Future of Gliding

Thoughts About the Future of Gliding

As a glider pilot, you wish that you could practice your beautiful hobby as long as you can and that you will always find friends engaged in this hobby.  We naturally have a vital interest in this as manufacturers and hope to see the sport develop strongly and live a long time.
In fact, that is not the case!  Actually, the technical development continues and we have become aware of new kinds of customers especially in the field of retractable engines.  But the development of gliding clubs is similar to other sporting clubs.  There’s no “new blood”!  This has been the trend for many years with all youth work programs, flying camps, beginner’s courses, etc.  This trend can be slowed down but not reversed.  The leisure time offerings for young people is enormous today and the competition for this free time is fierce.  New sports are being invented, new activities (computers) and even new air sports.  (Paragliding, ultralights)  All of these compete with us for new joiners.  Where will this all lead to?
If growth and additions to the sport dwindle to nothing, then there is no demand for gliders.  Especially in the future when the young men of today are in good jobs with enough money to buy gliders.  In addition, there are increasing airspace noise-level restrictions which only make our hobby more difficult.
The following is clearly foreseeable:  The output of our glider manufacturers may not have fallen.  I know only ours has greatly increased.  But the number of manufacturers and total output has been drastically reduced.
Remember these names?  Glasfluegel, Grob-Segelflugzeuge, Schweizer, (USA) Slingsby, (GB) Bregeut, (F) PIK (SF) or even Glaser-Dirks, which has been revised!  And the number of units in each model as we once saw in the Ka6, Ka7 or Ka8 will never be seen again.  The gliders of today are much better but also much more expensive.  This is not a satisfactory development.
I would like to make known a few thoughts on this problem and invite you to comment on them.  Maybe it is necessary to actually rethink a little as it is now fashionable to do in politics.

1. How can we attract and inspire more young people?

It used to be that it was normal to appear at the field in the early morning, help all day, put away the equipment in the evening and maybe be able to fly a total of a half an hour during the whole day.  Is that reasonable to expect today?  Gliding still involves a lot of work.  For every pilot in the air, there are half a dozen helpers on the ground.  But let’s be honest, can we inspire today’s youth with our hobby when it is required that they work all summer long the way I described it?
Solutions which occur to me immediately all cost money.  But money is not really the subject here.  Do you know, for instance, the cost of tennis lessons including clothing, court costs, and trainer’s fees?  By contrast, we expect our flight instructors to bravely sit in the back seat all Sunday long flying patterns and in the evening he has to buy his own beer.
How would it be if the if the training were more expensive for which the club might buy a tractor to pull the gliders from the runway to the winches.  The flight school at Oerlinghausen (the airfield where I am flying) has done this for several years and it’s at least interesting to watch.  This reduces the amount of ground crew needed.  Eventually, several clubs could buy such a vehicle together.  Wouldn’t 30 cents a tug be worthwhile?
A modern airport might be necessary for a successful club today.  Our good old ASK-13 may be OK for circuit-bashing but there also needs to be a few good gliders available.  A motor glider with retractable motor is the ideal aircraft.  Take off without a ground crew and fly as long as the thermals last – and longer.  (But this is not the place to advertise!)
An amalgamation of several smaller clubs into a big one with an attractive air park would pull more people in.  And personnel would be spared:  the second take off coordinator, the second winch operator, the log keeper, and setting up the winch.  At a minimum, a flight operations company should be established.  Than you could perhaps save one or two other aircraft – and the money too!  What else can you think of?

2. How can we inspire more women to fly gliders?

Is it not yet clear to you that we’re not paying attention to more than half of the population?  Or they’re not paying any attention to us?  Why is that so?  Why do you see almost no women in our sport.  I have no answer but it is certainly noticeable!  Can anyone explain it?  Perhaps a young woman who was repelled by the sport or a club can help me understand this.

3. How do we react to the paragliding and ultralight scene?

Don’t let us be taken in.  A person who is interested in aviation can go to a paragliding or hangglider school, do a beginner’s course and experience the third dimension (in a week?). How simple, how cheap in comparison to glider flying!
Eventually, of course, it will become boring,  Always flying in the same place either in a thermal or over a ridge – that’s dull.  But where would he learn about the fantastic possibilities of long distance cross country flying?  Who shows him that, with the previous flying knowledge acquired as a paraglider pilot, he could learn to fly a glider in a shorter than normal period?  How do you view it?  Is the paraglider or hangglider more a competition to gliding or is it a welcome preliminary which can bring us more people who are interested in flying?

4. How can we make the training easier for people with little time?

Nobody has any time anymore, even though my day still has 24 hours and probably yours does too!  But some kind of deadline is always in the way.  Now it is simply impossible to be on the airport from early morning until late in the evening.  And when the student pilot has a family, especially a young family, you have to cut them some slack.  The strongest pleasure from flying becomes clouded when one’s spouse sits at home with a crying baby.  I believe that most clubs have not realized this and thereby lose membership.

