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Learn to glide?

Old 9th Oct 2018, 17:16
  #21 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Faversham
Posts: 285
Yes, absolute kudos to all glider pilots, far more skilful than us noddy pilots - but it depends on what you want to do, whether you need to go places, etc. I did start gliding at first, but it was an all day affair, and sometimes after helping everyone else, I still didn't get aloft. Switched to powered and never looked back, but still practice gliding every now and then for PFLS, and on one occasion it was the real thing!
Curlytips is offline  
Old 9th Oct 2018, 17:42
  #22 (permalink)  
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Augusta, Georgia, USA (back from Germany again)
Posts: 193

Good question. Short answer is "yes." As is the longer answer. I fly gliders and airplanes. Enjoy them both for different purposes. I had been flying airplanes for 33 years before my first real glider training. I've been flying gliders for almost eight years now.

Long term, soaring is likely cheaper than airplane flying. In my club I pay $5 plus tow* for the flight - whether it's five minutes or 90. Everything about flying a glider translates to flying an airplane. Airplane-only instructors will comment about how good I am using the rudder instead of leaving my feet on the floor.

*A winch launch makes for rather inexpensive flights.

An instructor I hadn't flown with before pulled the power on downwind in a 172 once. I put in 10 degrees of flaps on downwind, 10 more on base, and the final 10 on final. He commented "most pilots wait until they have the runway made to put in flaps." I replied, "I had the runway made one downwind." It's not bragging if it's true...

Soaring in most places is done in a club environment. This is a pleasant though labor intensive process. It's not great for people with small kids and spouses with big "honey do" lists. With an airplane you can do the washing up after breakfast and be home for lunch.

I've been spoiled flying bubble canopy airplanes in Europe. Much nicer view than the Arrow or 172 I usually fly now. Gliders have a wonderful view. Imagine looking down on snow covered mountains from 18,000 feet! Modern light sport/ultralight planes have great visibility in many cases.

You can start with a glider and add on Touring Motor Glider. You can do microlights. You have LAPL and PPL options that all have their own rules. The glider experience will make for a better power pilot even if all the hours don't "count" towards the minimum for some powered license. Most people don't make it in the minimums but you might starting with a glider.

There are great clubs in Scotland. (I got to fly one afternoon with club near Loch Levin last summer. Actually flew over the water for a bit. Beautiful. My wife wants to emigrate.)

Flying anything is a great experience. You will learn new facts and skills regardless of your choice.

Did you see that someone just flew from Scotland to N. Ireland a few days ago? In a glider... And flew back!

Be safe and have fun.

LTCTerry is offline  
Old 9th Oct 2018, 17:54
  #23 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 1,460
Yes, absolutely, and the SGC is a great place to learn. Depending how you measure it, it's the 3rd or 4th larges club in the UK. The one skill PMK Pilots are often short on is thermal soaring. You might want to think about signing up for one of the evening groups next year.
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Old 10th Oct 2018, 07:19
  #24 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: West Woop Woop
Age: 50
Posts: 31
Originally Posted by Jazzer83 View Post

What made you switch from power to gliding? How many hours do you fly in a year?

With power flying once qualified I could maybe afford £2-2.5k a year which would only get me 20hrs max.

I figure that for the same price I could get at least double that in gliding hours.
I was flying powered for career purposes (military & then CPL which I didn't finish) but I'd started in gliders at 16 because it was cheap and when I eventually chucked in the flying-as-a-career idea & I went back to gliding because it was a lot more fun than most of the powered flying I'd been doing, and it was a lot cheaper - I had about 100 hours of gliding at this stage so not much instruction required.

I currently fly about 50 hrs a year - most of that instructing (which I don't pay for) and the rest in my own glider (also cheap) so I probably spend about 1/2 what you're budgeting - membership fees, glider parts (we do our own maintenance) and a few aerotows over summer. We don't insure our glider (syndicate of 2) as it's not worth it.

