HIGH FLYERS: Steve and Joe O'Donnell at the Australian Multiclass National Gliding titles in Waikerie, South Australia.
HIGH FLYERS: Steve and Joe O'Donnell at the Australian Multiclass National Gliding titles in Waikerie, South Australia.

Yeppoon man back in the sky after horror air crash

TANBY resident Steve O'Donnell glided his way into history last week - and not because on January19 he took out first place in the 56th Australian Multiclass National Gliding competition in the 15m class.

The experienced glider of more than 40 years said he was more chuffed about it being the first time in a glider competition recorded where four brothers and a son competed in the same competition.

 

Bernie, Tom, Steve, Joe and Pete at the presentations
Bernie, Tom, Steve, Joe and Pete at the presentations

The outstanding event took place when Steve's three brothers Tom, Bernie and Peter and son Joseph (Joe) decided to fly in the Glider Nationals in a show of support for the brother they nearly lost in a mid-air collision in January last year.

Steve said he was competing at the World Championships last year when in mid-air he collided with one of the German team.

 

Joe, Bernie, Tom, Pete and Steve O'Donnell together make for a world-first at the glider competition.
Joe, Bernie, Tom, Pete and Steve O'Donnell together make for a world-first at the glider competition.

"I lost my rudder and one wing, I was able to make it out of the cockpit in time and parachute to safety, falling about 5000 feet," Steve said.

"I damaged my vertebrae and had a lot of cuts andbruises - needless to sayI am grateful to be alive."

Steve said when considering entering the national competition at Waikerie Club in South Australia, his first thought was "am I crazy?".

"Collisions are really quiterare, we have procedures to prevent themso this was just one ofthose unpredictable things that happen in life," he said.

 

One of the gliders the family competed in.
One of the gliders the family competed in.

"The world competition had 120 gliders in the air so it was very busy.

"Given the recent national glider competition was the first one my brothers and I had all competed in since we were all children, it was a no-brainer.

"There is generally no more than two family members racing in a glider competition at any one time so to race against my brothers and my son was something that was very special indeed."

Steve said his love of gliders began when his father first took him and his brothers out to fly.

It is a passion that has remained in the family and they wouldn't have it any other way.

In another first, Steve took out first place with 7715 points, son Joe - who is a former National Junior Glider champion - took out second place with 6989 points and brother Tom took out third place with 6793 points.

Each day they raced the gliders, travelling anywhere from 300-600km, weather permitting, at speeds from 100km/h to a top of 170km/h.

Different tasks were set each day, with eight competition days in total, and for Steve the camaraderie on the ground matched the success in the air.



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