Flying in Malta

By Enrico

Winds in Malta are frequent and variable and some more the MPA could not depend on one flying site only. After the excellent soaring done at the Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, I then embarked on a long and painstaking survey of the coastline of Malta and Gozo. I wanted to find other places which could take different wind directions and where a decent take-off area could be arranged, without too much work.

A second site was soon discovered near the Selmun Castle, on the shallow slopes overlooking Mistra Bay. Take-off and landing are easy there, but the slope is so shallow that a good wind is needed in order to support long flights. The advantage is that easterly winds can be used, to the contrary of Ghajn Tuffieha Bay which is facing West.

A third place was then found on the other side of the Castle, at the Selmun Bay. Things there are a bit odd though. The take-off place is only a dozen metres above the sea, with a very limited beach underneath. But the peculiarity of this place, facing North, is that once airborne one has the possibility to climb a nearby slope and end up soaring high over the cliffs behind the bay.

A fourth place, the cliff of Qammieh Bay, is suitable for nice flights in southerly winds. Only a limited area is available for take-off but once in the air, one can easily soar up to its extreme point in smooth conditions.

It was only later that the great soaring possibilities of the Dingli Cliffs could be put to a good use. The problem there was to find a suitable take-off place, big enough for a decent inflation and at the same time clear of the cliff-edge turbulence. In southerly to South-westerly winds, very nice flights have been done over these long cliffs.

At times, the prevailing westerly wind, tends to veer a bit too much from the North for Ghajn Tuffieha. That's the case of taking a flight in Gharghur, where the good breeze coming in from the sea joins forces with the heat of the fields below, to generate some excellent thermic and thermodynamic lift.

To the contrary, if the wind in Ghajn Tuffieha veers a bit too much from the South, then the little bay of Delli is the place. Nice soaring flights have been done over its steep slopes, with the possibility of leaving the bay and soaring along the cliffs of the Snuber Tower, in good wind conditions.

When I went across the Gozo Channel, I had the pleasure of discovering more good flying sites over the Gozo island. The very first one was at the gentle slopes of Marsalforn, where good easterly winds can support long flights.

Behind these slopes, the Gordan Light House stands on top of a cliff facing North and dominating the East coast of Gozo. The place looked great from a distance, but in reality it is rather small, with a limited area suitable for soaring and a difficult cliff launch.

A much wider slope was instead found near Ramla Bay. One has to negotiate a difficult cliff launch near the Gozo dumping area, but once airborne the long cliffs can provide nice soaring flights in North to North-easterly winds.

When the wind is from the South instead, great soaring flights can be done over the breathtaking Ta' Cenc cliffs. I had my hard time to find an area that is both free from the dreaded cliff-top turbulence and at the same time with an emergency landing half-way below. I finally got it and was rewarded with wonderful soaring flights over the highest cliffs in Gozo. Of course, one has to keep well in mind that these long cliffs are falling straight into a deep sea and offer no emergency landing at their bottom&

A little more to the West and past the Xlendi Bay, the same line of cliffs rises up again to offer another soaring place, near the Ghadira. With an orientation similar to the previous site, this place also provides no bottom landing and great care has to be taken not to get below the cliff-top.

The Dwejra bay, besides being a famous tourist attraction for the "Inland Sea", it can also offer a nice soaring flight over its cliffs, right above the "Sea". This can be done only in southerly to South-westerly winds.

My exploration of the Malta and Gozo flying sites ended at the place "where Seagull soar". On hearing that from native people, I scouted around the West coast of Gozo, until I discovered this small hill standing on top of a long cliff. This nice site, which I obviously named "Seagull", can make use of the good North-westerly winds and the flight can be extended out of the bay itself, over a long line of cliffs. Again, one must be well wary of the fact that no bottom landing is available at any location.

A more detailed description of the 14 flying places of Gozo and Malta has been compiled and made available to the MPA Members only.

[Thu Nov 25 09:44:40 1999]