Today I’m visiting London Gliding Club near Dunstable talking to Adrian Hobbs, a Basic Instructor at LGC all about gliding.
Before the interview, Adrian took me on a quick tour of the airfield which lies alongside a beautiful chalk ridge in the Chilterns. The field itself is an undulating grassy expanse with no marked runways so that the gliders can be launched or can land directly into wind. The club have several aircraft for aero-tows and mobile cable winches. They even have a mobile control tower and it’s all run by a dedicated but friendly bunch of gliding enthusiasts.
After our tour Adrian took me up in a K21 glider. He opted for an aero-tow from the club’s Piper Cub aircraft. Adrian asked the tow aircraft’s pilot to take us to an area of known thermal activity nearby the airfield for a release at or just above 2000′. Here’s a short video of my glider flight:-
After the flight I sat down with Adrian to discuss the sport of gliding.
My first question was what a potential pilot needed to know before thinking about learning to fly gliders.
You should firstly find your nearest club on the British Gliding Association web site.
You can start flying before you are 16 but you can’t get a gliding solo certificate below the age of 16. So it’s probably not a good idea to start training much younger than 15. There is no older age restriction but there are insurance restrictions above the age of 80.Â Apparently you don’t need a medical to train but you will need a doctor’s certificate before you go solo. Once older than 65, you will need a doctor to sign once a year that you are fit to fly.
There are height restrictions. If you are below 5′ you may have trouble reaching the foot pedals and conversely of you are taller than 6’3″ (193cms) you may not fit in beneath the glider’s canopy but check with your chosen gliding club for more info on this. As with all things aviation there is a weight consideration and the upper limit at LGC is 100kg or 16 stone.
Trial lessons are available at London Gliding Club but Adrian recommends coming down for a day’s course to really find out if gliding is for you. During a one day course at LGC you might get 3 flights lasting 15-20 minutes each dependant on the weather.
For details of what’s on offer at London Gliding Club visit:
London Gliding Club also offer gliding holiday courses and Adrian says that after a week’s course you could be well on your way to going solo.
In the early days the syllabus for learning to fly gliders involves lots of take-offs and landings learning to handle the cable launch and mastering the glide approach and landing. For a full syllabus have a look at the BGA web site for details:
There isn’t a license as such but the bronze certificate is an equivalent. This involves passing a theoretical, multiple choice, exam covering subjects such as air law, aircraft general knowledge, aircraft performance & planning, human performance, meteorology, navigation, operational procedures, principles of flight and use of the radio.
In terms of flying, a certain level of experience is required before attaining your bronze. This includes a minimum number of launches, minimum solo soaring experience, the completion of the flight training syllabus followed by the general and navigation flying skills tests.
For details of the ‘badge system’ including what further training is available such as the Silver, Gold and Diamond badges, visit the British Gliding Association web site.
At time of going to press some of the key costs involved at London Gliding Club are:
Annual membership – Â£585
Fixed price to solo – Â£1425
Launch charge – winch – Â£8.15
Launch charge – aero-tow to 2000′ – Â£29.85
Single seater and twin flown solo hire – 46p per minute – Â£27.60 per hour
Two seater hire – 62p per minute – Â£37.20 per hour
One day course – Â£225
Again, for more detail and other costs visit London Gliding Club’s web site:
Adrian and I went on to discuss what’s involved in cross country flying, the types of aircraft available at London Gliding Club and what exactly attracts people to the sport. As to why gliding is such fun, speaking personally, I imagine it’s the same sort of feeling you get when you are sailing; the feeling that you are harnessing the power of nature to go from A to B for free, without using any sort of energy. It really is a great sensation, and a challenge, to be working in harmony with the wind and thermals and you get some superb views thrown in.
I really do hope to get back to LGC this summer with a view to doing some more flying with them. They are a really friendly bunch and special thanks go to Adrian Hobbs for making it one of the best afternoon’s fun and flying possible.
I hope that some of you give it a go. Drop me a line if you do and let me know what you think.