Albuquerque Soaring Club

What is Soaring?

Becoming a Pilot ] Costs ] Advanced Training ]


Utilizing naturally occurring vertical air currents in our atmosphere your glider silently climbs alongside soaring birds high in the sky. After climbing thousands of feet you begin a straight glide towards your destination many miles ahead. You will not have to circle again for many miles. Then, you begin yet another graceful climb followed by another long glide. This is the sport of cross country soaring. 

In order to start a soaring flight, a sailplane is typically towed to altitude behind a powered aircraft.  The glider pilot can release the towrope at any height desired.  An experienced pilot will recognize when they are being towed into an area of lift and they will release from tow in order to use the lift to climb on  their own.  A tow to 2000 feet above ground is a common start.

Once aloft you seek one of the three forms of energy to keep your glider from returning back to the earth. The most common form of lift is the thermal, which is a column of warm, rising air. The second, ridge lift, is created by wind flowing up the windward side of a hill. Third, wave lift is a form of lift caused by winds blowing perpendicular to a ridge or mountain and "bouncing" downwind. On the lee side of the ridge or mountain the wind is deflected upward, often with great force.

Once in a thermal the sailplane circles tightly to stay in the lift until enough altitude is obtained to head out in search of the next thermal.  If flying in ridge or wave conditions, circling is often not required and great distances can be covered at high speeds.

Some glider pilots find satisfaction in staying close to their home airport and simply enjoying the art of flying a motorless aircraft for hours at a time while they take in the scenery below.  Other glider pilots seek the thrill and challenge of making the most efficient use of the weather and their sailplane to fly great distances and altitudes.  The world altitude record in a glider is more than 49,000ft. Distance flights of more than 1000 kilometers are not uncommon. The longest task ever flown in a glider to date is just over 3000 kilometers.