Flying ‘The Rock’, Townsville

The Rock

First legal Flight in 10 Years!

“Sunday 31/5/09. Hmmm, look out the window, trees are still limp. . . it’s sunny though! Well should get up and prep the car and wing. Give my flying bud Ben a call, he’s still keen, give Evan and Muddy a message. . . yep they’re keen as well.

Righto glider packed; check. Flying buddy coming; check. Ground crew coming; check. “Now, um where’s that wind. . . .?”

‘The Rock’ is as the name suggests a large boulder on the side of Saddle Mountain, which can be found if you flip those VTC maps around to the Townsville side. Saddle Mt is 20mins south of Townsville in the Cape Bowling Green/ Mt Storth National Park over looking the Clevdon causeway mud/salt flatlands.

Launch is a case of getting your glider up onto the Rock then hooking your harness in, hang check and jumping off. It’s a little bit of a step to get up there, necessitating at least 2 wiremen most of the time. Despite the extra manning requirement it’s not a hard launch once you’re actually on the Rock. Landing is most of the year pretty easy, as there is kilometre after kilometre of dry mud flats the whole 180 degrees in front of you which can be flown to with a 1:4 glide.

The winds needed are from ESE around to N any where from 0Kts (for those of you who know Ethel, he reckons he preferred just waiting for a thermal) up to about 20kts, but the perfect wind is about 15kts NE (more my preferred launch conditions). These winds can be found ANY time of year but are most prevalent from midway through winter to start of summer before the wet.

A LOT of work was put into this site about 15yrs ago by the Townsville Hang-Gliding Association (THGA). There was originally a 2500ft limit before the THGA got it raised to 3500ft. It’s a recognized HG site on the VTC. They used to have a wooden ramp to get up onto the rock which they had to take down but they filled in a large area with rocks and soil. Now it’s not really feasible to bring machinery in and there’s a large amount of fill so I’m assuming they did this by hand!

Now back to flying. . . about 10 the wind started picking up to 5-10kts SE as is usual for this time of year, Usually the Sun would bring on a strong sea breeze in the afternoon which swings the wind to NE 10-20kts. But some high level cloud was already taking the heat out of it. Any ways we were already packed so about 11:30 we all headed off. The LZ wasn’t showing much promise either, still very southerly probably 10kts SE. Getting up to the top and standing on the rock renewed our hopes though as it was blowing about 15kts seemingly more easterly. . . The mutual nod was given between Ben and I and glider setup commenced.

Ben was the first off the Rock with a good launch, and just like a movie the sun came out in full force just on takeoff. He slowly climbed away from launch (680ft) to about a grand filling me with confidence, so now my turn. Got my wing up there, hooked in and did an alright launch I thought . . . you can all critique it on YouTube (see below).

I’m sure I’ll hear all about how dodgy it looks. It’s not as bad as it looks I don’t think, as I probably stuffed around a bit longer than I should have on the rock and went out a bit far and lost a little height. Having said that, I’d not flown the site since last year so I was playing it safe. After I came back in next to the hill I also climbed to about 800ft as it plateaued off for a while. Ben still at a bit over a grand decided to try for the skip back over the Telstra tower to the back ridge, about half way though he also decided to play it safe and came back just under my height. Well now about an hour into things the sun had left and we could feel the bumps and sink getting bigger as the wind tended more towards SE again, sure enough Ben was the first to touch down with me a couple of minutes later.

All in all we thought it was a good day especially for the first flight in 10+ years at the Rock, with a renewed permit from Queensland parks and wildlife. This renewed permit I must say wasn’t a walk in the park to get either. Bob and Trace must be given a lot of the credit for achieving! I would also like to thank anyone else who had a part in getting the Rock hang-gliding site opened again as like 15 years ago it took almost a year to get all the paper work through.

Thanks Guys!

And last but not least there’s one person that has been asked about a million times exactly how strong the wind needs to be and from what direction to safely get off the rock, Where the lift will be hiding and how to start heading south cross country, the wealth of experience that is Ethel. Cheers mate!


I feel a roadtrip coming on….

2 Responses to “Flying ‘The Rock’, Townsville”

  1. Mark Says:


    How do you get to this location? I know where the AIMS turn-off is.



  2. admin Says:

    Hi Mark,

    This is a very old post, from 2009… i don’t know the answer myself, i’d suggest either contacting the club directly, or send a message via the FaceBook page:

    [CHGC wed admin]

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