Gliding is one of the main non powered flying sports and flying leisure activities. Gliders, also known as sailplanes, use currents of warm air to stay aloft and to travel distances.

Glider sketch by Leonardo Da Vinci

Gliding was considered as an activity and a way of flying by Leonardo DaVinci who created sketches of gliding flying machines.

Otto Lillenthal in flight with one of his gliders.

During the 1880 – s the German inventor and aeronautic pioneer Otto Lillenthal was one of the first people who has been documented to preform flights with an apparatus heavier than air – gliders.

Gliding as a sport started in the 1920s. and it quicklu developed in post WW1 Germany. Limited by the treaty of Versailles in the development of a motorized aviation, Germany put a lot of effort to develop non-powered means of aviation and in particular gliding and gliders.

Initially the main goal in gliding was to extend the maximum airtime, very soon however pilots started attempting cross – country flights to distant points away from the home airfield. The advancement in aerodynamics and the better understanding of meteorology have enabled pilots to expand their maximum flown distances and increase the average speeds flown on a task.

In our days gliders can fly hundreds, even thousands of kilometers thanks to one or a combination of a few lift sources – thermal columns, ridge soaring or atmospheric waves.

There are a few main ways to launch gliders.The most common being: towing by a motorized aircraft or towing with a static winch.

Static Winch

Other not so popular, but still used methods for launching include: bungee start, car towing, gravity launch

Self – launching glider

There are also modern self-launching gliders which rely on a retractable engine for the takeoff phase. After some gain of height the engine is retracted back in the fuselage of the glider to reduce drag and improve performance. Some modern self-launchers are equipped with electric or even jet engine systems for sustaining height or loss of lift

Gliders are ultralight flying apparatus – their flight weight varies between 100 and 500 kg depending on the built material of which the glider is made (wood, metal, composite) and its purpose of use (two seaters single seaters). Планерите са свръхлеки летателни апарати  – тяхното полетно тегло варира между 100 и 500 килограма в зависимост от материалът, от който са направени (дърво, метал, композити) и тяхното предназначение (двуместни, едноместни).

Понастоящем съществуват две основни дисциплини в спортното летене с планери: прелети – целящи покриване на дълги разстояния или определени разстояния за най-кратко време и аеробатика  – изпълнение на въздушни фигури. Спортът планеризъм в глобален мащаб се регулира от международната федерация по въздушни спортове – FAI (FÉDÉRATION AÉRONAUTIQUE INTERNATIONALE), но на местно ниво се контролира от национални аероклубове.

Планеризмът е летателна дейност достъпна за широк кръг от хора – възрастовата граница на пилотите варира от 16 до 80 годишна възраст, като усвояването на управлението на безмоторен планер е относително по-лесно спрямо това на моторен самолет. Лицензирането на безмоторни пилоти се регулира от местните въздушни администрации във всяка страна, като в глобален мащаб има 2 основни признати лиценза – този на международната организация за гражданска авиация – ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) и този на европейската агенция за авиационна безопасност – EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency).

За повече информация относно планеризма и безмоторното летене можете да видите нашата секция с “Въпроси и Отговори”.