How Much Will It Cost?
One of the virtues of gliding is its low cost compared to other forms of flying. For example, a training program involving 20 air tows could cost as little as $650. And gliders are relatively inexpensive to buy, compared to an airplane. A glider in good condition can range in price from as little as $3,000 to $30,000 or more. Even at the top end of the price range, gliders can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of a powered airplane, not to mention a sport helicopter. Most pilots buy a trailer to help transport the glider, though that’s not always necessary if you like to store it at your home airport. Still, when you combine the low cost of a glider with the low cost of an air tow, $20 or less per tow, gliding adds up to one of the least expensive forms of aviation.
For Nonpilots: Getting Started
For the beginning pilot who wants to make gliding his first entry into aviation, the same prerequisites apply as for powered airplanes. (See Chapter 13, "Getting Off the Ground: Becoming an Airplane Pilot,“for a complete discussion of getting started in sport flying.)
Many glider pilots like to fly alone, with no chatty passengers to spoil the solitude and quiet Gliders, especially the high-performance ones, contain only one seat but training gliders are always equipped with two, one for the instructor and one for the student.
The differences come in the amount of flight time a glider student spends in the air and what he practices. Here’s a list of the possible options the FAA offers before qualifying someone for a private pilot certificate in gliders.
Seventy solo glider flights, including 20 flights during which 360-degree turns are made.
Seven hours of solo flight in gliders, including 35 glider flights launched by ground tow or 20 glider flights launched by air tows.
Forty hours of flight time in gliders and single-engine airplanes, including 10 solo glider flights during which 360-degree turns are made.
Pilots who already have a private pilot certificate and at least 40 hours of time as pilot in command of an airplane (PIC) need only make a minimum of 10 solo flights in a glider to qualify to add a glider rating. Of course, they’ll require some flight time with an instructor and some ground school to learn the ins and outs of gliding and how it differs from powered flying, but the regulations don’t specify how much of each is necessary.
A private pilot must pass a practical test with an FAA-approved examiner before receiving his glider rating, but he won’t have to take a written exam. (See Chapter 13 for a full discussion of the FAA testing process.)
For Power Pilots: Making the Transition
A power pilot’s experience with controlling an airplane will help speed the learning process and trim time and money off the training costs for becoming a glider pilot. But a power pilot still has to pass FAA exams to become a certified glider pilot.
But note that for a pilot who already has a ”power ticket,“ as glider pilots call a power-pilot certificate, making the transition from flying powered planes to flying gliders is more than simply learning how to control a different model of airplane. Glider flying is an entirely different kind of aviation, requiring a keen sensitivity to the atmosphere and the subtle signs of lift and wind, not to mention the grit of character that lets pilots set off for hours of flying with nothing but their wits to rely on.
The Least You Need to Know
>- Gliders bear a resemblance to powered planes, but thin wings and trim bodies set them apart
>* Part of the appeal of gliders is the "big quiet" that comes from flying without an engine.
>• Gliders fly by the power of sun and wind.
>• Glider instrument panels feature the barest essentials, including the tow-rope release knob.
>■ Gliding is far less expensive to learn and to buy into than powered flying.