When my wife read this, she said, “Remember when you were working on your license?  Every Saturday and Sunday you were out at the airfield while I sat at home with three small children.  We never had any time for social meetings even though they only had time on weekends also.”
To my lovely family I can only say “Thank you for your patience during that time.”

I think that a gliding club today can no longer be operated as before.  We should and must offer “free time pleasure.”  The joy of flying is something wonderful.  But is it attractive for a beginner?  I have heard twice about a new system which should at least be discussed:
An instructor makes an appointment with a student for a specific time.  The instructor comes ahead of time, pulls the trainer out of the hangar, books an aero tow, etc., and then puts everything away after the lesson.  The student comes, flies, drives home and pays the bill that he receives.  The instructor includes his time from leaving home until he returns home in the price of instruction and that’s that.  The assembly and disassembly of the glider is taught in a regular (paid) lesson.
Too expensive?  This kind of training is not suitable for a 16 year old.  But who thinks a 46 year old can follow a “normal” series of lessons?  Somewhere, he will lose his enthusiasm.  And an airplane lesson is much more expensive.  That’s the way it is!
What do you think?
What else in this connection occurs to you?

5. How does one deal with the “consumer”?

Who among you has not seen club members who show up at the field at 2:00 p.m., complain when no assembled glider is ready to use, sit in one anyway, and fly for a couple of hours.  When evening comes and it’s time to put the equipment away, they have conveniently disappeared.  Naturally, such behavior is not acceptable. But what can you do?  Throw them out of the club?  “Educate” them?  In our club, one has to help getting the equipment out or putting it away if one expects to fly for longer periods.
You could simply regulate this with money.  He who doesn’t help, pays, he who helps a lot, flies for almost nothing.
Would that work?

6. Helping with Repairs

This question is as old as glider clubs.  Modern reinforced plastic gliders require less service and when something does break, it’s better to take it to a repair shop that specializes in this sort of thing.  Unfortunately, we see in our repair shop “adventurous” attempts at repairs by club workshops too often.
Why not make it possible to “buy out” of the requirement to do repairs and the money thus collected be used to have the gliders repaired in shop that is set up and ready to do such jobs?
What’s your opinion on that?

7. How can we benefit from developments in other countries?

Fifty percent of the world’s glider pilots live and fly in Germany – an almost unbelievable situation!  The reason for this lies way back in the Weimar Republic and also in the prohibition of airplanes in Germany after the second world war.  But why doesn’t the relationship slowly change?
Other countries have weather much more conducive to gliding then we do.  Even then, in the USA, for instance, the number of glider pilots compared to the population, is growing only very slowly.  In many countries there is no glider activity at all.
Why is that?
What can we do about it?

The foregoing points are certainly sticky and warrant much discussion.
These are my personal opinions and I would like to read your reactions and ideas concerning them.
Please write to me!

– friedel weber –

If you are interested to find a club to become into contact with other soaring members, may be you will find a suitable one here –
in Germany: http://www.segelflug.de/segelflug_de.html
in Europe: http://www.segelflug.de/segelflug_eu.html

This picture has been taken 1929 at my “home airfield” Oerlinghausen .
I have the strong feeling that it will be hard to find such an enthusiasm today.

A Message from Brasil:

