Welcome to the world of soaring. The Glider Flying Handbook is designed to help you achieve
your goals in aviation and to provide you with the
knowledge and practical information needed to
attain private, commercial, and flight instructor
category ratings in gliders.
GLIDERS — THE EARLY YEARS
The fantasy of flight led people to dream up intricate
designs in an attempt to imitate the flight of
birds. Leonardo da Vinci sketched a vision of flying
machines in his 15th century manuscripts. His
work consisted of a number of wing designs
including a human-powered ornithopter, derived
from the Greek word for bird. Centuries later,
when others began to experiment with his designs, it became apparent that the human body
could not sustain flight by flapping wings like birds.
GLIDER OR SAILPLANE?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
defines a glider as a heavier-than-air aircraft
that is supported in flight by the dynamic reaction
of the air against its lifting surfaces, and
whose free flight does not depend on an
engine. The term glider is used to designate the
rating that can be placed on a pilot certificate
once a person successfully completes required
glider knowledge and practical tests.
Another widely accepted term used in the industry
is sailplane. Soaring refers to the sport of flying
sailplanes, which usually includes traveling long
distances and remaining aloft for extended periods
of time. Gliders were designed and built to provide
short flights off a hill down to a landing area. Since their wings provided relatively low lift and high drag,
these simple gliders were generally unsuitable for sustained flight using atmospheric lifting forces.
The most well known
example of a glider is the space shuttle, which literally
glides back to earth. The space shuttle, like
cannot sustain flight for long periods of time. Early
gliders were easy and inexpensive to build, and
they played an important role in flight training.
Self-launch gliders are equipped with engines, but
with the engine shut down, they display the same
flight characteristics as non-powered gliders. The
engine allows them to be launched under their own power. Once aloft, pilots of self-launch gliders
can shut down the engine and fly with the power off. The additional training and procedures
required to earn a self-launch endorsement are covered later in this handbook.