Some answers to frequently asked questions.
If you have something that isn’t covered here, please use the contact form as someone will know the answer!
How do gliders fly?
Gliders fly in the same way as aeroplanes, the shape of the wing produces a low pressure about the wing as the glider moves through the air in. This low pressure is known as lift. Gliders don’t need an engine or wind to be able to fly as they are either launched using a winch or towed into the air by an aircraft.
Gliders can stay in the air for prolonged periods by flying through areas of rising air. This is either “dynamic” or “thermic” lift, produced by topographical features or by heating (usually from the sun hitting the ground).
For more information there is an excellent summary here: Wolds Gliding Club.
How long does it take to learn to fly a glider?
The length of time it takes to learn to fly a glider is dependent on a number of key factors.
- Time between training
- Previous experience
Typically most students learning to glide will do a combination of both winch launches and aerotows. To go solo a student must be able to consistently demonstrate to their instructor that they are safe to fly on their own to do this the student will have to have shown:
- Good coordination of stick and rudder
- Good circuit planning – including landing from out of position locations
- Sensible decision making when under pressure
- Good judgement of height & distance
It normally takes between 80 – 120 flights to go solo, but occasionally some students learn much faster and others take longer. If you want to guarantee it’s not going to cost too much, then paying for a “fixed price to solo” is a good way to do this, typically this is a more appropriate choice for slightly older students who will take longer to pick up the skills.
If you have previous experience flying powered planes, paragliders, hang gliders or other air/wind based sports you will have a slight edge over other students.
How long can gliders fly for?
Gliders can fly for as long as there is lift, typically in the UK, this will mean using thermals. The best gliding days will allow for a glider to stay in the air from 9am through until sunset.
If you want to train then you will typically fly for between a few minutes (no thermals) and about half and hour. While training you will normally either get 1 long flight or 3 short flights to advance your flying.
Age & Weight Restrictions
Anyone under 18 years old will require to be accompanied by a parent or guardian who is authorised to countersign their temporary membership form. Children over 13 years old will be able to fly a glider at the discretion of the instructor conducting the lesson provided they meet the lower height and weight limits and are considered mature enough to benefit from the trial gliding lesson. There is no upper age limit.
Sizes and weights
If you are heavier than 210 lb (15 st / 95 kg), you may not be able to fly in our gliders as most gliders have a weight limit for each seat. The pilot’s weight must include the weight of a parachute (15 lb or 7 kg). If you weigh more then you cannot fly in our gliders. People over 6′ 2″ (1.88m) may not be able to fit in our gliders. The lower weight limit is not as important as we can add weights for lighter pilots. The minimum height for pupils is approximately five feet (152 cm).
As a club member training to go solo you will be asked to sign a medical declaration before you fly to confirm that you are fit to fly. Please ask your own doctor to sign the form if you have any concerns about your fitness. The following conditions may cause difficulty while flying. Sufferers from any of these you are advised to obtain medical opinion. Bronchitis, asthma, sinus disease, ear disease, defective vision (e.g., inability to read a car number plate at 25 metres – corrective glasses may be used), migraine, diabetes of any form, kidney stones, psychiatric disorders, severe motion or travel sickness, any condition requiring treatment with drugs of any kind. You are further advised that:
- If you normally wear spectacles, you should always carry a readily accessible spare pair.
- Minor illnesses, some prescription drugs and the donation of blood will probably make you temporarily unfit to fly.
What are the rules regarding alcohol?
Even the most moderate drinker should be aware that the Railways & Transport Safety Act makes it an offence for pilots, including glider pilots, to fly whilst over the prescribed limit for alcohol. The law is very clear on this, and even as a student you may not consume ANY alcohol within the eight hours before flying. This applies to you EVEN for a trial lesson flight.
- You must have consumed NO alcohol in the 8 hours before your flight.
- You must not have consumed more than 5 units of alcohol in the 12 hours before your flight. (One unit of alcohol is a half pint of regular beer or lager, a single measure (25ml) of spirits, or a small glass of wine, or a small glass of “alcopop” such as Smirnoff Ice, Bacardi Breezer.)
- You must not have consumed a substantial amount of alcohol (or “binged”) during the 24 hours before your flight.
IT IS AGAINST THE LAW TO FLY IN A GLIDER WITH AN ALCOHOL CONCENTRATION IN YOUR BLOOD EXCEEDING 20mg per 100ml. THIS IS ONE QUARTER OF THE DRINK/DRIVE LIMIT.
One drink will take you over this limit. It is effectively a zero tolerance limit.
How much do gliders cost?
The cost of gliders varies hugely and is determined by a combination of age (years and hours flown), popularity, performance, handling and the class of the glider, the equipment included and trailer and the ease of rigging.
A basic 15m glider such as an ASW15, Cirrus, Sport Vega or other similar gliders will cost between £6000 – £15000.
Before buying your first glider ensure you have spoken to your instructors, someone who’s owned the type of glider you’re interested in etc. to find out whether the glider you are looking at is likely to be a good choice for you.
If the club’s Chief Flying Instructor (CFI) is not happy that you are competent to fly the glider you’ve purchased, you will not be allowed to fly it!
It is possible however to spend an almost unlimited amount on a glider, but the chances are you won’t be able to make use of the performance to make that a sensible or worthwhile investment early in your flying career.
A sensible option can be to get together with a couple of other pilots and form a syndicate, lowering the annual costs ownership.
The equipment that you will need is an altimeter, radio and an ASI, it may be advisable to factor in the cost of buying a FLARM (anti-collision warning system), a parachute (may be included otherwise roughly £1k second hand) and a confor foam cushion (£50’ish).
The annual costs of ownership
- Insurance – starts at around £500/year for about £10k of cover (remember to consider the excess)
- Annual Inspection – approximately £350 – £400
- Trailer storage – between £50 – £500 depending on your club
- Maintenance – £200 (varies dependent on the care taken looking after the glider).
Total cost per year of owning a glider will be roughly £2000 + the capital cost and depreciation (minimal at present on older gliders).
- Fly when you want
- Fly for as long as you want
- Take your glider on holiday
- Rigging & derigging
- Administration / paperwork
Places to look for gliders for sale
http://adverts.gliderpilot.net – UK website, also has a forum for discussing gliding matters
http://www.segelflug.de/cgi-bin/classifieds/classifieds.cgi – German site, use Google Chrome or install the google bar on your browser for automatic translations
Sailplane & Gliding Magazine