                                          The future of gliding

I read your thoughts on “the future of gliding”. They are  very interesting and in accordance with similar problems  we are facing here in  Brasil.
I learned to fly gliders on the years  60’s ( I’m 71) in a gliding club set up in 1937 (“Kranich”, “Hol’s der Teufel”, “Grunau 9”, “Grunau II” etc.- a lot of german influence, indeed)   My training glider was a Brazilian made biplace, similar to the “Schleicher Ka 4”and I flew  “Grunau IIa” and “Wolf Göppingen I”. The towing planes were a  “Stinson Sentinel” and a “Tiger Moth”.
The maintenance of the fleet was mainly carried out by the club members, under supervision of qualified technicians. Engines maintenance were  taken  in authorized workshops.
The gliding club owns today two “Blaniks L-23” and four “Quero-Queros” monoplaces ( wood and fabric)made in Brasil. The tug is an “Aeroboero” , made in Argentina (tubes, wood and fabric.). There are some local workshops and technicians qualified to maintain the fleet , although the Blaniks present some repair difficulties.
Some brazilian gliding clubs are flying with  brazilan made biplaces ( “wood, tubes and fabric”). Unfortunately these sailplanes have a very poor performance. Some gliding clubs imported second hand reinforced plastic sailplanes and  only a few were already able to fly them, mainly due to “bureaucracy” problems.
In my opinion the main problem isn’t solely  the lack of “new blood”. The instruction sailplanes are ageing and they will soon need to be replaced.
To buy a new modern reinforced plastic biplace is quite impossible:
-Very high price (around euros 100.000 FOB , will arrive in Brasil at a final cost around 170.000 euros or 510.000 in brazilian currency). I don´t believe that our government will reduce or delete the import duties and taxes.
-With such new gliders the hourly flying rates will be hardly increased, frightening away new students.
-Probably and depending on the type, model and make of the sailplane, there will be additional costs for registry.
-Here in Brasil even  the repair of minor reinforced plastic damages will be a problem, due to the lack of specialized labour and well equipped workshops (it will be very easy to find  “adventurer applicants”  to do the repairs, surely  with unreliable results or worst, with hidden faults).
What is the solution? It is a very difficult question to be answered. Maybe a “return to the past” could be  one answer.
I read somewhere that the astonishing development of the sailplanes (higher velocities, higher wing loads, higher aspect ratios with less and less induced drag and higher glide ratios) lead to the need of costly materials, higher and higher manufacturing costs, resulting in higher sale prices. A great number of gliding clubs are not in position to renew their fleets due such higher prices and also to the need of very specialized  maintenance .  Is it  the sailplane progress that is killing the sport???.
Sailplanes with welded tubes fuselages , wooden wings and fabric coverings are easy, quick and cheap to repair and most of the simple repairs can  be done by gliding club members. Somebody said “in fact some clubs have sold their expensive glass fiber machines and gone back to old ones”. I guess they are buying old non “glass fiber” sailplanes and refurbishing them.
Such old biplace sailplanes do not have such a performance like the modern fiber and plastic ones, but most models are able to withstand the “roughness” of  “teaching” new pupils. And besides that they are easily repairable, with bearable costs. It is better to have a less performing sailplane than stay “grounded”.
Could  a “glider flight simulator” attract “new blood”? I think yes. Young people is getting more and more involved with videogames, computers, smartphones, etc etc. and are spending a lot of unproductive time in such activities. A “first class” sailplane simulator (like the BGA one, for instance) will undoubtedly attract future pilots, besides giving a training activity to glider students during bad weather days.
These are my thoughts. I will appreciate if  I  could have some comments or even some new inputs that will make me more confident on the future of gliding.
Best regards
Jorge R. González

Hello Mr.Weber!

How many people have enough time to “hang on to gliding” with current possibility/availability to be launched?
I see a big problem for the gliding society in the next 5-10 years time frame. Of course it differs between different countries and continents but …

My message in general is that the society and life in general has changed but the model for educating new pilots and the possibility to perform flying in gliders has not changed much the last 30+ years. In Sweden I see a decreasing number of members in the flying clubs and also a decreasing number of flying hours in total. Important is that this is a clear trend over many years in Sweden.

I believe we have some major issues to handle:
– More efficient training for new pilots a) calendar time to get the glider license and b) total time spent at the airport to get the glider license.
– Create a more convenient/attractive situation for glider instructors – basically a possibility to “have a normal life” in parallel with being glider instructor
– Cross country training for new pilots – needed development of skills to continue and NOT STOP flying after 1-2 years
– In general – much more easy to get launched – 7 days per week – when we have weather and when the pilots have time to enjoy this fantastic sport

For a number of reasons I only see one solution to make this happen and that is SLG – Self Launching Gliders – 2-seated SLG to cover the complete education to become a glider pilot and training in general (introduction to SLG and cross country). Unfortunately the development of SLG is not matching the needs that I see – same for all companies building gliders.

I know of your issues to support “engine concept” for DG-505 M/MB and the decision to stay out of those issues with DG-1000.
Rotax is not any more in this business and SOLO is still here for a somewhat special reason with interests from the owner (rumor says).
The small series of engines sold today makes development costs high … they will be relatively small even if every new sold glider will be equipped with an engine …

For those people/flying clubs that want to try a 2-seater SLG track today I see …
– not many alternatives of possible SLG’s on the market today
– need of skilled technicians with proper training to handle the motor installation
– proper budget planning for unforeseen costs.

I wonder if you can comment on this and give me your view of the situation.

Best Regards


Dear Mr. Lundberg

Well I know your thoughts from other pilots too.
We definitely have the problem of the long time to get a license and a pilot’s frustration to fly around the own airfield only.

For the second class of pilots the DG-1000T is the best glider available. With that one you can fly wherever you like and always you are able to come back in the evening. The Turbo-System is easy to handle and you do not need to have a specialized mechanic.