I guess it depends why you want to fly, but gliding is very challenging, very fun & very rewarding. The racing & competition side of things is something you won't really get as a PPL. I've also flown higher in a glider than anything powered (that I'm flying anyway!) - 22,000 feet in wave. I've flown cross-country in thermals for over 500 km many times too. Give it a go & see what you think!
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Old 10th Oct 2018, 15:12
  #25 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: Scotland
Posts: 14
Thanks everyone for the numerous replies. I shall sign up for the learn to glide course and see how it goes. For £250 I can't really go wrong can I?
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Old 10th Oct 2018, 15:22
  #26 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 1,460
Originally Posted by rich34glider View Post
We don't insure our glider (syndicate of 2) as it's not worth it.
I guess you mean you have 3rd party insurance only.
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Old 10th Oct 2018, 19:22
  #27 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Oxford, UK
Posts: 1,546
I hope you all saw the amazing photo on the first page....number 13....of the view from a glider over Scotland. O yes. A while ago I managed to achieve that same view, which proves that Scotland has salt water on three sides. Amazing day, got to 20,000 feet, with Oxygen of . course, and that was in about 55 minutes after the launch by airtow from Deeside Gliding Club, came off tow on the front of the wave bar, and a steady smooth climb after that, delightful! Only worry was that flying back and forth along the wave bar, I built up some ice on the eastern side of the glider canopy, so decided as there may well have been another glider nearby not so easy to see, that 20,000 plus 200 feet was high enough for the day! . On the way back down to the airfield there was a lovely cloud shaped like a donut, and couldn't resist flying through the donut, not a good idea as the canopy really misted up, but it cleared quickly enough, so returned to the gliding club safely, and turned over my two barographs to the officials, confirming the gain of height. Diamond height. But to tell the truth I was nervous throughout not only because of the canopy misting, but the thought that if my oxygen failed, there would be very little time to descend to safety height. So with diamond height completing my three diamonds, ever since I have enjoyed cross country flying at sensible heights...
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Old 10th Oct 2018, 21:54
  #28 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Wandsworth
Posts: 175
Fantastic choice of club, SGU at Portmoak gets some of the best flying conditions in the country with long average flight times compared to other clubs without hills. The weather in Scotland isn't as bad as people make out, in fact it can often be pretty poor for power flying but fantastic for Gliding as the conditions aren't always mutual. The £250 course should give you the insight to if it's for you, though you'll probably fly with many instructors it'll be fairly consistent and nearly always free of charge, unlike the power world I've found in which some instructors are just building hours for a job and don't hang around long. Also as part of the British Gliding Association you'll have the opportunity to be welcomed to clubs across the country to experience the broad range of flying on offer, many clubs and individuals even go abroad at reasonable cost to experience flying in the alps or even down in New Zealand, it's a very friendly form of flying. You'll hear horror stories of people slaving away all day to not fly, this is not the norm anymore as clubs have had to adapt to modern times, most clubs just ask for a half day to keep the operation going and many operate free online booking systems to plan the day.

Power Flying isn't put to waste either as once you are qualified with a LAPL or SPL you'll by then hopefully be able to easily convert over to touring motor gliders after some conversion training, many of which are under £100 an hour and are just slightly slower than your average Cessna 150, so fantastic value, and if you're still hungry for more power flying there are route to the LAPL (A) and PPL which lead onto glider towing too!


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Old 11th Oct 2018, 07:12
  #29 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: West Woop Woop
Age: 50
Posts: 31
Originally Posted by cats_five View Post
I guess you mean you have 3rd party insurance only.
Well technically yes - which is part of my GFA & club memberships.
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Old 11th Oct 2018, 07:23
  #30 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: attitude is nominal
Posts: 1,309
I would do it. Worth every penny even if you should not continue. Did some two week basic glider course myself (around 50 very short patterns around the field with instructor plus three final solos) back at university. Great experience and teaches you accurate flying. Excellent foundation for possible single engine PPL later as well.

For a beginner some course or school is very good because you make fast progress. Later on a club is nice if you have the time needed. Gliding is not expensive but it's a team sport with a lot of support jobs needed to be done so expect to spend at least one or two weekends a month at your local glider airfield.
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Old 11th Oct 2018, 07:56
  #31 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 1,460
Originally Posted by Less Hair View Post
I would do it. Worth every penny even if you should not continue. Did some two week basic glider course myself (around 50 very short patterns around the field with instructor plus three final solos) back at university. Great experience and teaches you accurate flying. Excellent foundation for possible single engine PPL later as well.

