Well, nearly anyone at all actually! By law to fly solo you have to be at
least 16 years old but apart from that there are relatively few restrictions. If
you are interested in learning to glide but are unsure in any way about whether
it is right for you, then the best thing you can possibly do is contact
the club or better still come along and talk to us.
People from all walks of life are glider pilots, it's not just an exclusive sport for the well-heeled! In the Scottish Gliding Centre there are shopkeepers and farmers, businessmen and ministers, university lecturers and schoolchildren; the list goes on and on. In fact just about every sort of person you can think of enjoys flying a glider, so don't think you could never do that - of course you can!
As we've already said, you need to be at least 16 years old to fly solo and if you are under 18 years old you need the permission of your parent or guardian. There isn't much point in starting to learn if you are younger than about 14 because you are bound to get to the solo stage before your 16th birthday and then have to just wait. There's no upper age limit - many pilots continue through their seventies - although as the years take their toll eventually everyone has to accept some restrictions.
Size matters to some extent but nearly everyone will find that they fit comfortably into most gliders. If you are unusually short, perhaps less than about 5 feet tall, you might find it difficult to reach some of the controls although gliders do generally have adjustable backrests and pedals. Being small and light is not generally a problem because gliders usually have provision for fitting ballast weights to bring you up to the minimum flying weight. If you are very tall, say about 6 feet 6 inches or so you will find that some gliders do not have enough leg or headroom for you to be comfortable. If you are heavier than about 16 stones you are approaching the weight limit for most gliders. But whether any of these limits applies to you is very dependent on your individual shape and the best thing to do if you are unsure is to visit the club and try a glider on for size.
You don't need much strength to fly a glider - glider controls are feather-light. Similarly you don't need any great physical fitness - the general rule is that if you are fit enough to drive a car you are fit enough to fly a glider solo. Before flying solo you are required to sign a medical declaration of fitness and from March 2003 you will need to get your doctor to countersign it. However this is a straightforward requirement, no medical examination is needed, and the doctor only needs to be comfortable that you meet the DVLC's requirements for driving a car. Later on, if you want to carry passengers or become an instructor you will need to meet a slightly more stringent requirement but even this is only the same level as for instance a bus driver would need.Like all sports some people are better at gliding than others. This is just one of those things like being naturally good at football or being a born athlete. Don't let this put you off however. There are some things which will make it harder for you to learn, for instance if you are especially nervous or get airsickness, and so some people take longer to learn than others but don't worry - almost everyone gets there in the end. Age is a factor and young people generally learn much faster than older people. This is much the same as any activity involving physical coordination however and everyone is different. Several youngsters have gone solo on their 16th birthday; lots of people take the sport up in later life or in retirement; some pilots in their late teens and early twenties compete in the national 'Junior' competitions; some of the country's best competition pilots are far from their first flush of youth. There are few barriers to gliding.
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The contents of this website do not necessarily represent the views of the Scottish Gliding Union Ltd. or its directors. Some of the material and links presented here have been contributed by members and others who do not represent the SGU Ltd. e&oe.