But for the first group of pilots we in the moment do not have any solution. 
According to our experience the Solo company will produce engines also in future for decades. They even have established a special company for that business.
But there is a technical problem:
In the moment self launching gliders with retractable engines are not reliable enough for the stressful flying with glider students always around the airfield. When you are making 50 take offs and landings during one weekend you will not have much pleasure with your self launching engine. That is the only reason why we have stopped producing the DG-505MB.

Since years we are looking for a better engine on the world market. In the moment when we have found one, we will design a DG-1000M.
These days we even see a chance for a new development of an engine and it might – really “might” – be possible that in 2010 you can get a DG-1000M. But is is to early to talk about that glider.
This is the situation I can tell you.
Always happy landings

Friedel Weber
– Geschäftsführer/Managing Dir –

Herr Weber:

Sehr gut.
Your thoughts, and those of Ulf Lundberg, showed a lot of deep attention.

Glider pilots who are married need family support (to stay married while enjoying soaring). It took me an entire summer to get my Gold Badge. My wife, on her own, would mow the lawn while I was either landing out or unsuccessfully trying to complete a qualifying flight. Each time, I would return home to find the lawn mowed.
Even when I thanked her and asked her to be patient, and even when I told her that I would mow the lawn, she would still do it for me. She knew how much soaring meant to me. Women are not supposed to mow the lawn, but she did it for us. When I reflect on that summer, and on her selfless work, it brings tears to my eyes every time.
My father was an ME-262 test and combat pilot; of course, he had to learn to fly gliders before advancing to powered flight. He taught me to fly, and he always told me two things about gliders: 1) If you can fly a plane without an engine, then you can fly one with an engine, and 2) All airplanes are potentially gliders.
Perhaps an answer to finding new students lies in my father’s second thought: All airplanes are potentially gliders.
I was a power-plane pilot before discovering soaring. Now, soaring is a huge part of my life. Maybe we should focus more on licensed power-plane pilots; when you compare two pilots, one being only a power-plane pilot and the other being both a power-plane and glider pilot, the better pilot is usually the one who can fly gliders.
Soaring improves a power-plane pilot’s skills.
With respect,
Raul Boerner

Hi Friedel,

As a long time member of gliding clubs I agree with the observations related to the requirements for change and I can appreciate your providing a platform for exchanging constructive ideas. I congratulate you in exploring different avenues of promoting our sport and the quality of workmanship employed in your factories is excellent. I experience this every flying day when flying one of your factory’s products.

What I cannot agree with is that this requirement is also aimed at making things “easier” for people who “have no time to waste on waiting on the field for a flight etc etc”. Not to mention the fact instruction is provided free of charge by most clubs, not to mention the many members who ensured the airworthiness of equipment and the volunteer towpilots. Convenience and flying are not necessarily complimentary conditions.

History has it that gliding resulted from economical pressures on the average joe to do all, or most, of the tasks to run a club him/herself AND have the privileged of using the gliders held in common ownership.

Since I witnessed, in my lifetime ,a change in earnings and the availability of more private time (in spite of those who claim not to have it!) coupled with the advent of “computerism” as the new god of spare time, the real raison d’etre of a gliding club is being diluted to the degree that the proportion of members appreciating being directly involved in the management and social life of the club has dwindled to (mostly) “grey haired” senior citizens who still value the principle of “clubs”. This, no doubt, will also change as the result of time’s swings and roundabouts when the young grow into maturity and learn to see the wisdom of the older generations.

Convenience is the operating word now and this has, as a direct result, negative club consequences for short term individual gains:

1) The quality of airmanship suffered with the result that more accidents occurred caused by pilot negligence mainly due to his/her not being, or feeling, part of the club/flying safety culture. This also increased the financial burden, such as insurance rates!!!!!!

2) Those willing to devote their time as volunteers in a club find little reward in spending that time on a  larger, seemingly unappreciative membership. Why cater to selfish members and not fly yourself (?) becomes the (destructive) thought process in some members.

3) The benefits of a full day’s exposure to the field operations and absorbing many discussions on flying  techniques during socializing, are lost to the individual without time (to waste). This results in 1) above.

I suggest that we accept the fact that we are involved in a sport that requires devotion and loyalty in time and effort in order to excel and/or be safe in it (reducing the accident rates). If this means loosing those who cannot find their way to make this an accepted part of their lifes, so be it! Increased risks must be weighed against benefits.

Many clubs, feeling the pressure for more members, do not mention to prospective members that they are entering a sport that can be very rewarding to those willing to accept its need for time, volunteering and much exposure to different flying conditions, but can be equally disappointing, or deadly, to those who don’t accept or practice this.

