Gliding awareness for non-glider pilots
This message aims to help pilots become more aware of our gliding activity and is based on Aeronautical Information Circular (AIC) Yellow 083/2011 linked from the NATS Aeronautical Information Service website. That AIC is highly recommended reading!
Gliding is a weather dependent air sport and although most active from March–October the activity takes place throughout the year during daylight hours.
The vast majority of gliders launch from sites clearly marked on half and quarter mil maps.
Details of gliding sites are also available at
In the UK, the longest single flight distance is 1100km, gliders routinely fly closed circuit 300 km cross country flights at average speeds of around 100 kph and gliders routinely climb above FL100 near mountains and hills.
There are around 7000 glider pilots operating some 2300 gliders at 86 clubs flying around 130,000 hours and covering about 1M kms per year.
In addition, our Air Cadet colleagues carry out a huge amount of training in winch and self-launched gliders from a number of sites throughout the UK.
How to See and Avoid?
By design and similarly to other composite aircraft, most gliders have a small frontal area and are usually white in colour. It’s a fact that in certain conditions any low frontal area, white aircraft can be difficult to spot. It’s been found that the apparently tempting idea of applying patches of colour sometimes just breaks up the shape and doesn’t in reality help with airborne detection
This puts a real premium on effective lookout technique (CAA Safety Sense Leaflet No 13). However gliders rarely fly wings level for long periods and when manoeuvring they become easier to see.
Lookout is also enhanced a lot by knowing where gliders are most likely to be:
- Within a © 5nm radius of a gliding site (intense training activity and winch cables!)
- Below cumulus clouds (in particular under lines of cumulus clouds)
- On the windward side of ridges (often at low level)
- Upwind of or above lenticular clouds (mostly at high level)
A significant number of gliders are equipped with FLARM, an electronic aid to effective lookout that provides visual and aural warnings of closing traffic that is equipped with the same technology. This relatively low cost equipment has to date been almost exclusively fitted to gliders – but can be fitted to any aircraft.
The RAF are fitting FLARM to some of their aircraft. The recent development of Powerflarm allows any aircraft to detect both FLARM and transponder equipped traffic on a single instrument.
The UKAB advice
Is to avoid glider sites at all times. Only overfly them if you have timely, positive confirmation from the site itself that they are inactive. When avoiding glider sites, beware of simply skirting the ground location by a narrow margin because there are likely to be gliders operating close to the site as they soar within gliding range. Even if a site has finished winch-launching for the day, it may have gliders returning from cross country flights, or motor gliders self-launching into the local area.
Pilots should not rely on seeing the winch launch happening as they approach the glider site. A glider will go from ground to 1,000-1,500ft in about 20 seconds, so spotting it in the climb is too late to do anything about the conflict.
Nor is the danger passed once the glider is released from the winch. Pilots unlikely to see the cable itself and, depending on the winch-launch height, the hazard from these continues for at least another 20-30 seconds as it descends under a small parachute that is effectively invisible.
Some glider sites are capable of launching to altitudes of 3-4000ft, with associated increased cable descent times. Maximum launch altitudes are indicated on the 500K VFR chart with a forward slash and height. Lasham, for example (right), has a maximum winch-launch altitude of 3700ft, as shown on the attached graphic as /3.7.
So far, we haven’t seen an actual mid-air, either between a para glider helicopter or fixed wing aircraft or with the descending winch cable. But it could soon be a matter for the AAIB rather than UKAB.
Be under no illusion, such an encounter is highly likely to be fatal for those involved.”
UK Airprox Board
British Gliding Association
To improve your own as well as glider safety there are three big things you can do;
- Lookout skills can be dramatically upgraded (CAA Safety Sense Leaflet No 13)
- Be aware of when and where gliders frequent (AIC Y 083/2011)
- Consider fitting an electronic aid to effective lookout that is FLARM compatible.
To leave or not to leave?