For a beginner some course or school is very good because you make fast progress. Later on a club is nice if you have the time needed. Gliding is not expensive but it's a team sport with a lot of support jobs needed to be done so expect to spend at least one or two weekends a month at your local glider airfield.
That sounds like you flew with the Air Cadets. It's a bit different with a gliding club, and at the SGC there will be plenty of hill soaring before going solo, especially in the early stages learning co-ordination etc. Of course hill soaring only when the wind is right!
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Old 11th Oct 2018, 07:57
  #32 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2018
Location: Wild Weasel
Posts: 12
I cannot offer any advice on gliding specifically in the UK, but concerning gliding in general: Go for it! Have always been an avid aviation enthusiast, but flying myself always seemed unattainable and way too expensive. Then the love of my life arranged an introduction day at a gliding club for my 32nd birthday (member experience, one tow, one wichlaunch) I was immediately hooked.

Soloed that first summer and now four years and (almost) five seasons later I have my SPL, Silver C and have done so many things I would have never thought feasible. Met an interesting bunch of people that have become friends (and who don't feel i'm a weirdo for seeing the difference between a Spitfire Mk. V and IX in a eyeglance)

Many of the younger members of our club are professional pilots that all seem to agree that gliding is the most pure and free way of experiencing flight. There are no words to describe that first solo launch, first flight in a composite glider, first XC, first 5 hour flight, ... And the gliding community is really that, a community. Every time I have flown at a different field, the welcome has always been ridiculously warm.

The costs rules out a PPL for me for the moment, but being in a vibrant club (on an interesting field) I have tasted motor flying, was a passenger on a Piper Cub flight crosschannel to your shores, saw a P51 beat up our field while thermalling and so on and so on. If flying is for you, you'll never look back. Just my two (euro)cents 😉
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Old 11th Oct 2018, 08:17
  #33 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: attitude is nominal
Posts: 1,309
No, I flew at Lübeck, northern Germany, via my university sports department back then. One of the few commercial gliding schools in Germany. Kind people and good place.

A two week absolute beginners gliding course (up to solo if you pass like 50 very short flights) is below some 1000 Euros (plus living and accomodation) I lived in a wooden hut on the airfield back then. After two weeks I could solo for short flights around the field under supervision of my instructor on the ground. Spectacular fun. You get towed by a winch. It's a long field so you gain some good height.

Last edited by Less Hair; 11th Oct 2018 at 12:11.
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Old 11th Oct 2018, 08:51
  #34 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: UK
Age: 55
Posts: 3,034
Have you thought of trying Pargliding or Hang-gliding?
As pure flying goes you cannot beat it. Soaring in Wave is often possible so you can still get the view above the clouds.
Its relatively inexpensive but can be frustrating due to the British weather. The wind limits during the early training periods especially so.
If you fancy powered flying, then the new batch of lightweight powered trikes mean you don't need a PPL.
There are lots of clubs around the country and Darley Moore in Derbyshire offers aerotowing too.
Whatever you choose, good luck. Enjoy.

