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Air Adventures -- Gliding
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Gliding: 12 listings
Bloemfontein Gliding Club
Bloemfontein, FS
Click here to enquire.
Soaring Safaris
Bloemfontein, FS
Click here to enquire.
Whispering Wings Gliding Club
Northern Free State, FS
Click here to enquire.
Kranskop Gliding Club
Brits, NWP
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Magalies Gliding Club
West Rand, GAU
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Howick Gliding Club
Midlands, KZN
Click here to enquire.
Vaal Reefs Gliding Club
Klerksdorp, NWP
Click here to enquire.
Para-Pax Tandem Paragliding
Cape Town, WC
Click here to enquire.
Middelburg Gliding Club
Middelburg, MPU
Click here to enquire.
Cape Gliding Club
Breede River Valley, WC
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Goldfields Gliding Club
Goldfields, FS
Click here to enquire.
Gariep Dam Aviation
Xhariep, FS
Click here to enquire.
: Photo Taken by Adriaan Hepburn (Cape Gliding Club)
Gliding over Waaihoek:
Photo Taken by Adriaan Hepburn (Cape Gliding Club)
Gliding (or soaring) is a recreational and competitive sport, where pilots fly un-powered aircraft known as gliders or sailplanes. Properly, the term gliding refers to descending flight of a heavier-than-air craft, whereas soaring is the correct term to use when the craft gains altitude or speed from rising air.

There are a variety of launch methods used to get gliders into the sky. The most common are Winch Launching and Aerotow. See this link for an excellent explanation of each. Some other more creative launch methods used around the world are Car Launches, Bungee Cords and Rocket-assisted launches.

Once in the sky, glider pilots make use of various types of lift, which enable them to climb and soar. These include, Thermals, Ridge Lift and Wave. For a graphical display of the various types of lifts, have a look at this site

In South Africa most gliding takes place in a club environment, as there is some ambiguity as to whether commercial operations are allowed or not. However all clubs are allowed to offer introductory rides to prospective students and most clubs do so at very reasonable rates.
A word on Gliding:
  "Once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned forever skyward, for there you have been, and there you long to return" Leonardo Da Vinci  


The first gliders were made of wood and fabric and many of these gliders are still in used today for training purposes (ASK13). The early versions were most definitely gliders and had performance figures pretty close to that of a clay brick. This meant that they could only be used for training purposes and limited the flight to within the vicinity of the airfield where they launched.

Advances in composite technologies have enabled modern-day designers to produce gliders that are much lighter and far stronger than their predecessors. Some of the modern open class gliders now have wing spans of over 25m and glide ratios in excess of 1:60 – this means that in still air if the glider was 1000m above ground level, it could glide for 60km before having to land!

The cost of a glider ranges from about R30000 for a second hand wood and fabric model to over R2 000 000 for a new self-launching glass glider. In some of the competition ships, the cost of the instrumentation in the cockpit, is often more than that of the glider itself.

New gliders are designed and manufactured according to their use. Each category requires the glider to exhibit certain performance criteria. A two-seater training glider would be designed with stability in mind, making it easier for the student pilot to learn how to fly. An Aerobatic glider on the other hand is designed for superior handling and is more difficult for the novice to control. Lastly, a competition glider is designed to fly as fast as possible at the highest glide ratio.

A growing number of manufacturers are also now producing touring motor gliders. This is essentially a hybrid between a normal aircraft and a glider. In a sense you get the best of both worlds. You can hop in your Motorglider, take-off at any time and travel to a specific destination without requiring favourable atmospheric conditions. Should you encounter any lift along the way, you can simply switch the motor off and fly the aircraft as a glider.
: Glider on Aerotow
Glider on Aerotow


Gliding is regarded as one of the safest aviation sports in the world. In South Africa, safety is overseen by the Soaring Society of South Africa, who is the Air Recreational Organisation for gliding.

Student Pilots are required to complete a comprehensive theoretical and practical training syllabus in order to obtain their Glider Pilot Licence (GPL). Unlike most other aviation activities, pilots are required to undergo further training and an additional test, before being allowed to take passengers.

Gliders fall into the LS1 category for maintenance purposes. Aside from a mandatory pre-flight inspection before each flight, gliders are inspected annually by an approved person, who issues the glider with an LS1 Certificate.

Although not mandatory for every flight, glider pilots often wear a parachute. Aside from acting as a precaution in the unlikely event of a midair collision, the parachute provides additional comfort when seated inside the glider, acting like a long thin cushion.

Interesting Facts:

  • World Records (Source)
    --The Longest Free Distance Flight using up to 3 turn points was set at 3009 km on the 21st January 2001 by Klaus Ohlmann in Argentina in a Nimbus 4 DM
    --The Fastest Speed over a triangular course of 1000km was set at 169.72 km/h on the 5th January 1995 by Helmut H. Fischer at Gariep (South Africa)
    --The highest that a glider has ever been is 14 938m. This record was set on the 17th February 1986 by Robert R. Harris at California City (USA)
  • The first recorded glider flight was in 1891 by German engineer, Otto Lilienthal. He went on to record over 2500 flights before a gust of wind caused him to lose control of his glider, resulting in his untimely death.
  • South Africa has some of the finest soaring conditions in the world. Each year thousands of local and international pilots take to the sky for recreation and competition.
  • The largest glider is the ETA, which has a wingspan of over 30m. This is twice the size of a standard glider! Click here to see a picture
  • Click here to see a picture of the fastest glider in the world
: Dumping Water Ballast just before landing
Final Glide:
Dumping Water Ballast just before landing


The development of heavier-than-air flight in the half-century between Sir George Cayley's coachman in 1853 and the Wright brothers mainly involved gliders (see History of Aviation). However, the sport of gliding only emerged after the First World War as a result of the Treaty of Versailles,[3] which imposed severe restrictions on the manufacture and use of single-seater powered aircraft in Germany. Thus, in the 1920s and 1930s, while aviators and aircraft makers in the rest of the world were working to improve the performance of powered aircraft, the Germans were designing, developing and flying ever more efficient gliders and discovering ways of using the natural forces in the atmosphere to make them fly further and faster. For more information and a comprehensive account of the history of gliding in Wikipedia, click here


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Motorglider over Plettenberg Bay Hotel: Credit Ernest Roper
Motorglider over Plettenberg Bay Hotel
Credit Ernest Roper
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Plettenberg Bay Motorglider Takeoff: Credit Ernest Roper
Plettenberg Bay Motorglider Takeoff
Credit Ernest Roper

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