Experiencing glider flying for the first time.
When planning flights, I often spend a considerable time routing around gliding sites. I know never to overfly them below the promulgated altitudes, and should track a respectful distance away, but have often wondered what they do there. I was given the perfect opportunity to find out when Simon Smith, from The Gliding Centre at Husbands Bosworth got in touch to invite me to a gliding experience day.
Simon, a basic gliding instructor who also flies powered aeroplanes has long been concerned about the lack of knowledge in the GA community about gliding operations. He says that people don’t realise the altitude gliders can climb to, the distances they can cover, the speed they travel and the airspace they occupy. For this reason, he invited 20 members of the South Warwickshire Flying School at Wellesbourne to come and experience gliding first hand. I was asked if I wanted to join them.
We were given a briefing about Husbands Bosworth, toured the hangars, and shown how the gliders are launched. In the case of this aerodrome in Leicestershire, England, gliders are launched via aerotow, and winch.
On the day we visited, there was a strong crosswind, and so only the tugs were operational. I flew a tug launch in the Chipmunk with Marc Roots, Deputy Tug Master. He explained the procedures they follow, and the complexity of the launching task surprised me. Firstly, handling the chipmunk with the glider attached takes great skill and concentration. And then, once the glider has released from the tow, bringing the Chipmunk back into land with 180ft of rope attached wasn’t straightforward.
To avoid shock-cooling the engine, the chipmunk is accelerated to 120knots at cruise power in a slow descent to 300ft. The speed in the 300ft circuit is gradually reduced, and then Marc has to fly a dog-leg on final to avoid the trailing rope hitting any vehicles on a nearby road.
After landing, I clambered into the glider with a parachute on my back. Alan Smith, my instructor, sat behind me. The launch was far more violent than I was expecting, but once off the ground the noise and vibration stopped, and the raw sound of the air passing by, and the creaks from the airframe was a novel experience.
After we’d detached from the tug’s rope, Alan talked me through controlling the glider (it needs a lot of rudder) and he demonstrated a stall. There weren’t many thermals, and so we were in a slow descent from 3000ft. Alan made the approach and landing look easy, and after a short roll-out, we came to a gentle stop on the grass.
My thanks to my supporters for helping cover the costs of making some of this film. I’m grateful too to Paul from Flapjack Films who volunteered his time. All credit to Simon and the team at Husbands Bosworth for their generosity and time in organising this event.
Video: Gliding at Husbands Bosworth