Gliding is the ultimate adventure sport, a sport that requires the pilot to harness the power of nature to stay airborne.
It 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.
Gliding is delivered by individual gliding clubs of which there are over 70 throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, all of which are members of the British Gliding Association (BGA).
The British Gliding Association together with Women Gliding are working with schools, youth groups, the Department for Transport and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) organisations as we develop exciting, fun gliding-based STEM activities as well as getting youngsters from all backgrounds into the air and introducing them to great gliding and aviation role models.
We are proud to be Ambassadors for the DfT’s Generation Aviation through their Reach for the Sky programme. You can find out more about this here Generation Aviation Group – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Be inspired or inspire your class or youth group with practical sessions led by our enthusiastic team. Airfield visits let young people try a wide range of activities around gliding and GROW life skills as they experience and love STEM in action. These can be arranged during term and holiday times.
To find out more, email email@example.com.
Gliding can be enjoyed from any age and in many ways, explore this gliding timeline to see some of the ways you can engage in this amazing part of aviation.
Mum flies until you make too big a bump and she gets uncomfy in a glider so you’ve taken your first flights already!
Visit an airshow and see poweredplanes and gliders.
Many clubs have a children’s play area so you can keep busy while mum and dad go flying.
Your school takes part in British Science Week – your chance to find some gliding activities and learnabout flying and wings.
Visit events like the National Outdoor Expo and have a go on the British Gliding Association Gliding Simulator. Find out about gliding from the British Gliding Association website at gliding.co.uk.
Find your nearest club at gliding.co.uk/club-finder/.Most clubs have low-cost Junior membership and flying fees.
You will learn how to fly with your club’s qualified instructors who will work with you to build your experience and knowledge ready for your first solo flight. Every aspiring pilot’s first solo is a great moment! The minimum age for solo is 14.
You can fly a glider solo once you have completed the necessary training.
Now you can:
- Start building your skill and achievements towards getting your Glider Pilot’s Licence – learn how to soar for longer periods, fly in a wider range of conditions and learn new manoeuvres.
- Fancy aerobatics? – you don’t need an engine to fly loops, chandelles, upside down – it’s all about skill. Aeros are a great way to improve your flying skills!
Get your Glider Pilot’s Licence: Now you are officially a pilot! You are now allowed to leave your home airfield and fly cross-country to other clubs and airfields. 16 is the minimum age to be able to obtain your license.
Learn to race: Fun local weekend competitions, local, regional and national competitions and as you get better, the chance to fly for Team GB in International Championships.
Glider maintenance: Everyone learns a little about how to check a glider is airworthy as part of their training. Want to find out more? Train as a Glider Inspector and help other pilots keep their gliders airworthy.
Most Universities have a Uni Gliding Club with low-cost flying and shared transport to make sure you can still get to the nearest club!
You could always teach part time around your Uni work as long as you have completed the necessary qualifications and hours flown.
What can I achieve as a glider pilot – and when?
The short answer is pretty much anything that you imagine – and the sky is the limit.
The full details of what you could achieveand when are quite complex. The following summarises how a glider pilot’s skills are recognised and the various pathways that they can take.
Badges and diplomas can be awarded in international recognition of the sport gliding skills that you attain.
- Silver badge (which requires a flight of 5 hours duration, a 50 kms cross country flight and a height gain of at least 1000 metres)
- Gold badge (a flight of 300 kms and a height gain of not less than 3000 metres)
- Diamond badge (a flight of 500 kms and a gain of height of not less than 5000 metres)
- Diplomas are available for flights of 100kms, for 750 kms and for ever increasing distances in increments of 250 kms!
- Ultimate UK challenge – flying a glider around a 1000km task without landing between start and finish! Only a handful of pilots have ever been awarded this.
The absolute distance record for a glider is 3008 kms – although that was set in South America flying over the Andes Mountains.
Teach people to fly: Once you have 50 hours as Pilot in Charge, you can train as an instructor. Start as an Introductory Flight Pilot (IFP) inspiring new people to give gliding a go. Maybe one day you will be Chief Flying Instructor – CFIs are in charge of all flying that happens at a club.
Regardless of a pilot’s experience, each flight is unique. The weather is never the same, the route you take through the sky is never the same – but the shear enjoyment and sense of achievement when it all comes together as you planned is the same – pure magic. Try it.