Friendly yours,,

John H. Bisscheroux
MSC Hawkesbury, ON. Canada

Hi Karl…
Caught your ‘Future of Gliding’ comments/stats in DG’s recent Newsletter No 77.
I just got back from my first visit to New Zealand (Auckland to Christchurch; 4,000 km on brand new BMW bikes provided by Edelweiss Bike Travel).
Lovely Country; good people!
Quickly, I started flying sailplanes at Hawkesbury (Ontario Canada) while still in knee pants; I was the proverbial ‘camp brat’.
A sympathetic Member would pick me up at the corner of my street early in the morning and someone would drop me off on the way home (to Montreal) at the end of the day.
I’ve since amassed thousands of hours (as a private pilot) on all types of powered aircraft ranging from Piper-Cubs to Extra 300L’s to Citation Jets.
I own, among other businesses, a jet charter service and a Regional Airline.
However, I have seldom returned to Hawkesbury, other than to drop-in (very) occasionally in my Decathlon or whatever (to, I should add, a generally frosty reception).
But I HAVE regularly paid for gliding ‘vacations’ with commercial operators in the USA such as Arizona Soaring Estrella etc.
I do so because I’ve NEVER been able to handle the dead-time commitment so typical of ‘club’ soaring activities.
This fact was driven home to me while touring New Zealand.
I had adjusted our posted itinerary to enable an afternoon at Omerama to do some soaring.
But this was no USA type ‘commercial enterprise’; it was just another spend-an-entire-day-to-fly-a-bit club in drag!
So I left after a ‘slow-motion’ half-hour of chit-chat without flying!
That’s THE PROBLEM with gliding, Karl.
Those of us with active businesses and multiple outside interests don’t have either the time or the patience to deal with all of the inactive rituals associated with soaring clubs.
I know they’re a great escape for (nice) nerds with lot’s of time on their hands but, as your stats clearly demonstrate, the sport is terribly out-of-touch with it’s competition in a world of limited free-time and a proliferation of recreational options.
My (personal) solution?
Buy a Stemme (or a DG MotorGlider) and fly from home WHENEVER I want to.
And continue to utilize commercial operations to broaden my horizons.
Fortunately, I can afford it.
Most of us cannot!
Frankly, I think the dilemma is close to unsolvable.
On the other hand, look at what the EAA has managed to do working with essentially the same demographics.
Good luck Karl…
Peter Overing

Dear Mr. Weber,
regarding “future of gliding” a few comments. Whatever can be said for gliding it is not a “spectator sport” likely to attract an audience. Yes, the final glides are beautiful with the water exhausting in a steep climb, but most of the time one waits. A few years ago in Poland I saw much activity at an abandoned military airport near Warsaw: Here were many families having picnics, children playing, all having a good time outside. Overhead circled paragliders, some very high. They were towed aloft by a small winch. Even an “off field landing” could be handled with ease with a hitchhike back. This must be the ultimate of getting into the air with best expense/enjoyment ratio!
Bicycling in Ireland, I discovered the Dingle Penninsula extending into the Atlantic and dominated by 3000 foot St. Brendon mountain, a walk up climb. There is always a sea breeze and the view is beautiful.
There are many such treeless mountains in Ireland easily accessible to solo paragliders.
I have let my life slip by, but always a memory of the beautiful Dingle and the possibilities.
The soaring glider is a great achievement for a great expense. Perhaps we need to return to a simpler form of flight thrill such as provided by paragliding. Remember your first flight!
Andrew Ross, New Lebanon, New York

