Are gliders safe?
Gliders are very safe. In fact, you’re much safer in a glider than you are driving to the airfield. Gliders are so safe that the FAA permits 14-year-olds to fly solo.
How long can a glider stay in the air?
A glider can stay airborne indefinitely – as long as it flies in updrafts. Updrafts or “lift” can carry a glider higher. In a way, lift is like in-flight refueling. If the pilot wants more altitude or if he wants to fly longer, he just goes back to the lift and fuels up.
How do gliders get into the air?
We tow our gliders with airplanes. Gliders can be launched by auto tow, being towed by a vehicle, or by winch, but airplanes are much more efficient. You can’t get very high on auto tow or winch tow. But, the towplane can take the glider as high as the glider pilot likes and take the glider exactly where the pilot wants to go.
How do they fly?
It’s the air flowing over their wings that allows gliders to fly. The airflow creates low pressure on the top of the wings. And, the lowered pressure helps support the weight of the glider. It can’t support all the weight, though, so the glider gradually descends -- unless it’s flying in lift. By using updrafts or lift, the pilot stays aloft and actually climbs higher.
How does the pilot control the glider?
Gliders have exactly the same flight controls as airplanes. Flying gliders is so similar that airplane pilots can easily learn to fly gliders.
What happens if the wind stops blowing?
Nothing happens to the glider. It doesn’t need wind to fly. Gliders are not kites. All a glider needs to fly is air flowing over its wings. It’s the pull of gravity that keeps the air flowing over the wings. As a glider flies, it is gently coasting downhill. Coasting downhill, the glider feels the winds, just as a bicyclist feels the wind while coasting downhill. Of course, if the glider flies through rising air, it climbs. Fortunately, air and gravity are not in short supply.
How does the glider land?
They land in much the same way as an airplane. The pilot descends, levels off, and then allows the plane to touch the ground very gently.
Do the pilots have licenses?
Yes, glider pilots are certified through the FAA – just like airplane pilots and helicopter pilots. Pilots receive ground training and flight training on a one-on-one basis with a flight instructor. They must pass a rigorous FAA written test, accumulate solo experience, and undergo a practical test where they demonstrate their skill, knowledge, and judgment. Only then are they issued an airman certificate (pilot license). The FAA requires periodic flight reviews. A commercial rating, an advanced rating, is required to carry paying passengers.
Do glider pilots fly real planes?
Gliders are real planes. However, if you ask your glider pilot that question, she will understand that by “real planes” you mean airplanes. Some glider pilots fly airplanes, and some don’t. In fact, some glider pilots are airline pilots or military pilots who love to fly all different kinds of planes. Some pilots only fly gliders because they really love gliders and can’t imagine anything better.
Is it hard to learn to fly gliders?
On one hand, it’s not especially difficult. On the other hand, it’s not especially easy. It is easier for some than for others. There is such a thing as natural aptitude. Still, almost anyone can learn. All that’s needed for success is to really want to fly, to pay attention to your flight instructor, and to study hard.
What makes updrafts?
Here at Dillingham Airfield, the tradewinds blow against the mountain and are pushed up, creating updrafts all along the side of the mountain. Another kind of updraft or
lift, we often get,
is thermals. Thermals are columns of warm air rising off the ground. If you have ever seen hawks or even buzzards circling without flapping their wings, they are thermalling. They are hitching a free ride by circling in a thermal and letting it carry them upward. And there are two other kinds of lift. Convergence lift is like a mini-front. Two airmasses meet, and the colder and denser air pushes the warmer and lighter air up. Mountain wave forms when air blows over a mountain range, setting up a series of stationary waves that extend away from the mountain. It’s similar to water flowing over a log in a stream. A series of waves form downstream from the log. The waves stay in the same place behind the log while the water flows through them.
Will the pilot let me fly?
You can fly, but not on a two-passenger ride. For you to fly, it has to be just you and the pilot. There is an additional charge, because you will be getting a mini-lesson. Don’t worry about taking off or landing. Your pilot will do that. Once you’re off tow, your pilot will show you how the flight controls work one at a time. Then he or she will show you how to use the flight controls together and let you fly.
Will the pilot do a loop?
Not on a scenic ride. Aerobatics have to be in a special aerobatic glider and both the pilot and passenger must wear parachutes – it’s required by the FAA. Aerobatic rides are available in our Aloha Spirit, an ASK 21. The Aloha Spirit is a sleek and beautiful fiberglass glider rated to 6.5 positive G’s, making it slightly stronger than the fighter planes of World War II.
Do gliders fly in rain?
Gliders don’t fly in heavy rain or other bad weather. Fortunately, the weather in Hawaii is so good that there are only a few days out of an entire year when the gliders have to stay on the ground.
What will I see?
You will have an incredible view of Oahu’s North Shore. The Waianae Mountains. The Pacific Ocean. coral reefs. breaking waves. During the winter, you might see humpback whales at play. And, you will have the experience of soaring. Flying a glider is as close as you can get to flying like a bird. Your pilot can point out landmarks, if you like. Feel free to ask questions, our pilots enjoying sharing the beauty of Hawaii and the beauty of soaring.
Can I take pictures?
It’s one Kodak moment after another, so take along extra film. Most people run out of film before the ride is over. You can also take your video camera along, or we can video your flight for you, leaving you free to look around and enjoy your flight. The video is a lot of fun.
Our video system has two cameras and a
microphone mounted inside the glider. One camera takes the forward panorama, the other camera is trained on the faces of the back-seat passengers, and is displayed as an inset picture-in-a-picture. The microphone captures the comments. And it all gets put on a VHS cassette, and you take it home .