Mission Aviation Fellowship

Overflight of glider sites

The UK Civil Aviation Authority is reminding pilots to avoid overflying gliding sites. The CAA says that almost all gliding sites in the UK use a winch launch, where gliders are launched with a winch and steel cable instead of being towed by an aircraft. The CAA adds that 90% of gliding clubs winch launch to at least 2,000 feet above ground level.

A winch launching glider can reach over 1,000 feet in about 20 seconds, says the CAA, and once the cable is released it descends under a small parachute, which takes another 20 to 30 seconds, and is effectively invisible.

As well as launching gliders, pilots should plan for gliders being towed, or in free flight around the site, as well as tug aircraft returning to the circuit.

To avoid an incident or accident, the CAA advises pilots to consider the location of glider sites and the altitude to which they operate when they are planning a flight.

Gliding sites are marked differently on paper VFR charts and VFR moving maps. On a paper VFR chart the site will be depicted with a blue circle and a G, with figure in thousands of feet above mean sea level (amsl) to which the cable may extend and be released. A VFR moving map may use a glider symbol to identify the site, but the maximum cable altitude may not be visible without actions to reveal more details.

Details of the sites are published in the UK AIP at ENR 5.5 (Aerial Sporting and Recreational Activities). This includes winch heights above ground level, site elevations above mean sea level and operator contacts.

The gliding site altitude only relates to the maximum operating altitude of the winch launch cable. Pilots should expect gliders in free-flight above the annotated altitude and around the site.

The CAA adds that the UK Airprox Board advise pilots of powered aircraft and helicopters to avoid glider sites at all times; and to only ever overfly them if they have timely, positive confirmation from the site itself that they are not active.

The British Gliding Association (BGA) has guidance and an incident reporting form on its website (gliding.co.uk) and gliding clubs might have their own procedures to record the information they need.

The CAA says that if an overflying aircraft causes danger then it should be reported to the UK Airprox Board (UKAB). Formally a pilot should report an Airprox, but in the case of an overflight of a gliding site, the CAA advises that the UKAB may accept reports from responsible ground observers, such as an instructor or duty pilot.

Image accredited to RHALL

Author: FTN Editor

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