To put it simply; soaring is operating a powerless aircraft, relying on rising air currents and the pilot’s skills to stay aloft over extended periods of time. To take advantage of these rising air currents a pilot must be launched to altitude, usually via a towplane or winch launch. After climbing to around 1000-2000ft the pilot will release from the launch method and will hunt out rising air currents. Soaring has developed into a competitive sport for some, the unique challenge presenting many competition opportunities in the form of greatest altitude gained, longest flight, races, etc. The lack of an engine makes for a unique thrill that attracts many, and when compared to the relatively high cost of powered aircraft soaring is an attractive and cheaper option. And we shouldn’t forget to mention, it’s fun!The First Canadian Glider Pilot License
The Lethbridge Gliding Club (1929-1939) was born when three teenage boys – Art Larson, Jim Findlay and Ivan Thomson – decided to build a Primary Glider. In the spring of 1930 the group – now calling themselves the Prairie Gliders, gave Billy Ritson a ride, who became the first person in Lethbridge to make a glider flight.
Evelyn Fletcher joined the club in the fall of 1936, a time when glider pilots didn’t need a licence. It was in May of 1938 that Evelyn made her first cross-country flight. She was able to stay aloft for 45 minutes, which enabled her to fly a distance of 8 miles.
When the Canadian government decided to license glider pilots in Canada, Evelyn Fletcher was issued Glider Pilot Licence No. One, and the government sent an official out to present it to her at a banquet in her honour, for by then Evelyn had already made aviation history. She had an officially recorded trip on May 13, 1939, of sailing 10 miles, rising to a height of 4000 feet and staying up for 51 minutes. That was a new Canadian gliding record and it stood at the top for ten years.
– Christine Firth (Free Flight – 1982, Issue 2)Soaring Fast Facts
-Highest Altitude Reached:
50,671′ (30 August 2006) Steve Fossett and Einar Enevoldson-Longest Glider Flight (hh:mm):
56:15 (April 2-4 1952) Charles Atger
-Number Of Gliders In Canada:
727 (April 2013)
Notable Gliding Stories
Gimli Glider – A Boeing 767 that ran out of fuel successfully glided to an emergency landing in Gimli, Manitoba.
Miracle on the Hudson – An Airbus A320-200 lost both engines during a bird-strike and successfully landed in the Hudson River.
The Azores Glider – An Airbus A330-200 glided to safety after a fuel leak interrupted the transatlantic flight.
In the two latter instances, one of the pilots was an experienced glider pilot. While not similar to the gliding we do at the LSC, these famous incidents clearly expose the challenge of flying engineless aircraft!
Learning to Fly – Common Questions and Answers
Q: This sounds exciting and I’d like to try it!
A: There is no requirement for members to come a set number of days or flights a season. We all do what we can and because we’re all passionate about flying we pitch in to make the club a great place to visit and have great equipment for all of us to fly! That said, if you’re still not sure about joining, come for a few flights and taste a bit of training! Join us for 6 flights with training and insurance for only $150!
Q: If I try it out what does it cost to join?
A: If you try a fam flight or 6 flights, we will count a portion of those funds towards full membership. Full membership is only $500, including the requisite SAC fees. This total includes insurance for the year, subscription to Free Flight (a well written Canadian soaring magazine), and the freedom to visit other Canadian clubs. By joining the club as a full member, you have access to our resources and aircraft, including high quality flight instruction.
Q: How young can I be to learn how to fly?
A: We train individuals as young as 12 years old with consideration for maturity. Transport Canada allows students to fly solo at age 14 and be licensed at 16 years old. There is no upper age limit.
Q: How much training is required for a Glider Pilot License?
A: 15 hours of classroom instruction and a minimum 6 hours of flight time, of which a portion must be Dual (with an instructor) and a portion Solo. There is a Transport Canada written exam and a flight test required before you are fully licensed. Please see our full explanation here.
Q: What if I already have a Private Pilot License?
A: The dual and solo flight minimums and flight test are required, although the total flight time requirement is reduced to 3 hours. However, credit is given for the written exam, so you do not need to rewrite.
Q: Is there a height/weight limit?
A: We have no established minimum or maximum heights, provided you can fit comfortably and freely operate the controls. Our Schweizer 2-22 has a minimum front seat weight of 120lbs, no minimum weight for the rear seat, and a maximum weight of 200lbs in either seat. Please contact us at email@example.com if you are unsure about these conditions.