Hi Karl,
Your thoughts on gliding’s future ask some interesting questions. I understand you would not necessarily agree with all the proposed solutions mentioned, but it does highlight several avenues for exploration.
I learnt to fly in England in a club environment, much as you describe.
Certain tasks during the day (and year) were expected to be done by club members.
I now live in the United States, and have flown with one club and three commercial operators in several states. What I’ve come to strongly believe is that if it’s done right, a club adds much more to the recreation of flying than just cheaper flights.
My wife has been learning to fly while we were with both a club and commercial operators. Her feelings and my observations were that in the club there is more interaction with student pilots of the same level. This helps confirm that others are experiencing the same successes and difficulties as oneself, boosts confidence and encourages perseverance.
On the other hand, getting regular lessons with a consistent instructor can be the hardest challenge in this environment.
In the commercial operations, due to the scheduled nature of the lessons this is easier. The interaction with other students is much harder to gain. As I was usually flying my glider the same days she took lessons, Daniella was hanging around the site much more than the average ‘pay-to-play’ student. During this time, it was painfully apparent why spouses do not accompany their flying partners to the airfield. It can be a lonely place.
What a club with some facilities offers is an environment where the social meetings you referred to in your piece can occur all weekend AND you get to go flying! I believe in specific reference to the area I fly in now, the climate is an issue. Although pilots rarely complain about 40 degrees C or  15,000 ft cloud base, those left on the ground tend to wilt.
There is a club operating some gliders at the commercial site I fly from, but they appear to suffer from the worst of both worlds, it’s hard to find an instructor AND there’s nobody else about. At least if there’s twenty club members and no instructors around you can complain about them!
I’m working on getting my instructors certificate so I guess I’ll have to see what happens. Instructors wilt too if they can’t find students to fly with!
I suspect a solution for this dilemma exists. It might be that the people with no time and too much money subsidize the people with the reverse problem. This can translate to a bi-level club with different fees. Another solution which many UK clubs seem to have gravitated towards is that members of the public paying for one-off ‘rides’ subsidize the members. A good side effect is that some of the public might come back and become members. There is a position to take that you shouldn’t expect this to be a large percentage if you just sell rides, not the sport.
I guess the US commercial operators could rightly point out that without rides, our one aero tow a week would have to be more expensive.
The conditions in much of the US are good, but those areas where one can really stretch out and fly long distances are not near population centers.
This again splits the interests of active X-country pilots and those who wish to learn to glide. A 40 minute flight at an airfield 2 hours drive away from home will hardly convince someone it is worth dedicating 50%+ of their free-time (if there is such a thing) to gliding. On the other hand, a qualified pilot may drive longer than that to a sight for the whole weekend and get 9 hours of flying in over two days.
Unfortunately, the payoff for money (time) invested in either a commercial (club) school is very much delayed. How long is it until someone can enjoy the thrill of flying for a three hours in a single without being crippled financially or physically by other club members?
This means there MUST be something else to attract and maintain enthusiasm for this period.
What is that? Well, maybe it’s different for everyone.
It would be much easier if the glider pilots from Germany were re-distributed fairly amongst the other nations. This would of course lead to exactly the opposite of what the Treaty of Versailles intended. 🙂
Chris Ashburn


I have read with interest your article “Thoughts About the Future of Gliding”

Inspired by your article, let me share some ideas.

I must admit that I am surprised that the fact that you have to spend all day long moving planes from one place to another in order to fly for half an hour or maybe two hours hasn’t taken my enthusiasm away. Having thought about it previously, I’d say that paying for some personnel to carry the gliders and clean them when needed is not a new idea. It has to be noted that hard work is social, at least in my airfield, and that while not everybody is happy all the time with it, many people including myself enjoy taking care of the planes at the end of the day.

I must disagree with your conclusion, though. If some pilots pay for avoiding work, you would have a few that try and avoid work without paying, which would become a point of serious argue in the club. This needs not happen so, but it is a real possibility, and if you avoid the chance, you avoid the problem.

I would tend to raise a little bit the price of the glider rental for everybody to have some people (possibly just one person, even sharing other tasks) in charge of the gliders. If no one or just a few want to work, then that’s fine; if they prefer to have a beer in the bar, or leave for home, then it’s fine also.

In my airfield (Ocaña) there are some old vehicles that are used to pull the gliders from one place to another. There is also an old motorbike to transport people, although it is usually used just by the flight boss, who needs to move between the field and the office quite frequently.

In your article, one word also attracts my attention: Amalgamation. I have thought about this a lot. In my airfield, three different clubs operate at the same time! What kind of economies of scale can you achieve with that? There are historic reasons as well as matters of taste and social affinity. But is it that impossible to create a single structure, even if it has to be complex, that can achieve economies of scale while maintaining some individuality on the different groups?

Now, about women… Well, in my airfield when we go to lunch, it is usual that about half of the pilots are computer scientists! And in the CS faculties we are also very short in women. Is that a coincidence? I don’t think so. If you know some good sociologist you could ask him the reason for this also.

BTW, I know of an airfield that is thinking about adding some recreation, including karts and some other attractions besides flying. This could be a smart move to attract more potential new pilots. Again, there’s the problem with concentration… Concentration leads to economy scales, which leads to being able to spend money in pursuing nice achievements.

One final note… One of the biggest expenses for a club (or just for a bunch of friends, for that matter) are the planes themselves. I have read your articles about the reasons why gliders are so expensive, and even though I understand that a glider manufacturer can do few about it, doing a “black box” analysis I still cannot see how can the huge price be justified. Why can the so-called world classes be so terribly cheap compared to almost any German built sailplane? There must be a way to get some of the best of the two worlds…

Alfredo Sola
Administrator del sistema
P.D.: In “The secret of Thomas Crown”, the main character flies a Duo Discus (and at one point, without belts -ouch!).
I hope to see a DG-1000 in the next film!

Thank you for the thought provoking article on how do we get more young people into the sport.

First let me tell you of my experience. I learned to fly at a Commercial operation, while it was more expensive than a club, it was six miles from my house, while the nearest club was fifty miles down a very busy highway. Clubs in the U.S. tend to be weekend only operations, while the commercial operation was a six day a week business. It was always a lot easier to schedule a block of time for lessons, or go to the glider port and rent a ship after solo, than waiting around the club, for your  turn to come up. Unfortunately the landowners decided that a golf course of their own, would be a lot more profitable, than the rental income from a glider port, and another airport was lost to progress.

