Crowland Airfield

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So what is gliding?

Gliding is basically converting potential energy, i.e. the height of the glider above ground into a forward movement or distance. Typically each 1000 feet in height will propel the glider forward about 5 miles. All aero planes will and do glide, it's just that powered planes use an engine to gain and maintain height. At Crowland we use a tow plane to launch us then we can use thermals to achieve flying times that can last several hours. Without using thermals it is a 15 minute flight before landing.

What's a thermal?

Thermals are rising columns of air caused by the heating of the ground by the sun, and can happen from February to November. The size, rate of rising and the height are governed by atmospheric conditions. Although they are of course invisible to us their presence is indicated by the clouds they create and on board instruments indicating the glider's rate of assent.

So what's good about gliding?

Different people find different pleasures in gliding. In the first place there is the thrill of just being airborne. Then there is the great satisfaction of learning and flying the aircraft yourself. If you are thinking about learning to fly powered aircraft then the principles are just the same. Gliding as a solid foundation to the skill of power flying. It can also be a cheaper route to attaining a Private Pilot's Licence. Others just love flying cross country flights covering many miles. Aerobatics is another activity one can undertake in a glider. However all will agree there is great satisfaction in using the thermals to gain height. Finding and using thermals is a skill that has to be learnt and one is always striving to improve. There is also the social side of belonging to a club. Gliding clubs tend to be very friendly. Although often perceived as a non physical sport, the club orientated nature of gliding means that participants are involved in a wide range of gliding related activities. The process of launching a glider requires help from other members to retrieve and move gliders to the launch point, pre-flight checks, attaching launch cables and signalling. As well as minimising the cost of gliding for everyone, these tasks help to provide an environment that is both physically and mentally stimulating for all involved, At a time when the UK has an aging and, too often, an increasingly sedentary population, this opportunity for meaningful activity is of great benefit to the individual and the community. On the non gliding side we have a bar that is opened after flying is finished for the day. BBQs, evening meals and other events are also arranged.

How much theory is there to learn?

Up to the stage of flying solo, any required theory to aid understanding is explained before and during each lesson. No written work is required. There are no exams. Flying is just as much fun pre-solo as it is post-solo. When your instructor knows you are safe you can then take your first solo flight; a flight that everyone remembers with fond memories. The solo status qualifies you to fly within gliding distance from our airfield. To fly further from our field (using those thermals) the bronze badge qualification is required; theory and practical.

Is it expensive?

It depends on what you compare it with. Against other forms of flying it is probably the cheapest. Once airborne you are using free solar energy for fuel. Gliders are fairly cheap to maintain as there is little to wear on them. Our club is run solely by our members carrying out essential tasks, using particular skills that they possess. All officers and instructors of the club give their time free because of their love of the sport.

Do I need to buy my own glider after going solo?

No, you can continue to use our club fleet. However you will probably start to think about buying your own or a share in one if you start to fly often or for long periods. It's up to you and there is no pressure to do so.

Who can fly?

Minimum age for solo flying is 14 but training can begin before this. There is no maximum. Weight and size limits is dependent on the gilder flown. There is always a maximum seat limit of 110kg (242lbs) and people over 6 feet 2" may have a problem. Medical requirements are the same as for driving on the road, and are essentially a self declaration that you are fit to fly. For flying solo your GP has to confirm that they know of no reason you should not fly based on your medical history.


Men and women participate in gliding on equal terms. Flying gliders, whether recreationally or competitively, is all about harnessing the power of air currents to reach your goals. This is irrespective of whether your goal is to achieve your first solo; fly further, higher or faster than you have managed before; complete a pre-planned cross country route; score points for our club in an inter club competition; win an international championship; or simply to enjoy yourself. In the cockpit the main factors determining success are the pilot's skill and determination. Many women compete head to head against their male peers in regional and national competitions. There are no separate women's events.

Is it safe?

Well of course there are risks and dangers but we minimise these by careful maintenance of our gliders, using British Gliding Association approved and trained instructors and by adopting a safety first attitude at all times. Our flying activities are also governed by the BGA. Flying does not take place if the weather or any other factors mean compromising safety.

How do I get started?

Either buy a voucher online or simply call in and see us. Any of our members will be please to talk and show you around. If you like what you see then either take a trial lesson which includes two months membership to our club, or enrol as a full member. Lessons are given on Saturdays and Sundays. Instructor time is free; you pay the launch fee and for the use of the glider. Fly as often as you want subject to other members also flying.

More information about gliding can be found on the British Gliding Association's site.