There's no doubt about it that some people feel a real affinity for gliding, they enjoy flying without an engine and love the challenge of extending the flight by searching for and exploiting natural sources of lift. On the other hand there are people who are deeply unhappy about not having that whirling propellor on the front and still others who are just too nervous to even contemplate getting into a small aeroplane.
How do you fit in with this? Most people who try a trial lesson get out of the glider on landing with a huge smile on their face and tell us they really enjoyed the flight but very few actually take up the sport. Some see it as being too expensive, some as too difficult though most are able to fly the glider quite well on the first flight, others are just intimidated by the whole airfield experience where everybody seems to know what to do except them.
First let's be realistic about how expensive gliding is. At £130, (correct December 2015) our annual membership costs less than the average fitness centre. For students it's even less than this, A typical 10 minute flight from a winch launch cost you as little as £8.00. Unless you do lots of aerotows and soaring then start up costs are very low indeed.
Where gliding can be expensive is in time. You really need to commit most if not all of a day. We are a self help club so if a glider needs moving then it's the club members that do it, we man the launch point, drive the winch, drive the retrieve vehicles and log all the flights. All this has to be done before anybody flies. Most members treat this as part of gliding and in some ways it can be nearly as enjoyable as the flying
Gliding instruction at the Centre is free. You as a student pay for the flight, the instructor sits in the back, is unpaid and does it for fun. Most people can be taught to glide, however some take longer than others. There's no doubt that the younger you are the quicker you learn. A well co-ordinated and motivated sixteen year old can usually get to solo on one of our weekly courses by their twenty first and last flight. Unfortunately the older you get the longer it takes to develop the skill.
Often students find that they get plateau's during their training and some even seem to go backwards for a while. Landing is always a struggle but most people seem to get there in the end. Some days when you're not flying as well as you expect it can be very difficult to keep going and most glider pilots will tell you that they considered giving it all up during their training after a particularly poor flight. At this point you definitely need a bit of determination to get you to the next stage.
So what's the end result of all this grit, determination and frustration? Well when the instrutor is convinced that you have learnt to fly the aircraft and can deal with any unusual eventualities, like a launch failure or finding yourself a little low in the circuit he (or she) will send you solo. You will fly from the front seat of the training glider all by yourself.
Curiously for most people this is not as frightening as they thought it would be. To start with they will have flown in the particular glider on many occassions and for the last few flights the instructor will have said very little so they will have been doing all of the flying and decision making anyway. Nevertheless it is a momentous event, one that you remember for ever and is just the start of your gliding career.
When that first solo flight is over you get to shake lots of hands, hear lots of "Well Dones" and as a special treat we let you ring the big brass bell in the club-house and buy everybody a drink.
Once you've successfully completed that first solo you will be expected to take a check ride at the start of every flying day and if you still fly well you get to go solo again until you have flown at least ten solo flights in the two seater training glider.
The next step is to convert to a single seater glider, in our case a lovely little glider known as a K8. This is the bit that makes novice pilots nervous because this is the first time you get to fly an aeroplane by yourself that you have never flown before.
From now on you can fly in the K8 without a check flight, whenever it is free. Now you can really learn to soar, using the thermals to extend your flights and work towards your Bronze badge, which is the next step in becoming a fully competent glider pilot.
Gliding - Is It For You?
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