Learning to fly a sailplane is a great adventure, whether you are 16 or 60.
It just takes a little longer if you start later! In fact, the learning never stops. Flying sailplanes is full of rewards, set-backs and successes, often in very quick order.
The better prepared you are for a course in gliding, the easier you will find it. These notes cover some of the background information to the courses at Lake Keepit Soaring Club. Things like what to bring, what to wear, how the course is run, background reading etc. There's also a books section on this website which has some more reading… if you are into that sort of thing.
If you find that your progress when learning to fly seems some days to be going more backwards than forwards (as it was with mine), then maybe this will cheer you up…
Ludiwg Hoffman, after an incredibly inauspicious start to gliding, went on to become a world famous pilot.
Hoffman was a very keen model aircraft builder. He became acquainted with gliding at Würtzburg, where, joining the local gliding club, he made his initial ground hops. But to his astonishment, he was absolutely hopeless, every time breaking some part of his glider which he had so carefully put together.
In spite of this he was allowed to take part in the Junior Competitions on the Wasserkuppe, where, surprisingly enough, he very soon passed the A test with a glide of over one minute. At last he seemed to have got the hang of it!
But on his very next flight, he stalled, and surrendering to the wishes of his flying instructors, became a non flying member of the club. But no! In spite of his parent's protestations and his own inability to fly, he remained un-daunted and once again, saved up every penny he could and took a course on the Wasserkuppe in the Easter of 1930. He again distinguished himself by crashing on his very first attempt, and besides smashing the Zogling, sustained multiple injuries to his right leg.
This brought on a crisis between himself and his parents who insisted on him completing his studies to become a school teacher. Then one day he packed his things and announced that he wished to become an airman and not a teacher.
He parents sent him to Weimar to become an aeroplane designer instead. Being inexperienced, he took an initial course of flying but he was again so hopeless that his instructors feared every time he flew that they would have to bury him the next day. In spite of this, Hoffman was deadly serious about learning to fly and even spent his spare time watching others in the air and learning from them, until one day he astonished everybody by carrying out a perfect flight! All of a sudden… as is so often the case… he got the hang of it, and his grit and determination had triumphed!
Hoffman had incredible energy and rapidly accumulated not only hours, but several gliding "firsts". One day, having travelled back overnight from a distant landing, Hoffman climbed into the glider without having a wink of sleep and set off again. In spite of having a bad cold, he flew northwards to Karlsruhe and eastwards to Nürnberg. On the way he was often overtaken by sleep and several times went into a spin, woke up, righted his plane again, and resumed flying…
They don't make them like this any more (probably with good reason…)
Pilot size and weight.
Almost everyone can learn to fly a glider, but you MUST weigh less than 105 kg. Sailplanes are designed to comply with air safety regulations and construction guidelines and in Australia, the maximum cockpit load is 110 kg. Since pilots wear a parachute weighing about 5 kg in a single seater, the practical weight limit is 105 kg.
Sailplane cockpits are fairly small and if you are particularly tall, (over 1.9 metres or 6' 3") then you may have difficulty fitting into a standard cockpit. Contact the club if you have any concerns in this area.