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Planning Retirement Online

Out of the box - Try Gliding

                                    August 2009


This is an addition to our regular OUT OF THE BOX feature where we give suggestions on different things to try.      

If you have tried something unusual or different, tell us all about it - and send in a photograph as well if you can – so that we can share your experiences with others.



GliderThis month……

Try Gliding

The generous provision of a gliding experience flight provided as a prize by Staffordshire Gliding Club, for the Laterlife Challenge, seemed an appropriate time to look in a bit more depth at gliding.

GlidingGliding is surprisingly accessible and there are very few restrictions on who can take part. As a general rule if you are healthy enough to drive a car you are healthy enough to fly a glider and fortunately if you have the skill to drive a car you also have the skill to learn to fly! There are some heightand weight limits for practical reasons so as with anything else it's worth checking with local clubs if you are at all concerned.

Gliding is also quite reasonable as far as costs go, especially when you compare it with, for example, learning to fly a powered aircraft. Experience flights are great value - they can range up and down a bit depending on the club but as an example our friends at Staffordshire Preparing to flyGliding Club offer group experience evenings at £30 a head, which includes a month's membership of the club and a flight. And as with any club if you were to take an annual membership you'll find that flight costs and launch fees are less for full members.

One of the great things about gliding is that it is a very social affair - it's pretty difficult for one person to launch a glider on their own after all, so all the club members tend to pitch in which makes for a great spirit of camaraderie. As you'll see from the pictures scattered around this page (reproduced with the kind permission of Staffordshire Gliding Club) you tend to get a great mix of all types of people and ages at gliding clubs.

Enjoying the daySo what else should you know about gliding? Well we'll start with the basics. A glider is essentially a light aircraft without an engine - which sounds like an unforgiveable design error to many people! So how do they get off the ground? Gliders are launched from the ground in two main ways:

Aerotow: The glider is towed into the air by a powered aircraft. The cable between the two aircraft is released when the glider gets high enough.

Winching: A winch anchored at one end of the runway reels in the glider providing enough speed to get airborne (just like a kite). When the glider is almost above the winch the cable is released and the glider can soar.

gliding2 Soaring: Once the glider is launched it needs to stay in the air and this is where the real skill of gliding and a key difference from powered flight comes in. As the glider has no power of its own it can only stay in the air for an extended time by finding air that is moving upwards at least as fast as the glider is moving (gracefully) downwards.

This is where mother nature delivers some expert guidance from our feathered friends. In exactly the same way that birds use thermals, ridge lift and wave lift (good explanations of those here) to gain altitude and stay aloft so do gliders. By skilfully using these sources of lift heights of up to 50,000 feet and flights of over 1500 miles have been achieved! Obviously local conditions have a great deal of impact on the availability of lift but even in the UK over 600 miles was covered in a 12 hour flight using thermals.

view from glider

Gliding can be a fantastic way to spend a day or even as a new long term interest so why not give it a go and experience something unique?

More information about gliding, local clubs and the British Gliding Team can be found at the British Gliding Association



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