Why do women not compete in sports that men are predominant in? Well, here is why! This Blog is a 7- to 10-minute read.
What is Gliding exactly?
Gliding is a recreational activity and competitive air sport in which pilots fly unpowered aircraft known as gliders or sailplanes using naturally occurring currents of rising air in the atmosphere to remain airborne. The word soaring is also used for the sport.
Competitive pilots fly in races around pre-defined courses. These pilots’ abilities make the best use of local weather conditions as well as their flying skills. Techniques to maximize a glider’s speed in a competition have been developed, including the optimum speed navigation using GPS and the carrying of water counterweights.
The science behind it
Long distances are flown using any of the main sources of rising air such as ridge lifts, thermals, and wave lifts. When conditions are favourable, experienced pilots can now fly hundreds of kilometres before returning to their home airfields; occasionally flights of more than 1,000 kilometres are achieved.
Ridge lifts rarely allow pilots to climb much higher than about 600 meters (2,000 ft) above the terrain. Thermals, depending on the climate and terrain, can allow climbs more than 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) in a flat country. Wave lifts allowed a glider to reach an altitude of 23,202 meters (76,122 ft).
One would ask how do the gliders get airborne off the ground, as they have no engine? Well, engine-powered planes with a tow rope and winches are the two most common means of launching gliders.
Tow rope: A single-engine powered aircraft is attached to a glider with a tow rope. The tow plane takes the glider to the height and location requested by the pilot where the glider pilot releases the tow rope.
Winch launching: An engine powers a large winch on the ground and a long cable connects the winch to another release mechanism located on the underside of the glider. When the winch is activated, the glider is pulled along the ground toward the winch and takes off, climbing rapidly. As the glider rises, the pilot can release the winch and continue his flight.
Another old method is gravity launching, where a glider can simply be pushed down a slope until gravity can create enough speed for it to take off.
A good gliding performance combined with regular sources of rising air enables modern gliders to fly long distances at high speeds. The weather is a major factor in determining cross-country speeds. The record average speed for 1,000 kilometres is 203.1 kilometres per hour (126.2 mph) and is reached in unusually good conditions.
In addition to just trying to fly further, glider pilots also race each other in competitions. The winner is the fastest, or, if the weather conditions are poor, the furthest round the course. Tasks of up to 1,000 km have been set and average speeds of 120 km/h are not unusual.
Achievements in gliding have been marked by the awarding of badges. For the lower badges, such as the first solo flight, national gliding federations set their own criteria. Typically, a bronze badge shows preparation for a cross-country flight, including precise landings and witnessed soaring flights.
Earning the Silver Badge shows that a glider pilot has achieved an altitude of at least 1,000 meters (3,281 ft), made a five-hour duration flight, and has flown cross-country for a straight-line distance of at least 50 kilometres further.
A pilot who has completed the three parts of the Diamond Badge has flown 300 kilometres (186 mi) to a pre-defined goal, has flown 500 kilometres in one flight and gained 5,000 meters (16,000 ft) in height.
World competitions are held regularly. In this type of competition, the pilots fly a program of manoeuvres (such as inverted flight, loop, roll, and various combinations). Each manoeuvre has a rating called the “K-Factor” Maximum points are given for the manoeuvre if it is flown perfectly; otherwise, points are deducted. The winner is the pilot with the most points.
Levels of competition
Competitions are held at the local, regional, national, and international levels. Thereafter international competitions are available for the most ambitious pilots: There are now six classes open to both sexes, plus three classes just for women, and two junior classes.
Gliding contests generally last one week, but international contests last two weeks
The task for the day is based on the predicted soaring and weather conditions of the day and is made up of a combination of a minimum time in the air (between 2 and 5 hours) coupled with a collection of locations (turn points) which must be overflown (within a specified radius). Some turn points may be mandatory, others may be optional, or a combination of both. Some days can simply not be flown and are referred to as “non-contest” days. In a typical 7 day regional contest, at least 3 days must be “contest days” to constitute a valid contest. If every day of the contest can be flown, then at least one day will not be flown (known as a “rest day”), in an effort to increase safety by preventing excessive fatigue.