Your article has me thinking, and I am going to propose a suggestion at the next Board of Directors meeting of the Greater Boston Soaring Club, that we look into a new Commercial Class of membership. Due to U.S. tax laws we are a non-profit group and are not allowed to make money, so as part of the proposal, scholarships could be given, for general membership, to High School and Collage students to avail ourselves of any profit. Like most Soaring Clubs in the world, ours has an abundance of gray haired retirees in the membership, myself included. I intend to ask that a retired instructor, tow pilot, and ground crew, make themselves available for scheduled operations late in the afternoon, 4-8 PM, on weekdays, for example, for a commercial operation. In our club this would impose one afternoon of additional work for each retired instructor, for a four day operation. One ship could be set aside for weekend scheduled commercial operations, to be used by the general membership when not scheduled. This new class of membership would pay rates comparable to other commercial operations,  along with a membership fee of some sort to satisfy our insurance company.

We have a meeting scheduled for next week, and I will see if I can get this past my fellow board members. Of course here in “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” nothing is free and only the brave delve into our tax laws. We will probably wind up paying a Tax Lawyer a hefty fee only to find out that the government does not allow it, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Thank you again for bringing this up.

John Farrington
ASW-24  PI  ( sorry a fixed income does not allow a nice new motor-glider )

“Real Legoueff”

I have read with great interest your article on the future of soaring it is addressing many important questions I will share with you some of my thoughts:

Why do we get so few members?

The sport of soaring does not benefit of a lot of visibility, only a minor portion of the population know it exist. If there would be as much publicity for gliding as there is for burger, pop drinks, skiing… I am sure that we would attract a lot more people. perhaps DG, Schempp Hirth, Schleicher and LS could joint together to make some publicity on TV Radio and popular magazines. The first thing is to get people to know that such a sport exist. One could even go further just imagine if gliding was an Olympic discipline, after all they do have wind surf. It would also be a very good idea to promote that sport in movies just like in “The Thomas Crown affair”. Then we have to make people understand that it is a safe sport if well done, mind you there a lot of more dangerous sports, motorcycle touring or worst racing, skiing, scuba diving, mountain climbing. Further more people must realize that gliding is not that expensive try buying a snowmobile, skiing, golf….. gliding gets expensive if one wants to buy a good glider, but for student and for older aircraft owners it is cheaper than a modern sport car. But even if it was expensive, people would still be attracted if gliding was a known activities, and there would also be more women in this sport.

Another factor is that clubs should be versatile and offer different plans for different type of members. There are many different personalities out here and the more flexible we are the more people we will retain or gain. the world is changing, if one wants to survive one has to adapt to the taste of people.

Another factor is the price of the new gliders. No matter what we say these machine’s are expensive. Fortunately I saw on your Website that you where offering possibilities of leasing. I think that it is a big plus for the DG firm, maybe this could be extended to all of your gliders

It is also important to try to satisfy the customers who have owned a DG for a while, in order to give them the feeling that, even if their glider are old, that someone is still designing improvement for their glider. For instance we know that the DG-400 is a great ship, why cant it be revamped, for instance would it be possible to design a new wing that would fit in the old frame, and a newer tail plane. It is very possible that someone that would like to buy a newer model but will never have that much money available will buy such a wing for a fraction of the price of a DG-800. The blunt facts are that a lot of people have a bit of money and only a few people have a lot of money. Most likely this upgrade will not impinge on the selling of the new gliders for 2 reasons:
First the people that will never have enough money to buy a new aircraft will never buy one, and second the ones that will buy new aircraft will be very pleased to know that their aircraft will most likely benefit from future development, they will know that some time down the road there will be a new wing and tail plane. For instance there could be a 20m wing with the according tail plane available for the DG-800 the (DG-820) in 5 to 10 years from now that would stretch the life of the present planes. This could also be done for the DG-200. We know for a fact that improvement of the frame of these gliders lead to very little noticeable gain in performance, since the (DG-200, DG-400, DG-300, DG-600) are all very  good  frames, the availability of a new wing for some of these would be a good marketing move. The key word in all that is to transmit to the buyers that the DG firm is behind them to back them up with ongoing development for their aircraft. Of course we have to understand that there is a limit to improvement, but as I said the DG-200, 300, 400, 600 are very good aircraft and there life extension would benefit everybody. One more thing about revamping is that you know right off the bat how many of these aircraft are on the market. I think you would benefit from making a mini survey, for instance on the Net or by mail to present owners to see if they would by a more performing wing at a calculated price for their aircraft.

