Benalla is set to host a major national gliding championship considered a test run for next year’s world titles in the town.
About 80 pilots will be involved in OzGlide, to get started on Monday and continuing through until January 15.
The competition can only be won by an Australian, but that has not stopped at least 30 pilots travelling from Europe and North America to take part.
“The overseas competitors come basically to get familiar with the area and the conditions,” Gliding Federation of Australia spokesman John Styles said.
“This really is the pre-event for the world championships in January next year.”
Mr Styles said the performance of each pilot in the nationals was especially important “as it will help determine which pilots may join the handful of the world’s glider pilots that are selected from each country to compete” at the worlds.
The nationals are being held at the Benalla airfield, which is undergoing a series of upgrades for both the nationals and the world titles.
OzGlide will be officially opened by Northern Victoria MP Jaclyn Symes at the Benalla Performing Arts and Convention Centre on Monday at 9.30am.
Mr Styles said the state government had allocated about $750,000 to the upgrading work, which would allow for the landing of larger aircraft.
“It has longer-term benefits for the community.”
Mr Styles said Benalla was already a popular destination for British glider pilots, who often used it as a training base in the Australian summer.
“For the people from Finland, Italy, Canada and elsewhere, this is probably the first time that they’ve come to Australia,” he said.
“They’ll spend the month here practising and just getting familiar with the lay-out of the land.”
OzGlide pilots will spend anywhere between three and seven hours a day in the air travelling up to 800 kilometres.
“A pilot might be flying from Benalla to West Wyalong, then across to Bourke or somewhere like that and back again,” Mr Styles said.