Here are some of the questions we hear most often from people wanting to try gliding.
Is this the same as hang-gliding/para-gliding?
No, you sit in a plane, there is undercarriage to land on, there is a canopy keeping the wind and flies out of your eyes.
Is there an engine?
No, instead it’s just you and the instructor, the plane and the views – no noise other than the wind, no vibrations, no exhaust.
But won’t it just fall out of the sky?
It is possible to fly for several hours without an engine, using nothing but rising air. Worst case is that there is no rising air and the flight will be short, but there will still be time to enjoy the scenery before making a gentle landing.
How does it get up?
We use a winch launch, which is basically a very long cable attached to an engine, when the glider is ready to launch, the engine starts up and the cable gets wound in, pulling the glider up like a kite.
How high do they go?
A reasonable winch launch of a two seater plane in the summer would be 1200-1400′. A single seater could get 1600-1800′ although heights of 2300′ have been known!
How does it stay up?
Glider pilots aim to find rising air to exploit to overcome gravity. This can be from differential heating of features on the ground (eg dark things heat quicker than light) generating thermals, wind blowing against the edge of hills, or from waves caused by air passing over a series of hills.
In the absence of rising air, a glider will gradually lose height, but with long narrow wings and aerodynamic form there is plenty of time to plan and prepare for the landing.
How long will it stay up?
Gliders stay up until the pilot ceases to find rising air, gets tired, or brings the plane back for someone else to have a go. Flights of one to two hours are common from Strubby.
A trial lesson will aim to give up to 10 minutes in the air plus briefing and familiarisation time on the ground.
Will I get to/do I have to fly it?
The planes are equipped with full dual controls, so the instructor will do everything – particularly the take off and landing! It is a lesson so there will also be the chance to learn how the controls work and make the glider move yourself, but for some people it’s enough on the first flight just to look around and enjoy the experience.
And the reasons people give for not wanting to fly – and the reassurance we try to give.
There’s no engine!
So there is absolutely no chance of engine failure! With a 30:1 glide slope, from a height of 1000′ the glider can travel up to 6 miles so there is really nothing to worry about.
I’m scared of heights!
Although you will be up high there is no sense of height, because you are high enough that the landscape flattens out and there is no sense of standing on an edge looking over.
Flying is for rich people.
Gliding is one of the cheapest ways to fly and the prices compare favorably with many popular hobbies such as golf and fishing. An adult having three short or one long training flight in a day would spend £25-30; juniors have cheaper launches. Prices are kept low by members giving their time to keep the operation running.
I don’t have time.
This is more difficult. It can’t be avoided that gliding is a time-consuming, absorbing hobby. Members rely on each other to get launched and receive instruction. To make this work everyone is expected to participate in some way towards helping to unpack the hangar and set the airfield up, supporting launches during the day or putting everything away at the end.