There are very few restrictions on those who can take part in gliding. The minimum age limit for solo flying is 16, but there is no upper age limit. However, if you are over 70, you must get a signed certificate from a doctor to say you’re physically able to fly.
You don’t have to be super-fit to take part in gliding. If you’re fit enough to drive a car, you are fit enough to fly a glider. As long as your doctor can certify that you meet the same standards required to drive a car, you can take to the air. There are also plenty of opportunities for people with disabilities to take part in gliding.
Joining a gliding club is one of the best ways to get into the sport. Most clubs will offer trial lessons, where you will get temporary membership (usually one month’s worth). A trial lesson cost varies so check out your local club for their price, but is a great way of seeing if you like the sport or not without forking out too much cash.
Lessons are given in a two-seater glider, where the instructor will sit behind you and you will have a full set of duplicate controls to learn on. It’s a good idea to book lessons as close together as possible, as it is easier to learn in this way.
How long it takes you to learn to solo fly depends on a number of things. These include any previous piloting experience and how open and relaxed you are with the guidance given by your instructor. Once you’ve got to grips with flying, you can either move on to competitive challenges or just sit back, relax and watch the world cruise by below you.
How much does it cost?
This isn’t a cheap sport, as different clubs offer various price plans and membership fees. To get a better idea of how much it’ll cost, you’re best off contacting your preferred club or association for an exact price.
Like most competitive sports, there are a number of levels of gliding competitions, ranging from regionals to internationals. Most competitions are limited to 50 gliders. A competition can run over a number of days, with pilots completing a different task on each competition day. Competitors are given a course to do and sometimes also aerobatics tasks to complete – and the winner is the one who completes these the quickest.
Top tips for gliding
- Try before you buy. Always opt to do a trial lesson to see if you like the sport before parting with more of your hard-earned cash.
- Join a club. This way you will have great support from more experienced pilots — plus teaming up with others will keep the costs down.
- Get a medical check-up. Always check with your doctor that you are fit enough to become a glider.
- Don’t fly in bad weather. Avoid heavy rain, low cloud and strong winds.
- Make sure all equipment is regularly checked.
- Don’t fly solo without proper instruction beforehand.
- Have fun!
Equipment for gliding
Glider — The cost of a glider varies depending on the type you want to fly in. A basic single-seat glider can be picked up for only a few hundred pounds. But if you’re looking for a competitive glider, you could be paying thousands. The best glass-fiber sailplanes will be expensive — and the more serious the pilot, the more they will want to buy top instruments. Many gliders will team up with others and share the cost of a glider to keep their costs down.
Parachute — A parachute is an essential piece of safety equipment for gliders, although you should hopefully never have to use one. It is usually best to stick with those provided by a club rather than buying your own. Always seek advice before buying any important kit, including parachutes.