Is it safe?
Yes it is very safe. Gliders have all normal aircraft controls. They are more manoeuvrable than most aircraft and fly safely at lower speeds. They are regulated by the New Zealand Aviation Authority.
Gliding is an exhilarating sport that uses the lift sources of nature. The pleasure and challenge appeal to people of all ages.
How do gliders stay up
The air is never perfectly still. In some places it is going up (lift) in some places it is going down (sink). Gliders take advantage of lift.
Lift is generated in three main ways:
Thermals are when the ground heats the air and it rises.
Ridge soaring is when the wind blows up a hill slope and pushes up a cushion of wind. Gliders stay up for hours in these conditions.
Lee Wave occurs downwind from lines of large hills or mountains. Great heights can be reached in these very smooth lift conditions. Note the cloud at crest of wave.
Picture here shows the wave formed from the Ben Ohau range that leads up to Mt Cook. On a day like this altitudes of 25 000 ft or more are possible. Mt Cook is just behind the tail of the glider, with the Ben Ohau range under the glider. Click on Image to enlarge
Who can fly Gliders
Almost anyone can take up gliding THERE IS NO AGE RESTRICTION
Although generally anyone under 14 years of age will be too small to reach the controls.
There is no aircrew medical requirement, but in saying that you need a check up with your own Doctor that it is OK for you to fly.
How long will it take to learn?
A typical person will take around 30-50 flights before being checked out to fly solo. Based on 3 or 4 flights per weekend regularly, it will take about 3 to 4 months on average to go solo. It is up to the senior instructors to decide when someone goes solo or not.
Challenges and Goals
Soaring as a sport has many challanges and levels of attainment.
First is solo flight where a pilot takes their first flight without an instructor.
Next is the Qualified glider pilot certificate which allows the pilot to fly cross-country (away from the local airfield). The ability to carry passengers is the next most common step in pilot development.
From here a number of internationally recongnised levels of achievement are available from flying to great heights 1000, 3000 and 5000 metres; or away from the training field for trips of 50 kilometres, 300km or 500km