The Straight Glide

The objective of this lesson is to achieve the straight glide. Having said glider pilots spend a lot of their time going round in circles, we need to be skilled at flying straight, between thermals, back to the airfield, or around the circuit. It sounds simple doesn’t it – so why does it follow learning to turn? Well, the air around us is rarely still – it will be continually affecting us in three dimensions, rather spoiling the trouble-free straight glide.

The straight glide

Learning Points

Flying straight to our target is important because we are losing height most of the time, and so we want to reach the next source of lift, or progress cross country with the least possible loss of height. The shortest route will be a straight line.

We know we are flying straight when

  • the wings are level,
  • the string is straight back and
  • our target does not move across the canopy – it will only be straight ahead in still air, or directly into wind or downwind. In a cross wind it will be off to one side, as we crab towards it.

We fly straight by continually turning. Well, almost. It’s important to realise that the glider is quite stable, and if, in trim, you take your hands off the controls, it will continue to do pretty much the same as before for a while. The air will be moving around us, and it will tip the glider into a descending turn sooner or later. So, the trick to flying straight is to counter the tendency to be knocked off course, by making coordinated use of all three controls.

The method

  • Set the attitude and trim for the glider’s best L/D
  • Check the wings are level, the string is straight, and the target isn’t moving across the canopy.
  • Adjust with coordinated use of all three controls
  • Settle into balanced flight
  • Perform the scan cycle
  • Repeat

Scenario and Demonstration

This demonstration and exercise will be in still air. You’re flying the Standard Cirrus. We are heading North West towards the river and small lakes at the top of the valley. Starting on track, the demonstration first shows the effect of letting go of the controls for a while, then continues by making small adjustments to stay on track.

Flying straight in a well trimmed glider in still air is easy

The video is best viewed in YouTube in HD in Full Screen mode, to easily see the on-screen messages and instruments during the demonstration. Use view, pause and rewind as needed to grasp the content and timing of the messages displayed, then focus on the action.

Performing the Exercise

Aim for the same area, choosing a specific mountain top for precision… then try letting go for while. See how long it takes to go off course. When it wanders off, bring it back on course and settle to the required speed, then keep your target on the nose by adjusting all three controls as necessary. When you can do this at a steady speed in the this exercise, you’re ready for some turbulence.

Further Reading and References

Gliding From Passenger to Pilot, 2nd Edition: Page 87-88

BGA Instructors’ Manual, 4th Edition: Section 2, Chapter 9

BGA Gliding Basics – The Straight Glide