The pure glider and the autonomous glider

pure and autonomous glider difference

Pure glider and autonomous glider: what are the differences?

If there is one flying activity that comes close to Icarus’ dream, it is the glider. This aircraft, as graceful as it is powerful, is a dream come true. Indeed, the pure glider, once released in flight, exploits the ascents to move in three dimensions.

On the other hand, there is an activity that is inspired by the glider, and is free of these two major constraints: the autonomous glider. The idea is simple. Equip the glider with an engine, allowing it to take off autonomously. Once in flight, the propeller retracts, or feathers. And now it’s time to escape to the currents! The civil aviation code allows aeroclubs to offer discovery flights giving access to beginners to this practice. On the other hand, the glider is not available as a “commercial” first flight. This is why manufacturers have created alternative solutions!

One thing in common: the love of gliding through the air!

The advantages of the power-assisted glider

In an autonomous glider, we behave on the ground like other aircraft. Runway taxiing, autonomous take-off, etc. In terms of logistics, the autonomous glider is really practical. Especially when it comes to a short flight. The time spent is then minimal and the passenger has direct access to the pleasure! Autonomous gliders are equipped with motorized propulsion units (with engine + propeller), which allows them to reach the desired altitude without external assistance. This type of technology is more ecological, as it avoids the use of a plane or a winch to accompany the glider in the air. In the event of deteriorating weather conditions or lack of updrafts, the pilot is able to turn on the engine to regain altitude. A mixture between the unconditional freedom of the pure glider and the manoeuvrability of the microlight.

The purist’s activity: flying a glider without a motor

The pure glider is the choice to rely on the forces of nature, and its ability to exploit them to move in the air without a motor. In addition to the feeling of flying, it is the feeling of having to evolve in this immensity that is the sky that is really unique. Moreover, most of the greatest pilots have gone through this very formative activity. It is often said that the best airline pilots are those who can fly a glider, and land in all types of conditions!

It is true that the idea of being left to your own devices, with the objective of reading the sky to optimize your trajectories, is really seductive. Obviously, this practice also rhymes with constraints. First, you have to wait your turn to take off, towed by an aircraft or propelled by a mechanical winch. Then, once in the air, the pilot has no other help than the air currents to evolve. And if he doesn’t have enough lift to get home, he’s forced to land. This is why a preliminary analysis of the rescue grounds, called “cows”, is essential before going to fly. And therefore, you must also be patient, and do not plan an appointment after the activity!

Learning and Progression

To learn how to fly a pure glider, you must turn to a flying club. Indeed, only associations are authorized to teach pure glider piloting. Moreover, they are the ones who have tow planes or winches to accompany the glider in the air. The training consists of a theoretical certificate as well as practical training. It ends with a solo release. At the end of the training, the pilot is certified “glider” and he can also be qualified (passenger) to bring someone with him.

And to become a pilot of autonomous glider ULM, it is necessary to pass the patent of pilot ULM multiaxis. Then it is advisable to train on board this aircraft because it has specificities. Indeed, flying without a motor, exploiting lift and playing with the terrain are skills that can be learned. As with all aerial activities, we must be very humble and remember that the natural elements are stronger than we are!

Autonomous gliders are certified under the name “glider with built-in take-off device”.
The principle is to contain the engine and its propeller in the part of the fuselage behind the pilots. As a result, there is no drag force to oppose the glider’s glide once the pilot retracts the engine.
These are marvels of technology that require a rather “advanced” use and undoubtedly require a significant level of expertise in both maintenance and piloting. Their performance is incredible and allows endless gliding. Of course, this high technology is very expensive and this is naturally reflected in the operating costs.
However, this type of motorization, which does not exempt the pilot from the same implementation as for a glider, does not allow a quick and successful start-up.
This uncertainty requires the pilot to conduct the recovery attempt in the vicinity of a landing area. Glider pilots must receive specific training in this type of engine to be allowed to fly them.
The motorgliders are not so good but they compensate this relative weakness by a disconcerting ease of restarting. In this category, the engine is located in the front of the fuselage and retains a well-proven conventional installation.
These are the SF 25 and 28, Dimona, Grob 115 for the most common, or the Stemme with a retractable propeller but very high price.
In the Ulm class, some models are doing very well, with an incredible compromise between performance, ease of use and price. They are Sinus, Lambada, phoenix, jackdaw….

Buy your own glider ?

The major advantage of autonomous flying is that you don’t depend on anyone to decide to fly. It is therefore very attractive for pilots who prefer to practice independently of any structure. They can buy their aircraft, find a hangar to store it in (or a suitable trailer), and they are free to travel wherever the regulations allow. Recently, the population of pilots who have made this choice is growing, for reasons of freedom explained earlier.

Discover the sensations of gliding at gap-Tallard

Because of its rich history, the Gap-Tallard airfield offers the possibility to try gliding in all its forms.
The local flying club, established for almost a century, offers the “pure glider” activity, emblem of the airfield for decades. We practice pure gliding with a “Rallye” type tow plane. All day long in summer we observe it going back and forth, dropping the gliders at the altitude of their choice.

For a free and autonomous practice, several pilots instructors have indeed chosen to equip themselves with a microlight glider with integrated takeoff device (autonomous glider). These modern and fully equipped aircraft offer the possibility of boarding at the reception area and taxiing to the waiting area at the end of the runway… just like an airplane!
It is with this type of aircraft that we offer first flights and introductory flying sessions. Short flight, for those who want to see if this activity is for them … and longer flight for those who want to escape !
And for those who fear motion sickness, no need to worry. Autonomous gliders allow you to fly in calm conditions, in the morning, without having to fight with thermal lift to get up!

At Gap Tallard Fly Dream, the pilots we work with are both pure glider pilots and ultralight instructors. This double hat allows them to offer you a real moment of gliding in the air, without engine. A way to access the knowledge and passion of the glider while enjoying the logistical simplicity of the autonomous glider!