What is Gliding

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Gliding, Sailplanes, Motorless Flight....

Gliding is the purest form of aviation, that inspires, challenges and enthralls a diverse group of people. It is a skill, it is a sport, and it is a hobby that can be enjoyed on all levels: from relaxation on a quiet flight over the countryside, to the thrill and precision of aerobatics, or to the pace and determination of regional, national and international racing competitions. 

It is a sport for all ages – attracting teenagers who once certified could fly a glider solo at the age of 15 (a year before being allowed behind the wheel of a car!) to men and women who take up the challenge for the first time in their 50’s, 60’s and well beyond. 

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Top speeds of modern gliders

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Distance travelled in one flight

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Height achieved

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Minimum age for first solo and Glider Pilot Certificate

Frequently asked questions about gliding

How do gliders stay up?

Having no engine, a glider is always descending through the air in which it flies. In order to stay above the ground, pilots must then find air that is rising faster than the glider is descending. 

Thermal lift

This form of lift relies on the sun's energy to heat pockets of air which then rise (convection), similar to bubbles in a saucepan. If the conditions are right, the water vapour in the air cools to form the puffy clouds that you often see in summer (cumulus clouds). Glider pilots find these columns of rising air and circle in them, gaining height as they do.

Ridge Lift

A relatively simple mechanism, where air is deflected up a mountain range or ridge. A glider pilot will fly on the upwind side of this ridge, parallel to its fact, climbing with the air. As Australia is a relatively flat country, this form of lift is only useful in certain areas.

Wave Lift

Formed in the "lee" if a mountain range (downwind side) this is a particularly rare but spectacaular phenomena where the descending air creates a standing wave pattern, similar to a fast flowing stream going over a submerged rock in a river. The height of this wave can exceed many times the height of the mountain range, and if conditioners are right gliders can reach the height of airliners!