Prior to each lesson the instructor will discuss what will be demonstrated and taught during this flight.
Part of the training process is training on what is involved in a "preflight" examination of the glider for safety and controls, etc.
For demo rides, the Freedom's Wings AZ pilot or instructor will by flying the glider, and may allow you to take the controls after the glider has released from the tow plane.
A complete description of all instruments and controls is part of the flight training. Also, every flight has a pre-takeoff check list: Altimeter, Ballast, Belts, Controls, Canopy, Cable, Direction of the wind, and Emergency procedures.
Prior to takeoff one or more ground crew members will assist by connecting the tow rope to the glider and on the first flight of the day, a release check will be performed too. The pilot will then give a thumbs up signal and the ground crew person will level the wings. The tow plane pilot will then take the slack out of the line, and when ready will wag his rudder indicating that everything is ready. When the glider pilot is ready they will wag their rudder showing that they are ready.
The aero tow begins slowly and the person holding the wings lever will run alongside the glider holding the wings level until there is enough airspeed for the ailerons to keep the wings level. Once we reach takeoff speed the glider will lift off the ground, but stay close to the ground until the tow plane is airborne. From that time until the glider releases you will be flying in formation to the tow plane.
When release altitude is reached the glider pilot will pull a knob to release from the tow rope. We will then make a standard climbing turn to the right and the tow plane will make a descending turn to the left. To avoid the tow rope. This is where the soaring begins. A glider is always coasting downhill but if you can find areas where the air around you is going up faster than you are gliding downhill, you gain altitude. Part of the training to become a glider pilot involves weather and where to find raising air. Sometimes you can feel these bumps in the seat of your pants and other time you can use an instrument called a variometer. You can then use the altitude you gain to either stay up longer or travel further. Gaining altitudes of 10,000 feet or traveling more than 25 miles are not uncommon.
Most airports have specific landing patterns and if the pattern will be all right turns or all left turns, especially if they have more than one runway. Landing a glider is almost the same as landing a single engine airplane. One difference is that in a glider we cannot add power and go around if you are not getting everything right since we do not have an engine. So, in a glider we use different methods for controlling out rate of descent, like air brakes or flaps. Most gliders have a single landing gear located under the cockpit, with a break and also many have a steel plate skid which can stop the glider quickly.
Once you are stopped a ground crew member will help you to exit the glider, and in moving the glider off of the runway.
Partnering with the Tucson Soaring Club and flying at The El Tiro Gliderport, west of Marana, AZ
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Photos by permission Freedom's Wings International