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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions that are often asked about gliding.

  •     Is gliding safe?

  •     How much will it cost?

  •     How long will my flight last?

  •     What happens when the wind stops?

  •     How does the glider get into the air?

  •     How do gliders stay up?

  •     How fast can a glider fly?

  •     How high can a glider fly?

  •     How far can a glider fly?

  •     What happens when the lift stops?

  •     How long can you stay up?

  •     How old must I be to fly?

  •     How long will it take to go solo?

  •     Can I do aerobatics?

  •     Do I need a license ?

  •     Already a power pilot?

  •     Already a Hang Glider pilot?


Is gliding safe?

While any form of aviation carries an element of risk, gliding is relatively safe. Gliders are very strongly built, and there is no engine to fail. In the unlikely event of an accident occurring, there is no fuel to burn. Significantly, the Canberra Gliding Club has been operating in the region for more than 50 years and has always returned pilots and passengers to the ground safely.


How much will it cost?

See our page about Passenger Flights for the costs of taking your first flight in a glider.


To learn to fly a glider, the costs are largely dependent upon the aptitude of the student and how frequently you come flying - obviously if you are able to come to the airfield each weekend for a few consecutive weeks, you will learn faster than if you were to come flying only one day a month. An average student will be ready for their first solo flight after approximately 30 to 60 flights.


How long will my flight last?

Gliding is a weather dependent sport. In the absence of thermals, which gliders use to stay in the air, an average flight to 2500ft will last approximately 20 minutes. When learning to fly, you will be taught how to find & stay in thermals, and a thermalling flight is much longer.


What happens when the wind stops?

Nothing! Gliders are not dependent upon the wind to stay aloft. When circling in thermals, gliders are drifted along by the wind, but otherwise are unaffected by the wind.


How does the glider get into the air ?

Our gliders are launched by aerotow using our high powered Piper Pawnee tug. The glider is attached to the tug by a rope, and the glider pilot follows the tug as he is pulled up to the release height, when the glider pilot releases the rope.


How do gliders stay up ?

Gliders can stay aloft by a number of means. By far the most common is called thermalling. When the ground is heated by the sun, periodically a parcel of heated air ascends, often to many thousands of feet, as the temperature of the air close to the ground becomes higher than its surroundings. If a glider is flown to stay in that column of rising air, by circling, the glider will also be swept aloft. After the pilot reaches the top of the thermal, he flies off, gradually losing height, until he reaches the next one.


How fast can a glider fly?

Gliders can fly as slowly as 35 knots (65kmh) to approx 145 knots (268kmh)


How high can a glider fly?

Thermals can go as high as 14,000 ft or more. The world glider altitude record set by Steve Fossett and Einar Enevoldson in Argentina is 50,720 feet (15,460 m). In fact the Australian gliding height record was achieved in a flight from our site and stands at some 33,000 feet.


How far can a glider fly ?

In the summer, flights of hundreds of kilometres are commonplace. The world record for a flight in a straight line is 2501 kilometres.


What happens when the lift stops?

When the thermals stop working, the glider will gradually descend. A glider can fly about 10 km for each 1000 feet of height, so there is a good chance that an airfield will be within reach. In the event of no airfield being within reach, the glider will land in a paddock. Paddock landings are part of the training of every glider pilot once they are ready to fly cross country, however on your first passenger or air experience flight you will simply land back at our airfield! The glider can be retrieved by a tug, or, of this is not possible, the glider is disassembled and returned to the airfield in its container. 


How long can you stay up ?

Gliders can remain flying as long as there is lift available. Using thermals, this is about 8 hours. By using prevailing winds blowing up a slope, a glider can be flown for as long as the wind is blowing. The world record stood at around 56 hours before it was recognised that these ever lengthening flights were dangerous, and recognition for duration flights abolished.


How old must I be to fly a glider ?

The lower age limit to fly solo is fifteen, and there is no upper limit provided you are healthy, and suffer no medical conditions that may impede your ability to fly. Many start gliding as a hobby when they retire.


