Gliding is the ultimate adventure sport, a sport that requires the pilot to harness the power of nature to stay airborne whether they’re flying locally to their club, flying long distances cross country or soaring at high altitude.
Exhilarating, affordable and inclusive, gliding is enjoyed by people of all ages, physical abilities and backgrounds. It can be as exciting and challenging as you want it to be, and there are many diverse aspects to discover. No two flights are the same with the pilot continually attempting to make the best possible use of the conditions on the day. From flying close to the local airfield to cross country, long distance and mountain wave flying to competitions, aerobatics and vintage aircraft there really is something for everyone.
What is Gliding?
Gliding involves flying unpowered aircraft using the same naturally occurring currents of air that birds use to fly. Using these invisible currents of air, known as ‘lift’, you can soar to great heights and travel great distances around the country at average speeds of over 100 miles per hour. Typical cross country flight distances are around 300km, but flights in excess of 1,000km and altitudes of over 30,000 feet have been achieved in the UK with even greater heights and distances achieved in the mountainous regions of the world.
Find out more about gliding here
What does it cost?
Gliding is an affordable way to take to the skies, especially when you consider that powered aircraft hire can cost around £150 per hour. At most clubs, you can expect to pay around £20 per hour to hire a glider, around £30 for an aerotow launch and around £8 for a winch launch.
Gliding instruction is provided free of charge at most clubs. It takes place under the supervision of highly qualified BGA instructors who are subject to regular competency checks. The average club membership cost is around £350 per year, which compares favourably to annual fees for other leisure activities such as golf or tennis. To help you budget, a number of clubs offer an all-in fixed price to solo package.
These fees are often reduced for students and junior members, with gliding for under-25s subsidised by the BGA and by individual clubs which run their own schemes for juniors.
When can you glide?
Most long thermal cross-country flights, particularly in England are done throughout the warmer summer months. However, clubs in hillier regions of the UK – most of Scotland, Wales and the Pennines – often encounter some of their best soaring conditions during the autumn and spring.
In the main though, the optimal weather conditions for gliding are sunny and not too windy.
Clubs run training and fly throughout the year weather permitting with the main cross country gliding season running from May to mid-September. Although not always the best for cross-country flights, the period from September to March can be a great time to learn to fly. Clubs are less busy, allowing you to make rapid progress to solo standard.
Generally speaking, the only things that will stop you flying are persistent rain, low cloud and gusts of wind over 30 mph!
Where can you glide?
With around 85 sites throughout the UK stretching from the Highlands of Scotland to the south west tip of England, wherever you live you’ll never be far from a gliding club.
All clubs welcome visitors, so please go along and find out at first hand what the sport is about. Find your nearest club using our interactive map or visit our club pages section for links to individual club websites.
Clubs vary in size, in facilities offered and, because they are situated in different parts of the country with different geographies, a variety of flying conditions. Pilots enjoy visiting other clubs for the different flying possibilities available. Many combine gliding with overseas holidays to experience the particular thrills of flying in the French Alps, the lakes and mountains of New Zealand, the plains of Australia and South Africa, and other gliding destinations.
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