The Cotswold Gliding Club (CGC) is based at Aston Down airfield, between Cirencester and Stroud in Gloucestershire, South West England. The Club maintains a fleet of aircraft for training purposes, and is a centre for cross-country gliding and competitions.
CGC has some 200 members, including 30 students from the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol. There are about 30 associate members: these include both pilots (with limited flying rights) and aeromodellers. In 2007 the CGC widened its membership to include Blokarters.
Aston Down is, by gliding standards, a large airfield. The 1500 m main runway (about one mile) offers scope for launches of 450 to 700 m (1500 to 2300 ft)—and sometimes up to 900 m (3000 ft) when the wind direction is straight down the runway. For many years most launches at Aston Down were by the reverse pulley method, but since the year 2000 the principal method of launch has been by winch. The high launches make it easy to contact the abundant thermals that rise from the well drained Cotswold limestone to give excellent soaring conditions. Aerotow launching is also used, particularly in competitions and when westerly or north-westerly winds generate lift off the Cotswold ridge (or "Edge") or wave lift downwind of the Welsh mountains.
The picture shows Aston Down taken from the south. The main (northeast-southwest) runway runs from bottom left to top right, while the shorter 1000 m (3,300 ft) east-west runway runs left to right. The disused runway in the distance has been partly removed to allow more room for gliders landing on the grass. Blokarting and aeromodelling are restricted to the runway not currently in use for gliding (which varies according to wind direction).
The Club's fleet of aircraft includes two modern PW-6U training gliders (delivered in June 2008), a DG 500T advanced cross-country trainer, two Ka13 dual-seat trainers and a Ka7 owned by UWE Gliding Club. Three Ka8s are available for early solo pilots, while more experienced pilots can fly either a Pilatus B4 or an Astir. All Club gliders have similar instrumentation and are equipped with audio variometers.
In 2008 the Club introduced courses specifically designed to give power pilots a hands-on introduction to soaring flight.
Members receive training from the Club's 20 BGA-qualified instructors. This training takes pilots to solo and well beyond—to advanced cross-country flying. Privately owned motor gliders based at Aston Down are available for club members for field landing and Cross Country Endorsement checks. During the soaring season many members fly private gliders, usually owned jointly by two or more partners. This flying takes the form of either local soaring or more ambitious cross-country flights, often covering several hundred kilometres. Some examples of recent flights by members of the Club can be seen on the BGA Ladder