Gliding is a great way to get into all things aviation. Here are some job / career opportunities that could come from learning to glide:
- Become a captain for a large commercial airline
- Train as a maintenance engineer fixing general aviation and/or commercial planes
- Qualify as a satellite systems engineer and from there you could even apply to become an astronaut
- You could be a pilot within the RAF flying helicopters, typhoons or fighter planes.
- You could turn your hobby into a career by working in recreational aviation and associated support industry
There is no age limit to being able to enjoy flying, as long as you are in good health, you can continue way into retirement
Meet our community of inspiring, interesting role models.
Lucy is an aeronautical engineer who flies gliders and powered aircraft and helps encourage young people into gliding.
Jake is the current Junior World Gliding Champion and holds the 1000km UK Record. When not flying, Jake works as an avionics engineer.
Alison has a degree in Earth and Planetary Science, works as a Reporting Analyst and describes herself as ‘obsessed with flight’!
Kirsty is Blade 2 in the Blades Aerobatic Team. Previously in the RAF, Kirsty was the first female Red Arrows pilot.
Steph is a Licenced Aircraft Engineer currently working on the A400M and she restored her glider in memory of her father.
Paul is a Chemistry teacher who doesn’t let being in a wheelchair stop him from enjoying the freedom of the skies.
Rachel works for the CAA and uses her pilot licence to fly wherever she can. She’s currently seconded to the UK Space Agency.
Harriet is a glider pilot and an aeronautical engineer who’s applying to become an astronaut.
Kate is Chief Flying Instructor at the Scottish Gliding Centre. Her background is in IT and language engineering, and she is now happy to spend more time in her glider.
Amy studied Biology but got so hooked on gliding she now works as a glider repairer!
Liz is an engineer who designs award-winning public services for local and central government. She’s been the top ranked woman in World Gliding.
These National Curriculum-based* activities at Key Stages 2, 3 and 4 cover elements of Maths, Science and Design and Technology and are all fun and practical challenges.
The resources are also ideal for youth groups as most require little or no additional equipment or materials readily available around the home.
Each activity comes with comprehensive student and teacher notes.
Key Stage 2 (7-11 years)
Clouds and Glider Racing
This activity builds students’ ability to work scientifically, investigating convection and how air currents rise. National curriculum areas addressed include comparative and fair tests, observations, states of matter and the water cycle.
Gliding into the Stratosphere – Air Pressure
This unit builds students’ ability to work scientifically, investigating the fact that air has weight which creates air pressure. National curriculum areas include comparative and fair tests, observations, taking measurements, mass, gravitational force and weight.
Designing a Wing Spar
This activity builds students’ ability to work scientifically, investigating properties of materials to design a wing spar of a specific strength. It involves calculating average values, constructing a results table and drawing a chart.
Key stage 3 (11-14 years)
Measuring Lift on a Wing
This activity addresses the following KS3 National Curriculum areas: opposing forces and equilibrium, pressure measured by ratio of force over area, using force arrows in diagrams, adding forces in one dimension, balanced and unbalanced forces, moment as the turning effect of a force, non-contact forces.
The Glider Pilot Navigation Challenge
This activity builds mathematical thinking and addresses the following KS3 National Curriculum areas: speed, distance, time calculations, conversion across time and distance units, ratios and drawing charts.
Key stage 4 (14-16 years)
Measuring Lift on a Wing
This activity addresses the following KS4 National Curriculum areas: weight and gravitational field strength, forces as vectors as well as opposing forces and equilibrium, pressure, balanced and unbalanced forces, moment as the turning effect of a force.
Design & Technology
Design a Zero Emissions Glider Launch Machine
This activity builds students’ ability to work scientifically, addressing the Design and Technology syllabus at KS3 or 4 by designing & building a simple launch machine to launch a glider, investigating the impact of various design elements and identifying possible improvements.
Zero Emissions Flight Energy Challenge
This activity builds students’ ability to work scientifically, investigating different types of energy and the transfer that occurs between them as a glider is launched into the air, flies and then lands. It covers the different types of energy, drawing an energy transfer diagram and conservation of energy.
Glider Racing Probability Challenge
This activity builds students mathematical thinking and addresses the following areas from the Maths National Curriculum: conditional probability and rules; speed, distance, time calculations, conversion between fractions, decimals and percentages and across measurement units.