Sky is the limit for young SW pilot with a passion

Shannon BochenekManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Michael Keller in a Schlempp-Hirth Discus CS, German glider with a wingspan 15 metres at the State Championships in Narrogin last month.
Camera IconMichael Keller in a Schlempp-Hirth Discus CS, German glider with a wingspan 15 metres at the State Championships in Narrogin last month. Credit: Supplied

After he was given a ‘learn to glide’ course for his 13th birthday, Northcliffe’s Michael Keller, 17, took his love for aircraft and flight to the next level and has just returned from his first competition at the Western Australian Gliding Association’s State Championships.

As a junior athlete, Michael took part in the championships as a learning experience alongside more experienced flyers as a “hors concours” participant.

“Hors concours is a French word meaning “not officially competing,” Michael explained.

“I was there to learn how to fly in a competition.”

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Michael now has his sights set on Joey Glide, the Australian Junior National Championships in New South Wales early next year, where he will officially compete.

Joey Glide is also the selection point for under 26-year-olds to be named on the Australian Junior Gliding Team that represents Australia at the World Gliding Championships each year.

Michael said he hoped he could find himself listed on the team in the future.

“You always dream about it and think, ‘what would happen if I did get selected?’,” he said.

“It’s not that likely it is going to happen, we’ve got a really high calibre of pilots flying at a junior level as well.

“I’ll be competing against pilots with much better aircraft and with tens of years of experience so I think that’ll be something that comes later.

“I’d like to say that I’d sit in the middle (of the pack), I don’t think I’m going to be right at the top because I know how good these other pilots are.

“On the day that I flew 110kmh they could probably do 120kmh.

“If you get up towards the top end every tiny little point one of a kilometre counts.”

Gliding is the “absolute distillation of flight” Michael said, as the sport involves just a light aircraft flown using the thermal currents in the air.

“I really can’t describe it with words,” he said.

“There’s just nothing like flying around in the sky in this little fibreglass glider. It’s just incredible.”

Michael is currently crowdfunding for his trip to NSW for the Australian Junior Gliding Nationals from January 20 to 27.

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