The Highland Gliding Club was formed in 1971 by the civilian members of the then Fulmar Gliding Club of the Royal Navy. Gliding took place at Milltown airfield about 3 miles north-east of Elgin. In the beginning the Highland Club operated a Slingsby T21 and Swallow. A Skylark 3F was purchased not long afterwards. By 1975 the Ministry of Defence had given notice that the aerial farm at Milltown was to be expanded and gliding operations would have to cease. The Fulmar Gliding Club was now being run by RAF personnel as the nearby base at Lossiemouth had changed hands from the Fleet Air Arm to the RAF. It was decided that Fulmar Club would move to RAF Kinloss some 10 miles west.
Highland Gliding Club was now seriously looking for a new home which was found at Dallachy, a disused wartime airfield near the mouth of the river Spey some 8 miles east of Milltown. The club was able to rent an old taxiway and adjacent grass strip. It may eventually have been grass but at first it was mostly gorse and rubble. In October 1975 the club ceased operations at Milltown and the members set about the enormous task of clearing the site at Dallachy of all the gorse, stones and rubble. By the spring of 1976 the new site was ready. During the winter the T21, Swallow and Skylark 3F were all sold and a re-furbished Bocian and a Ka6cr were purchased. In April 1976 the Bocian soared over to Dallachy from Milltown and a new era had begun for Highland Gliding Club.
Gone were the huge hangar, heated clubhouse and wide open spaces of Milltown. In was rigging and de-rigging, a tiny caravan and the narrow rough strip of Dallachy. However, what the club lacked in facilities it more than made up for in enthusiasm. Not long after the move to Dallachy a hangar was constructed by members from an old Romsey hut. Not long after that a clubhouse / workshop was built and an Astir was added to the club fleet. During the eighties the club expanded, K8s were added to the fleet and the number of private gliders steadily increased. By the early nineties, after 15 years of operations at Dallachy, some of the members had had enough of one aspect of the site, the sea breeze. Unless there was a 20 knot offshore wind the sea breeze was usually in by breakfast time and killed off soaring for the day. After many years of searching, an alternative site to Dallachy was found at Easterton, about 3 miles south of Elgin. In 1991 a 3 year lease was signed and the club was on the move again.
Again the club left behind a hangar and a clubhouse and again the members were back to rigging, de-rigging, trailers and caravans. However, that first year most pilots did more soaring than they had done at Dallachy in the previous five. The club's greatest advance came about through a tremendous bit of good fortune. In 1994 it was announced that the Rothes Estates (from whom the ground was leased) was being split up and sold off. With the assistance of a National Lottery grant the club was able to make a successful bid for the land it had been leasing and a bit more. For the first time in their history the club members were now the proud owners of their own airfield, a tremendous achievement bearing in mind that very few gliding clubs in the UK own the ground they fly from.
In 1995 the hangar at Dallachy was dismantled and re-built at Easterton by a contractor. 1996 saw Operation Bolthole when the Fulmar Gliding Club joined Highland at Easterton for 6 months from May to November while the runways at RAF Kinloss were being re-surfaced. That was a very positive experience for both clubs but sadly RAFGSA regulations meant Fulmar had to go back to Kinloss. Still flushed with the success of the National Lottery grant to buy the site one of the members hatched another plan. For over 20 years the club had been using Bocians for training. It was also becoming obvious that due to the ever-increasing numbers of private gliders on site the utilisation of the club single-seaters was not what it had been at Dallachy. The plan was to sell all the club gliders and upgrade to an all GRP fleet that suited our needs and seek another National Lottery grant to achieve this. The club was again successful in obtaining funding and in 1997 a beautiful K.21 arrived on site, followed by a Junior in 1999.
In June 2000, after nearly 25 years of operating at different sites, the Fulmar Gliding Club moved its operations from RAF Kinloss to Easterton. They brought with them a Grob Acro, Astir and a Supermunk tug. Eventually the Grob Acro was sold into private hands at Easterton and was replaced with a Duo Discus. The two clubs retain their separate identities and pool their resources to operate effectively as one.
In early 2010 disaster struck when the Romsey hut we moved from Dallachy and had used as a hangar collapsed under the weight of snow during one of the worst winters in living memory. The Red Bocian which had been in private hands for a number of years was written off. The club K21 was badly damaged and needed a new wing to be made by the manufacturer which took 8 months. 2 other gliders sustained damage but were repairable.
By mid 2011 a new hangar was under construction to replace the collapsed one. Highland Gliding Club applied for and received planning permission to operate powered aircraft. It was decided that part of the new hangar would be given over to a maintenance area and part would be used to accommodate powered aircraft.
Another landmark was set in October 2012 when Highland Gliding Club took ownership of a EuroFOX aircraft for towing gliders, the first club in Scotland to do so and one of the first in the UK. This was the first time the club has owned a glider tug; the Supermunk previously used was operated by Fulmar.
That almost brings the story up to date but no history of the Highland Gliding Club would be complete without mentioning the late Hendry Dyce and the late Bill Hill. Hendry and Bill were two of the founder members of the club and it's true to say that without them there would not be a Highland Gliding Club today.
Hendry was an instructor and chairman of the club for many years and best remembered for his superb flying skills and his dry wit. Bill was also an instructor for many years but will be best remembered for his mechanical and engineering skills and as a great improviser. The winch we use today was built under Bill's supervision in the early seventies and is still going strong. Henry died in 1997 and Bill in 1999 and although neither was an active glider pilot at the time of his death; they are both sadly missed at the club.