance and the ability to take risks. This is why there are competitions where gender difference is not considered a category, yet in our country there are very few women who decide to «take flight ”and consider the pilot’s career a viable path.

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The first starts from here Fly Pink Gliding Master which in the weekend of 21-21 May saw about 15 pilots from all over Italy gather at the Aero Club Adele Orsi in Calcinate, in the province of Varese, with the aim of strengthening the women’s national gliding team, still today little represented. The master is the second part of a theoretical training that took place via Zoom during the months of the lockdown and was strongly desired by Margherita Acquaderni President of the award-winning Aero Club pilot of the national team.

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“When I took part in my first Continental race in 1997, a world opened up for me,” he says Margherita Acquaderni. «In Italy I have always confronted myself with men. For the first time, I realized that in the rest of the world there are many pilots and husbands look after the children when they fly. And I thought I had to create a pink reality for us too. Unfortunately in Italy we have a very male-dominated aeronautical culture and women who are still convinced that they cannot do extraordinary things. I would like to be able to change these paradigms, I find them retrograde and not relevant to the world we live in ».

After that event, Margot began to scout in Italy and at the beginning of the 2000s she organized the first meeting in which six girls took part, arriving in 2006 at 10 and in 2012 at around twenty. “Step by step something is moving, but it was really very difficult,” he says. “The fact is that you really need to change the mentality and for that you need a lot of perseverance and patience. Getting to organize a master’s degree in 2021 seemed unlikely until recently, but here we are! The enthusiasm of the third step of the podium of the Italian women’s team at the 2020 WWGC World Championships in Australia has certainly instilled new enthusiasm and today the gliding pilots who are part of the Fly Pink are 50, of which 10 are associated with Aero Club Adele Orsi».

Il Volo a Vela was born at the beginning of the last century but developed in Germany at the end of the First World War as only chance to fly since the construction of aircraft and any other aeronautical activity, including sports, had been prohibited by the Peace Treaty. Germany and Poland are still European countries at the forefront of this discipline and have the largest number of female pilots.

«The best thing about this sport is that when you take the wheel off the ground, you are done with earthly thoughts»Continues Acquaderni. «In gliding you have to be focused on the here and now, it’s a way to experience the present and detach yourself from problems and reality. The air is never the same so you can’t get bored in any way, plus you have to deal with yourself and you can’t tell lies. Finally, it is a sport in which you must have sacred respect for the rules and where the head must be trained as much as the body because it requires continuous decisions and a lot of concentration ».

Flying without an engine means understand the surrounding environment, constantly read the currents and how the elements behave. To understand if it is a good day to take flight is to look at the sky and look for those «cumuli del beltempo », or those clouds as they would be drawn in a cartoon, which represent the indication of the presence of thermal currents.

«A good day is a day full of heaps of good weather that are the clouds that show us where to climb. The sun heats the ground which is uneven and absorbs and releases heat unevenly. Switch between surfaces. We go in search of that column and our only engine is meteorology. Or we move with the wind beating against the mountain and forming a wave: the pilot’s skill lies in being able to ride this wave, exactly like surfing, but at a height of 5/6000 meters ».

Margot is also part of Women with wings, an association that brings together 10 pilots from all over the world and represents a moment of confrontation between different cultures. The goal is to involve more female quotas within the world of aeronautics. «We would like to organize the world day of the pink flight by opening the doors of the various aero clubs to give the girls the opportunity to try to fly. My dream is to create a more cohesive group with the aim of growing the women’s movement, giving the drive and a generational change to the discipline. We would also like to make it clear that it is not as burdensome as they paint it, that anyone can try ».

The spouses Adele and Giorgio Orsi they fell in love with gliding as if it were love at first sight. A wealthy couple, who had made sport their main pastime and organized tournaments in their villa ranging from tennis to volleyball. Then the glider test and the desire to do something not to lose that tradition which, in the 1950s in the Varese area, was about to be totally replaced by the engine.

Adele’s father owned a strip of land perfect for building an airport, an area on the north shore of Lake Varese consisting of little cultivated, very humid fields and with the presence of very few mulberry trees that are no longer used. At first, Dr. Mazzucchelli did not seem very inclined to participate in dreams of a woman mother of three with a passion for flight, but then she saw something revolutionary in that idea.

It was born in 1961 the Aero Club Adele Orsi in Calcinate del Pesce and this year celebrates 60 years of glorious history that saw the best drivers from all over the world pass by because Adele was meticulous and always wanted to be at the top. This has made this place a world reference point for the discipline. Extraordinary pilot, Adele flew without ever departing from the rules, first of all respecting safety while Giorgio, shrewd entrepreneur, listened innovator, tireless mediator, passionate driver, has always been a safe guide over the years. A beautiful love story united (also) by this incredible passion.

So accessible that we have experienced it ourselves. At our side, a qualified instructor, Maurizio, is absolutely in love with his work, with a great desire to share his passion. Some safety information, a parachute fastened on the shoulders, and the climb into the cockpit of the aircraft. They told us that you can stay up to 10 hours in the air supported by the wind. We just need one.

At this point, the glider is towed to a powered plane that takes us upwards. We follow him, the yoke serves to keep the course: we must follow who is taking us with him. At the moment of release, everything is in our hands, to the wind and those wings that imitate the flight of a hawk and, even more, an eagle, a bird of prey in search of currents that lead to rise. We are hunting for hot air and, when it is found, we must ride it, go around it, over it, let it push us upwards and at the same time not force anything, but indulge.

The sensation is unique, the noise is only that of the wind and the on-board equipment and the idea that comes from this is that you could really touch and touch the clouds. In short, if you were looking for a way to tell a feeling of freedom, we found it.

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