20:30 Wednesday 6th June, Phil Colbert chucks a post onto Pennine Flight Club group asking if anyone fancies some XC coaching on Thursday. That day I'd walked about 8 mile with my 20Kg pack looking for non existent wind. I was planning a day off & had a course to go to. However, XC coaching with Phil.... had to be worth a go, course can wait.
Meeting up there were 5 of us - Me, Phil, John O, GJ, and another pilot off on sick. We shall call him Dartanian to protect his job. Whilst driving, Phil was giving me loads of tips as I sheepishly admitted I've not left any hill yet - but he was great and said that is exactly what this day was about. Note to all other pilots thinking the same!
I've had 3 knee ops in last 2 years & just started flying at the beginning of the month so I march off early knowing my muscles have deteriorated. Westy's IOTA in my pack - first real outing. On the way up, I am passed as expected. My poor limbs screaming as I attempted the steep incline. I was ready to admit defeat when a bay-watch style body came bounding toward me. Phil grabbed my pack (ooerr) and like a mountain goat took it to the top (I wasn't too far off in my defence).
Anyone who carries another's pack is alright in my book.
Holding back the puke I rested whilst the others got ready. The wind blew through in bursts as the thermals raced through. John O gave comforting words - thx. GJ took off near vertically. "Told you it would be easy to stay up" says Phil as GJ disappears.
Pukey feeling still there, Dartanian suggests I eat something. Really? I did eat a scotch egg but struggled to keep it down. But then I started feeling a little better.
GJ off, Dartanian off, John O off, Phil, off, me.... questioning my frame of mind - in hindsight that was a good thing to do. Decided the walk down was not an option so pulled up the new wing easily in a lull and effortlessly glided off the hill.
All 5 of us were up & down, thermals strong at times but a little narrow. Wind slightly off the hill. We got the first thermal but pushing out front for second thermal seemed more problematic until Phil, GJ & Dartanian seemed to cadge a lift off a cloud. Maybe not Dartanian actually but Phil & GJ left the hill.
John O cunningly waited whilst Dartanian bombed out way behind take off somewhere. All safe. I'll stick with John O was my not so cunning plan.
However, eventually I decided not to push things so I went to land. At Mach 2. What's this wing all about?
Of course, almost immediately John O went up in the strongest, widest thermal of the year - skies were looking great now as opposed to when Phil & GJ set off.
He already had his grin ready for when he passed Phil & GJ in the air.
Meanwhile, Dartanian had returned to the lip. Blown out! He (or she) had to walk half way down to take off into a crappy air mass.
Meanwhile, John O's grin was rapidly fading as all the fluffy clouds seemed to be missing him! He bombed short of Phil & GJ!
The retrieve procedure used Phil's airwhere & live tracking webpage.
Clicked on him then selected "directions to pilot" and job done.
Everyone picked up & returned to cars.
This day was a great learning experience & huge thanks to Phil for organising it. If you are just starting XC or are thinking about it, come along if he does another one - you don't actually have to go XC but you see how it can all work smoothly with a bit of planning & the right software. Airwhere tracking for android is worth getting (from play
store) - you can say you are hitchhiking or anything & it appears on a map.
Whilst I didn't get away, I was taught a load of stuff by Phil (& John
- O) which only made sense when I was on the hill looking to get away.
It's a totally different perspective between planning to soar & planning to go XC.
I just need that one big thermal & I'm off.
Coaching Exercise - Navigation and Instruments
For those taking part in the coaching exercise on navigating with your instruments - make sure you read and study the manual for your software/instrument. Download the two waypoint files, unzip them and install them in the correct place on your instrument. Check that you can access them. On the day you will need to assemble a task using selected waypoints, edit the size of the waypoint circles, then complete the task.
PSC Training Waypoints
Pennine Soaring Club Social Night November 2016
What a great turnout for a wild and wet November evening! 30+ hardy PSC members braved the howling wind and driving rain to hear about the scary experiences of some of the country's top pilots - shame they couldn't come but Graham, two Simons and two Phils did their best to fill in . . .