To be a passenger in a glider you can be almost any age at all. Our Club recently flew an 86 year old woman, and several Club members regularly take their children for flights. For practical purposes, our Air Experience Flights are not recommended for children under the age of 12 years, because they often can't see outside the aircraft, and if they get upset for any reason it is difficult to calm them down again.


How long will it take to go solo?

This largely depends upon your aptitude and the frequency of your flying. You could typically expect to go solo after between 20 and 40 flights. People with some power flying experience will generally take less time to learn than someone with no flying experience at all.


Can I do aerobatics?

We would not normally perform aerobatics on the first Air Experience Flight, until we had time to assess your reaction to the flight. If one of our experienced instructors was satisfied there would be no problems, then aerobatics could be performed.


The gliders in our Club fleet are all capable of various aerobatic manoeuvres, such as loops, spins, chandelles (like a wing-over) and stalls. Naturally, without an engine, and with such large wingspans (15m to 17m), there is a limit to what sort of aerobatics gliders are capable of.


Do I need a licence?

Unlike power flying or driving a car, there is no formal license issued to glider pilots. Rather, each pilot keeps a log book which records their flying progress. When the instructor feels that they're ready to go solo, their log book is endorsed. As they gain additional experience and make conversions to the various single seater aircraft in the Club fleet, extra endorsements are recorded in the log book. 


Already a Power Pilot?

Many power pilots come to enjoy the purity and challenge of soaring flight. Whilst gliding builds upon the skills and knowledge base of powered flying, there are many challenges, new techniques and educational aspects to be explored.


In the context of controlling the aircraft, power pilots will notice the increased significance of rudder in countering aileron drag, elevator in controlling airspeed and attitude, and trim in reducing pilot workload. Attitude reference relative to the horizon is always emphasised as the primary reference, particularly for airspeed energy management.


Used to coordinating turns with the ball? Many gliders and sailplanes do not have the slip-skid ball, and use a yawstring affixed to the canopy instead. The yawstring operates in reverse to the ball: you pull the yawstring back to centre with rudder, or alternatively apply aileron towards the yawstring. It is a far more sensitive instrument than any ball or turn and slip indicator.


Circuits and landings present new challenges in judgement and energy management, without a throttle to adjust the approach path. Use of airbrakes to steepen the approach will be an enjoyable luxury; the opposite of normal power-off landings!


Many power pilots come to appreciate the learning curve associated with using the atmosphere to advantage, working lift and staying airborne without a powerplant. The challenges in soaring cross-country flight planning and execution are quite different to the usual A to B speed-time-distance-fuel planning in powered aircraft.


Oh yes, it is much quieter! Headsets are not required, except in some motor-gliders. The noise of airflow past the canopy (or the absence of noise) takes on new significance as an important indicator of airspeed and energy.


A huge difference will be the reduced cost per flight, as the fun per dollar ratio is very favourable!


Already a Hang Glider Pilot?

A growing number of glider pilots are also hang-glider pilots. Most hang-glider pilots will have to adapt to a reversal of their instinctive control responses. Instead of pushing on the bar to slow down and raise the nose, you will have to ease the stick back! Vice versa also - to speed up when flying too slow, in lowering the nose, you apply forward pressure on the stick, instead of drawing the bar closer to the body! Control use by three-axis control versus weight-shifting takes a little adjustment.


All the meteorological insights of hang-gliding are useful - but we usually do not work thermals as close to the ground as in hang-gliding. The speeds and altitude safety margins are a little higher. Landing at higher speeds also means using larger landing areas.


All hang-glider pilots find the gliding performance of even the most humble training glider and enormous advantage. The cross-country speeds and glide angles mean you can travel much further before regaining altitude in lift. You can also fly and land very safely in much more boisterous and gusty conditions, due to the higher wing loadings.


Most glider flights result in a landing at the same place you launched from. For many hill-soaring hang-glider pilots, this is sheer luxury! Long climbs and retrieves are less frequent when flying gliders and sailplanes!

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