Launching all the gliders usually takes less than an hour. While gliders are being launched, the other gliders which are already airborne will attempt to remain aloft and stay in the vicinity. Gliders that land due to loss of lift are allowed to relaunch (“re-light”) but must wait until all other gliders have been launched at least once. Once all gliders in a class are launched and have had time to get into a position to start, the launch director will announce that the “start gate is open” via radio. This means that pilots can begin flying their assigned task and can start immediately, or might delay their start for tactical or weather-related reasons. Each pilot will then attempt to fly the task as quickly as possible.
Each glider carries a device for recording its GPS position every few seconds in a secure format. Following landing, the pilot’s hand in their loggers to the scorer for downloading. The scorer uses computer software to analyze the resulting GPS data. This provides evidence that the start, turn-points and finish have been legitimately reached.
The winner on each competition day is the fastest around the task and is given the maximum score of 1000 points. Often the winning pilot in each class is asked to speak about how they won.
One of the last key decisions that each competitor makes is determining when the glider is high enough to reach the finish line. This is a critical decision because, on the one hand, taking on unnecessary altitude wastes time because there are no points gained for arriving high at the finish. On the other hand, running out of altitude before the finish can result in a costly (and embarrassing) “land-out”. For any given lift conditions, there is an optimal final glide speed to minimize the overall time required – the stronger the lift, the faster the final glide should be. Pilots use sophisticated glide computers to calculate the altitude required and to track progress along the way.
Gliders surround the pilots with strong structures, i.e. the cockpit, and have undercarriages to absorb impacts when landing. These features prevent injuries from otherwise minor incidents. Although training and safety procedures are central to the ethos of the sport, a few fatal accidents occur every year, almost all caused by pilot error. In particular, there is a risk of mid-air collisions between gliders, because two pilots might choose to fly to the same area of lift and so might collide. To avoid other gliders and general aviation traffic, pilots must comply with the Rules of the Air and keep a good lookout. They also usually wear parachutes. A few modern gliders have an emergency parachute to stabilize the aircraft after a collision.
Training and regulation
Many clubs provide training for new pilots. The student flies with an instructor in a two-seat glider fitted with dual controls. The instructor performs the first launches and landings, typically from the back seat, but otherwise, the student manages the controls until the student is deemed to have the skill and the airmanship necessary to fly solo. Simulators are also beginning to be used in training, especially during poor weather.
After the first solo flights, glider pilots are required to stay within the gliding range of their home airfield. In addition to solo flying, further flights are made with an instructor until the student is capable of taking a glider cross-country and of handling more difficult weather. Cross-country flights are allowed when they have sufficient experience to find sources of lift away from their home airfield, navigate, and to select and land in a field if necessary. In most countries, pilots must take a written examination on the regulations, navigation, use of the radio, weather, and principles of flight and human factors. In addition to the regulation of pilots, gliders are inspected annually and after exceeding predetermined flight times.
Challenges for the gliding movement
Time pressures of gliding typically take whole days that many people today find harder to devote.
The need for more land for housing is threatening small airfields.
Competition from other activities: there is now a greater variety of similar sports such as hang gliding and paragliding that may attract potential glider pilots.
Lack of publicity: without coverage by television, many people are unaware that gliding is even a sport. Without this knowledge, the public may have a poor understanding of how flying without an engine is possible and safe.
Increasing costs: due to higher costs of fuel and insurance, costs have increased, although, without the continuous use of engines and fuel, they are still considerably lower than traditional power flying.
Why do the majority of women not partake in Gliding?
Whilst the majority of women don’t partake, some do.
Gliding is a sport which is open to everyone. Women are equally capable of flying gliders as men, in fact, it could be said that in some ways women often make better pilots as they demonstrate a greater sensitivity to the feel of the aircraft and the air around it. However women often suffer from lower confidence in their abilities, have a fear of heights, have motion sickness, get ridiculed by men and there are the high-cost implications, which may explain why there are fewer women in gliding than men.
Also, women view piloting as difficult, dangerous, and ‘more of a man’s job and views about what constitutes a “typical pilot” were extremely strong. A number of participants expressed a belief that they wouldn’t suit flying because they lacked the typical pilot traits of arrogance, overt confidence and a lifelong obsession with aviation.
Open Cockpit Days tackles gender bias by reaching out to the general public to expose them to aviation. Many women, don’t get a chance to experience a cockpit. Often when there are open cockpit days, women are often there by way of their partners or sons. They often appear “switched off”. It’s integral to open the doors to everybody to break down gender bias across communities.