Read more: Pennine Soaring Club Social Night November 2016
It is now getting flyable at last!
The time has come to warn newcomers that spring thermals can be rough, and that particular care is needed when flying near to the hill on cold, clear bright days. These days are when the condition of the air favours small, fast moving thermals that can tip your glider to angles that you may not have flown at before.
Avoiding the technicalities of thermal formation and behaviour you must be aware of the following:
When a bubble of air starts to rise, a circulation is set up in its outer “skin” by the combination of friction between the rising air and the air surrounding it and convection caused by the warm thermal being cooled by contact with the cooler air around it.
In addition, as the warm air rises, cooler air descends to replace it. Thus, loosely speaking, there are three areas to concern us.
A. In the middle where the air is rising
B. Around the edges of a thermal, where the air is turbulent and where the circulation causes the net upward flow to be much less then in the core
C. Where the airflow is downwards.
So, when you fly along a radius into a thermal that is ‘out in space’ you will usually feel sink first, followed by the turbulence with some lift then the really useful up flowing air in the middle.
What happens when this thermal up the face of a hill. The shape is probably distorted as shown, and depending on the gradient of the hill, the thermal may break away from the face part way up.
In the occasional extreme case, we can have a situation as
above where the circulation at the ridge side of thermal may be augmented by downward flowing air being sucked into the bottom.
When the thermal is large, your glider may be wholly or mainly in one of the regions A, B or C with a fairly gentle transition from one to the other. When the thermals are small your glider may span all three of these regions.
If you are flying close to the ridge and you pass tangentially through a thermal, as shown above, your glider will be tipped violently towards the hill. Even if there is no down flow between the thermal and the hill, the first time you experience strong lift under one wing tipping you towards the ridge you will probably wish you had tried golf instead.
The above information has been condensed from articles by John Klunder, Bill Walmsley and Jonathan Gill.
Getting waypoints into your GPS
How to get waypoints into your GPS the easy way.
If you've got the electronic version of the Defined Tasks Coaching guide, you'll also have a GPX file of waypoints. Getting these waypoints into your GPS should be fairly straightforward, if you've got one of the popular units supported by GPSDump.
If you haven't already got GPSDump, get it now from here.
The first thing you need to do is establish communication with your device. If it's a Flytec or a Brauniger, make sure it's switched OFF, then plug it into the USB port. If it's a Garmin, make sure it's switched ON, then plug it into the USB port. Don't know about any others, but you should be able to work it out. In extreme circumstances, you might like to check the manual.
Once it's plugged in physically, it's time to see if GPSDump can see it.
Click the "Logs" menu, and select an option that mentions your instrument. If you're lucky, it will start reading logs straight away. If you're not, it will say "Connecting to GPS" and start counting down. This means it can't see your instrument. If it's plugged in and properly connected physcially, this just means it's looking in the wrong place, i.e. the wrong COM port.
To change the COM port, click the "Misc" menu, and select the top option, "Set COM port". A drop down menu will present you with some options. Pick one, and repeat the process of trying to read logs. Eventually, you should get a working connection.
Now you have a working connection with your instrument, it's time to get all 78 waypoints into your instrument in just a few seconds, with no typing in.
Now you need to send them to your instrument. Click "Edit", then "Select All". This will select all 78 waypoints. (If you want, you can just select a few, just the Grid Challenge waypoints, say. For now, though, select all of them.) Now click "Wpts", then "Send to..." and whichever option mentions your instrument. It should take just a few seconds to confirm that all the waypoints have been sent.
If you examine your instrument, you should now find all the waypoints are present. You may need to set the correct radii - most are the standard 400m, but some are smaller. Check the Defined Task Guide for details.
You can now set up routes using those waypoints - consult your instrument manual for details of how to set up routes. For details of what the routes are, see the Defined Task Coaching guide.
A summary of the routes is given below: