How to get started in gliding
Useful pointers for the beginner glider
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. Here′s the realbuzz.com guide on starting out in gliding.
You don’t have to be super-fit to take part in gliding. According to the British Gliding Association, 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 normally costs around £25, and 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.
British Gliding Association
The British Gliding Association (BGA) is the governing body for the sport of gliding in the UK. Members of BGA clubs pay annual subscriptions to both their individual club and the BGA. The BGA fee is based on the number of individual pilots within each club.
How much does it cost?
A week’s course can cost anything from £250. Annual membership of a club is usually between £150 and £400. Club members generally pay for each flight, including a launch fee (a winch launch can cost as little as £4) and a fee for time in the air (normally around £12 per hour).
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. Check out the British Gliding Association website for more information on the British teams at www.gliding.co.uk.
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 pay anything from £10,000 to £100,000. 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.