Also, we see marketing material, where male pilots were depicted, websites referred to “he” and the stories were always about men. The message was that women really had no place in a “cockpit” has been seen both in the industry and out!
Things are changing slowly, airlines are finally talking about their female pilots, the air force is showing women in their ads and slowly girls are seeing that they have a place in aviation.
Overall the industry is just starting to become more welcoming for women, but there are still plenty of stereotypes and challenges out there, gender bias is still very prominent although the big players in the industry will say it’s not.
There are still very few female role models in aviation, but more than we had 10 years ago, the change is happening, but it is very slow. Women still suffer discrimination in the aviation industry, any professional female pilot will tell you stories! In roles that are gender imbalanced, other women are often alienated from ‘wanting to work so hard just to be equal to men’.
While it is, on one hand, comforting to know that women who are pilots do so as a result of utter determination and a refusal to be discriminated against, it would be great to see the day when the playing field is leveed that a female pilot only has to work as hard as her male counterpart.
Another of aviation’s catch-22s is that there are too few women in aviation to accurately ascertain whether female pilots have a positive impact on aviation safety.
It has been established in multiple studies that there is a variation in aptitude, skills and cognitive abilities between male and female pilots. The largest cognitive gender differences are found in visual-spatial abilities. Research has demonstrated that males possess greater visual/spatial skills than females. However, females possess stronger verbal skills than males. While spatial skills are important to obtain proficiency in take-off and landing procedures, traffic avoidance and basic manoeuvring of aircraft, verbal skills are vital to maintaining safe air traffic control communication and facilitating cockpit crew coordination, and it’s in this area women really do seem to excel.
Until the imbalance is redressed, it’s impossible not to look at positive discrimination to reset the balance. This includes quotas, a positive approach to education and a serious look at flying schools that could create a more ‘female-friendly’ atmosphere simply by posting photographs of pilots of both genders.
How injuries occur
- In-flight loss of control
- Collision with obstacle/terrain
- Missed landing/take-off
- Mid-air collisions
- Age of pilots
- Accidents by aircraft type
- Decision Making
- Evaluation of Meteorological Conditions
- Lack of Vigilance
- Training, Knowledge and Experience
Equipment – The Aircrafts
There are 42 countries where gliders are made, I will just list a few from Germany:
Germany, the sport’s birthplace, is still a centre of the gliding world: it accounts for 27 percent of the world’s glider pilots, and the three major glider manufacturers are still based there.
Here are but a few models:
There is the ASW range, the ASK range, the ASH range, and the ASG range.
The Binder range, the Bonn range, the Bremen Range, the DG range, and the Glasflugel range.
The Ka range, the Kirchner range, the Ksoll range, the LS range, the Peyean range, and the Schmid range.
Here are but a few glider Manufacturers:
Alexander Schleicher – https://www.alexander-schleicher.de/en/
DG Group – https://www.dg-flugzeugbau.de/en/
AMS Flight – http://www.ams-flight.si/
Lange Aviation – https://www.lange-aviation.com/en/
Schempp – hirth – https://www.schempp-hirth.com/en/
Stemme – https://www.stemme.com/s12-sw.html
South African Suppliers:
Jonker sailplanes – https://jonkersailplanes.co.za/
Zond Aviation – https://www.zondaviation.co.za/
If you have the itch, go big, go safe, and soar with the birds! The tranquillity is unparalleled!
If you wish to learn more about this sport and its history, just pop me a mail and I will send the information to you: email@example.com
When you are ready to soar the skies, please take a moment and bow to people that are disabled, that cannot take part in such sports.
Play Station Games
Although there are no games specifically for Gliding, there are games for avid gamers and wannabe aviators. Play Station has awesome aviation games, to name a few really cool ones:
- Ace combat 7
- Air conflicts
- Strike suit zero
- Blazing angles
- Air missions
- Assault horizon
- Birds of steel
- Airsport simulator
- Ace combat 5
- Airforce Delta
Keep an eye out for my blog: BANZAI SKY DIVING
My views, comments and content are my own opinion and research and are not governed or influenced by any marketing of companies or brands. It is of my own free will to mention companies and brands that supply sporting equipment pertaining to the sport in the discussion.