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FMI: Soaring Society of America

Glider flying requires FAA pilot certification but not an FAA physical examination. In addition, you only have to be 14 years old to solo a glider. Most gliders launch from runways and grass strips on tow ropes (200 to 300 feet long) behind appropriately certificated towplanes. Cross-country flights of greater than 1,000 miles are not uncommon in gliders. Mountain wave flights to altitudes in excess of 40,000 feet and speeds exceeding 100 mph have also been achieved. Competition is available at all levels from local to international. There is even world-class glider aerobatics competition.

What is a glider?
The terms sailplane and glider are interchangeable. Both are terms to describe a large, powerless aircraft with a glide ratio of up to 70:1.

Where can you fly a glider?
You can fly a glider at over 200 locations in the USA. Check out the interactive “Where to Fly?” map at the Soaring Society of America’s website: http://www.ssa.org/sport/wheretofly.asp.

What makes soaring wonderful?
Fly far, high and fast at minimal cost.  Experience the excitement of using the weather and not just flying through it.  Fly for hours and hundreds of miles without using any fuel.

What training do you need to fly a glider?
To act as a pilot in command of a sailplane, you must hold at least a private pilot certificate for glider operations. For information on how to get started, visit the Soaring Society of America’s website: http://www.ssa.org/sport/whatissoaring2.asp.

How much does it cost to fly a glider?
If you own your own glider, the only fee is the cost of a tow, which is about $35.  The typical flight lasts several hours. Glider rentals generally run around $40 per hour, and you must pay the tow costs. It is generally cheaper to fly with a soaring club, but generally, it is more convenient to fly with a commercial glider operation.

Who flies them?
Anyone ages 14 to 90 years old who has a sense of adventure can learn to fly a glider.

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