Airways Airsports
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Old 11th Oct 2018, 10:33
  #35 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: attitude is nominal
Posts: 1,309
The nice thing with gliders is, they are "real airplanes" and quite capable, even older ones.
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Old 11th Oct 2018, 12:51
  #36 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Isle of Man
Age: 70
Posts: 183
Ooh yes - older gliders. If you are lucky your club will have some open cockpit gliders. One of my finest experiences - single seater (Grunau), good high winch launch, straight into a thermal and as I turned I could feel the temperature difference on my face. A very close fitting cockpit so almost no fuselage visible as I looked over the side! Bliss! I've never flown or in an open cockpit powered aircraft but I suspect it wouldn't beat that experience,
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Old 11th Oct 2018, 15:39
  #37 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: essex
Posts: 36
Thats great to hear.
Apart from the challenges and fun involved, once solo and in your own glider costs come down dramatically... on a soaring day or when ridge/wave is working, its the cost of a launch (£8-10 winch, £18-30 aerotow depending on club) then air time is effectively free (yes I know cost of ownership, but the more you do the less each flight costs)
it typically costs around £1000 per year to keep, insure, maintain a glider less if syndicated. Im fairly sure most powered aircraft are substantially more.
Going solo is going to require a bit of time but if a course of any type is offered which gives you concentrated flying - take it, it will shorten things substantially.
Portmoak has 2 ridges so long flights off the winch are almost the norm. progress should be quick - im off up there next week... fingers crossed for the weather!
Look at the achievements of Portmoak pilots over the last few years... it could be you very soon!
Good luck and enjoy!
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Old 12th Oct 2018, 14:01
  #38 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Luton
Posts: 446
With over several hundred hours in light aircraft and several thousand hours in sailplanes I see them as very different activities. At the beginning there are some similarities in that one has to learn how to use the flying controls, take-off, fly around and land. But once one has progressed past the basics they diverge.

For many pilots gliding is all about soaring in an ever-changing atmosphere. Trying to fly further, faster, higher and for longer using only the energy freely available in the form of thermals, convergences, atmospheric waves and the wind blowing onto hills. Because it is all about reading the sky experience counts for a lot and one never stops learning. Some of the best soaring pilots are well past the first flush of youth because it is endlessly fascinating and never becomes routine. Not everybody wants to fly away from their home site and there are many pilots who enjoy aerobatics. Most gliders are semi-aerobatic allowing basic positive G manoeuvres, quite a few are fully aerobatic. Because gliding needs cooperation from other members to help you fly there is usually good club spirit where you get to know others. Most clubs have gliders for hire as well as those privately owned.

Learning to fly aeroplanes is equally interesting, but much more procedural. Once you have a licence and have taken your family and friends for a ride the question becomes what do I do with it now? Flying overseas is fun – but it takes you much more into paperwork and procedures for flight plans, customs declarations etc. To maintain interest one needs an aim. Some do more advanced training for instrument flying, or aerobatics. Others like to go touring. I’ve done those things but would have let my licence lapse if I did not use it for towing gliders. One of the more interesting aspects of that is retrieving gliders from some of the odd places they manage to land. Sometimes regular airfields, often places where light aircraft would not normally go – even farmer’s fields sometimes. Because one does not need assistance to get airborne power flying can be a more solitary activity – but it is less time consuming – and more predictable.

Neither activity is better than the other – they are simply very different. Sample both and try and see which best matches your longer term aims.
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Old 14th Oct 2018, 05:51
  #39 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Warwick
Posts: 179
If you have limited cash go for gliding, but you will need time, several gliding clubs do weekly courses and I'm sure that 3 weeks training would get most students flying solo but don't do them together spread them over a couple of months. Wait until good weather maybe April before booking courses then you have a chance of flying most days, remember gliding clubs don't expect you to just turn up and fly, you are expected to help out with ground duties and maintenence. It is not like power flying where you turn up pay your cash and go home, one weekend day a month is the commitment you might be expected to do, maybe you will have time to fly, maybe not.
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Old 16th Oct 2018, 08:57
  #40 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Surrey, England
Posts: 728
A Question for Mary Meagher

Hi Mary,
Thinking back to my own very short gliding career, I recalled how one day during an aero-tow my instructor demonstrated 'low tow'. For the benefit of those who have never done any gliding, low tow is when the glider pilot flies behind the tug, but below the prop-wash of the towing aircraft. After we landed, my instructor was called away and I didn't get the opportunity to discuss low tow with him and find out more about it. Clearly, low tow must cause the tail of the towing aircraft to be pulled downwards and presumably the tug pilot must then trim hard nose-down. This raises two questions. First of all, why would a glider pilot use 'low-tow' in preference to a direct astern towing position? In other words, what is low-tow useful for? Secondly, when the glider casts off from a low tow, presumably the tug pilot has to be quick on the trimmer to prevent the tug from nosing down into a dive. Perhaps you can enlighten me.
Best regards,
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