learning to glide in Australia
Frequently Asked Questions About Gliding
How old must I be?
You must be at least 15
years of age to fly a glider solo, but training can start before then.
There is no upper age limit.
Is there a medical
Not normally, although
glider pilots who carry paying passengers must have a medical with their
General Practitioner. You should be physically fit, and have good eyesight
(wearing glasses is no problem!).
Some gliders have been
modified for people with physical disabilities. If in doubt - ask!
What are sailplanes
Various materials. The
earlier designs, many of which are still in service, are made of fabric
over timber or metal tube. Many all-metal gliders are used - usually
constructed from aluminium, while the later models use high tech composite
materials such as glass-reinforced plastic, carbon fibre and various
How does a sailplane
They use gravity and the
flow of air over the wings to advantage, to overcome their own weight. The
wings are designed to generate lift at very low speeds. When the lift
equals the weight, the glider becomes airborne. It does this by moving
through the air at various angles to the airflow, which allow it to climb
Modern sailplanes have a
top speed of up to 300km/h. When thermalling they will fly as slowly as
possible, around 70 to 90km/h. When cruising between thermals they will
fly between 100 and 200km/h.
On a day with very strong
up-currents, gliders on cross-country tasks will carry perhaps 100 litres
of water in tanks within the wings. This ballast improves performance in a
glide, and will be jettisoned if conditions weaken, or prior to landing.
Is gliding safe?
Gliding is a very safe
form of aviation and its members are extremely safety conscious. The
Gliding Federation of Australia (GFA), the controlling body, has
prescribed safety standards for operations, training and sailplane
maintenance, which must be strictly adhered to.
How do you get a
licence to fly a sailplane?
There are no licences in
gliding. As you progress you will receive a rating for each major
achievement you make, such as when you first fly solo. The ratings are
recorded in your log book, which becomes proof of your gliding
achievements no matter where you go.
What will it cost?
This can vary widely
depending on the club you join, and the launch method used. As a rough
guide, it would cost the average member who trains regularly, around $600
to $1,000 to the solo stage. Membership fees also vary, depending on the
location of the club and the facilities it owns.
Are there any
No, but you will be tested
by club instructors on the "Rules of the Air" before you fly by yourself.
What qualifications do
None - the sport is for
anyone from any walk of life. A good measure of common- sense is needed to
apply the Rules of the Air to your flying.
How is training
All your training will
take place in a two-seater dual controlled sailplane, with an instructor
registered with the GFA. The initial part of the training takes you to a
stage where you can fly solo in a glider. Everyone follows a set training
syllabus, which is common throughout Australia.
At most clubs training is
done on the basis of 'learn at your own pace'. Some clubs or commercial
operations conduct intensive full-time training courses. This can be a
good way to get started.
Obviously you can tailor
your training to your own preferences and your budget.
How often should I
To ensure progress, once a
fortnights is a minimum; once a week is preferable, at least in the
How long does it take
to go solo?
This will vary, depending
on ability and how regularly you train. An average time to solo would be
10 to 15 hours of flying time.
Who decides when I can
Your instructor. After
completion of training and check flights, you will be able to fly solo
only when the instructor is satisfied that your flying is safe and
Do you fly in winter?
Gliding is an
all-year-round sport in Australia. Strong winds will hamper gliding
because of ground-handling problems. Too much rain makes it difficult for
the ground crews but occasional showers won't stop operations. Bad weather
often means a chance to catch up on maintenance problems.
Will gliding count if I
take up power flying?
Yes. Soaring pilots can
have their power licence training hours reduced in line with their gliding
experience. Each individual is assessed by the flying school.
Once I'm solo, what can
I aim for?
Going solo is just the
start! As you progress, you'll graduate to flying single-seater sailplanes
and will be encouraged to undertake cross-country flying.
You will also aim for
recognised gliding certificates - one of the first is the 'C' certificate.
The main requirement for this is two soaring flights, each of one hour's
duration. Then comes the Silver badge, which requires a five hour duration
flight, a 50km cross-country, and a height gain of 1,000 metres.
The Gold badge calls for a
cross-country flight of 300km, and a gain in height of 3,000m. 'Diamonds'
are then added for a 300km flight to a nominated destination, for a 500km
flight, and for a height gain of 5,000m. Certificates are issued for
flights of 750km, 800km and 1,000km.
And what after that?
Gliding competitions are
held at club, regional, national and international level. There are
records to be aimed for, again at all these levels, in any number of
Records are set in single
or two-place sailplanes, and self-launchers, for men and women, and can be
for distance achieved, or more commonly for speed around a triangular
course of from 100km to over 1,000km.
And of course you can
always race yourself around a course, against the clock, to improve your
personal best time.
But if you prefer not to
bother with competitions, there is a lot of pleasure to be had from
soaring the local skies, watching the ever-changing scenery, free from the
worries of earth-bound life!
Where Can I Fly?
Australia has over 80
gliding clubs and these can be found in every state and Territory. The
largest clubs are typically close to the capital cities, but even some
more remote areas have gliding clubs nearby.
The clubs and commercial organisations
listed here are well set up and keen to welcome you to the sport of
gliding. They have two-seat aircraft ready to take you for your first
flight, and if you are interested they even have a number of options
available so that you can start to learn to fly yourself.