What is Gliding?
Gliding, not to be confused with hang-gliding or para-gliding, involves flying aircraft called gliders, which are also known as sailplanes. Most gliders are unpowered and rely on external means of launching, usually by winching or aerotowing. Gliders rely on rising air (also known as "lift") to stay airborne. Without lift, a glider is constantly and slowly descending. The current world record for the longest glider flight is 56 hours!
What is a Glider?
A glider is a aircraft seating one or two people, usually without an engine. They can be made of wood with a fabric cover or from fibre glass. They typically have wings that are much longer than normal aircraft, to maximise the area where lift is generated.
- At the Chilterns Gliding Centre, we normally launch by winch. Winching involves hooking a glider onto the end of a very long cable and retracting the cable. This forward movement provides the energy needed for the wings to produce lift, allowing the glider to become airborne. Winch-launching gives us a launch height of around 1000ft, although higher launches are possible if the wind conditions are right.
- We are also able to launch by aerotow. The glider is attached via a much shorter cable to a small powered plane (or "tug") and flown until the desired height is reached.
Forms of Lift
- Ridge lift is produced when the wind blows towards a hill, where it follows the grounds contours and rises. The best ridge lift is found where the ground rises sharply.
- Thermals are rising columns of warm air. They are produced when patches of ground heat up faster than surrounding areas, causing convection currents in the air. As one cannot see the actual air rising, thermals are usually marked by newly forming clouds, or by darker patches on the ground.
- Similar to ridge lift, wave lift is produced by hills. Under the right weather conditions, the wind blowing towards hills can cause continuing upward and downward air movement behind the hill for many miles. This form of lift can continue to very high altitudes (up to 50,000 feet). It is usually marked by long thin lines of cloud.
Learning to Glide
In the UK, gliding is regulated by the British Gliding Association (BGA). We teach people the syllabus that is set out by BGA, which leads to an internationally recognised Gliders Pilot Licence. We do all our training in 2 seater gliders with the instructor sat behind the student. The controls of the glider are connected so that the student is able to follow the instructor on all the controls and vice versa. The main stages of gliding achievement are outlined by the BGA Badge System as follows:
- Solo Badge
- This is the first aim that students will go for. It demonstrates that the student has the skill and knowledge to fly solo and has completed one solo flight. Usually, students should be able to attain this standard after 60-120 instructional flights. Some previous members of the club have been able to achieve this in three months of intensive flying!
- Bronze Badge
- This badge demonstrates that the student has completed the training syllabus. It requires the student to have flown 10 hours plus 20 solo flights or have 50 solo flights. In order to gain the badge, the student will have to pass a written, a flying and an oral test.
- Cross Country Endorsement
- The Cross Country Endorsement allows you to fly cross country. The requirements for this is 2 soaring flights, with one being at least 1 hour and one being at least 2 hours. In addition, a navigation, a field selection and a field landing test is required. Obtaining the Bronze and Cross Country endorsement qualifies you for the Gliding Pilot Licence.
- Silver Badge
- The Siver C badge consists of 3 parts, Height, Duration and Distance. These parts can be obtained separately and involve a height gain of at least 1000m, a flight of 5 hours duration and a flight of at least 50km straight line distance.
- 100km Diploma
- This consists of 2 parts. Part 1 requires the pilot to fly a 100km flight and part 2 requires the pilot to fly a 100km flight at or above 65kph.
- Gold Badge
- This badge is similar to the Silver badge, in that it consists of 3 parts, Height, Duration and Distance. The duration flight from Silver can be claimed for the Gold badge. The other 2 parts are a height gain of at least 3000m and a distance flight of 300km.
- Diamond Badge
- This badge contains 3 parts as well. These are height, goal and distance. The pilot must achieve a gain in height of at least 5000m, a goal flight (a flight which has been declared before start) of 300km and a distance flight of at least 500km. It is considered a big achievement to gain all 3 diamond legs!