What is Gliding?

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Gliding is an air sport which involves the riding of an unpowered airplane with the natural air currents and winds. These aircrafts are usually called as gliders or sailplanes. The sport revolves around flying the gliders and making sure that they remain airborne.


The sport’s origin can be traced back to the 1920s, after the First World War and as a result of the Treaty of Versailles which stated several regulations on the manufacturing and usage of single-seat powered aircraft. It is the Germans who worked on the idea of gliders and manufactured an aircraft which can be airborne without being powered. By the year of 1937, there were around 50,000 glider airplanes manufactured by the Germans, with a strong support from their government. The first ever gliding competition was held in Germany in Wasserkuppe in the year 1920. The best flight in that tournament lasted for 2 minutes, setting world-record. As years passed, the sport of gliding started developing and gaining popularity all over the world, with the records and distances increasing each year at a great difference. In the Summer Olympics of 1936, gliding was put as a demonstration sport and went on to become a full Olympic Sport in the 1940 Olympic Games. As a result of the Second World War, gliding was suspended by most of the countries and has been dismissed as an Olympic sport. All though, gliding hasn’t been an Olympic Sport ever since its dismissal in the Second World War, the sport does have a world championship called the “World Gliding Championships” which was first held in 1948. Today, the world of gliding is centered in its birth country, Germany and there are over 111,000 active gliders in the world.

How does it work?

The act of flying in gliding is called soaring. The sources used for raising the plane are ridge lift, which involves face against the flow the wind and flying; wave lift which uses the waves in atmosphere to rise and thermals which are the warm winds of air. There are also different ways to launch the plane into the air and they are- Aero towing, where the glider is attached to a single engine light aircraft which takes the glider to the height and location required; Auto-tow uses a powerful vehicle which is attached to the glider using a strong cable.

The vehicle accelerates hard, and due to this the glider goes up in the air for about 400 meters; Bungee launch- the gliders are launched from the top of a sloping hill into the strong air currents in the atmosphere using a strong and multi-stranded rubber band, also called as the bungee; Gravity launch is when the glider is simply pushed down a slope until it possess enough energy to take off from the hill.

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