Introduction to Gliding

Gliding is a recreational activity and competitive air sport in which pilots fly unpowered aircraft known as gliders using naturally occurring currents of rising air in the atmosphere to remain airborne.

Lift

Glider pilots can stay airborne for hours and travel hundreds of kilometers by flying through rising air called lift such as:

  • Thermal Lift - updrafts of warm or moist air.
  • Ridge Lift - found where the wind blows against the face of a hill and is forced to rise.
  • Wave lift - standing waves in the atmosphere, analogous to the ripples on the surface of a stream.

There are also other forms of lift such as sea breeze lift but they are used less frequently. Finding and flying in lift is known as soaring, while easy to learn it takes a lifetime to master. Finding the best lift, allowing you to fly further and faster than other pilots can gives you the competitive edge in the sport.

Launching

As gliders cannot launch themselves we use two main methods to get into the air.

  • Winch Launch - using a cable to drag the glider into the air allows launches of 1,000 to 2,000 ft cheaply.
  • Aerotow Launch - towing the glider behind a powered aircraft is more expensive but allows launches of 2,000 to 5,000 ft.

You do not need any prior experience to start gliding, most people are able to learn the basics and have their first solo flight in under a year. All clubs in the UK teach to the same syllabus set by the British Gliding Association. After going solo and additional training you can gain a pilots licence.

All hail the Weather Brain!