Service is a major factor that could refrain someone from buying or inadequately maintaining a glider. In Canada and USA there is one dealer. This is good but for the pilot on the East coast it may be a bit expensive and time consuming to send the aircraft far away for major repairs. I think that we have to think like the Japanese to some extent. The easier it is to own a glider the more people will own one. We have to make the sport “user friendly”.

In my opinion the future of gliding look very bright for instance one of the most expensive aircraft is a glider “the Space shuttle”. I thing that future development in aerodynamic, avionics, and in power unit gas or electric will improve greatly this sport, but it depends on the manufactures to some extent to insure that they will survive. Maybe the building technique should be reengineered. For instance it may be more profitable to get part of the aircraft build in eastern Europe or in Mexico or in Asia. We are in a global market, don’t wait for the Japanese to get in it. Once they will be their one cane be sure that they will learn quickly how to build good gliders and no need to worry, they will do the support. We have to look ahead. If aircraft are selling there is no reason why gliders should not sell.

Avionics, in my opinion, is a place where glider manufacturer could make quick improvement. At this time GPS with moving maps are available for cars it is difficult to understand that it is not available has, at least, an option for new gliders. I mean that even if there would be one available, there is no space to put one on the instrument panel. I am very happy with the philosophy of security of DG. My opinion is that it should be carried much further. The DSI for the DG-800 is a good example of what I mean, but even if is a good step forward I think that all security feature should be part of the aircraft and not as an option. I think that all modern aircraft gliders and none gliders should have fall safe equipment that could save one life, as standard equipment. I encourage DG to keep the good work and I would suggest, for instance, an instrument board that could; 1st take more instrument and 2nd benefit of a added LCD moving map display, or at least have the space available for later retrofitting. For instance Magellan is building a unit of approx 6×9 inches that could very well fit under the engine instrument. Look at my drawing at the end of the text.

I have one suggestion on problem solving. Its some time very frustrating to see how difficult it may be to find a simple solution for a problem. It has happen to me more than once to think for a long time to try to find a solution for a problem, and someone came up and, within minutes had found a simple solution for what appeared to be a difficult problem. What do I mean by that: Well there are a lot of brains out there that are eager to help in problem solving or in suggesting improvement. I think that it would be good to take advantage of this. For instance you have a problem on how to solve problem (x), send the problem on the web to enable glider enthusiast to give there input, and see if a workable solution come out of it. It could be a lot cheaper than having to spend a lot of time on a small thing. Money wise it could be a good move to use a few hundred of people that are to think a few hours than to use a few people to think hundreds of hours on a problem. Even if people are not all engineers you never know what can come out of a mind that think with different value. I think that some form of retribution should be involve but of what type I don’t know.

I don’t think I have solve many problem today, and I know that thing are a lot more complicated than what I make them appear to be. But still my comments added to the comments of others and added to what you may already have in mind may spur up new solutions and ideas to improve our sport. In that sense I will be very happy in having participated in the future of gliding.

Keep up the good work, the road to excellence is a never ending one.

I also have another improvement suggestion aside from the instrument panel. I would suggest to your engineers to make a winglets to the propeller this would reduce the size of it, which in turns could permit a smaller boom and less drag. Or if the propeller was to be kept at the present size it could reduce the RPM and sound emissions.
Also winglets on the lower part of the tail plane could permit a reduction in the tail plane size and therefore less drag.

Réal Le Gouëff

May I give some comments to this interesting article:

Public relation is absolute important. Also this web-site is a part of PR!

The price for new gliders is a real problem. Please have a look at our special article.

To make a new wing and tailplane for an old glider means, to make a new glider. It cost about 1,000,000.00 USD to design and build a new wing only. Sorry, it is fact!

Unfortunately a DG-820 is impossible.

We are in discussions about another representative at the US-East-Coast.

I do not think that Japanese are able to manufacture gliders. And they are not interested because of the small quantities.

Instrument Panel, Moving Map etc. will be checked by our engineers. It can be a good idea.

And all of you are invited, to give suggestions for improvements every day!

Jim Kellett
Skyline Soaring Club http://www.ssl.umd.edu/Skyline/

Karl, what a timely article!  Our club (US) is one of the more successful small clubs (ca. 60 members), with many issues resulting from rapid growth.  We are now developing our first real strategic plan, and we certainly agree with the major areas of interest that you’ve identified.

One of those involves women.  We spent a lot of time over the last few years on this topic, and reluctantly came to the conclusion that “that’s the way God made us”.  And a LOT of that conclusion came from the very active female pilots (also very few!) in our Club, who themselves would frequently express frustration as to why their sisters didn’t get as excited about soaring as they did.  It seems that soaring is one of those activities that’s going to appeal ONLY to the “alpha females” in our society, and we should go after those and accept that we’re NOT going to get the majority of that half of the population into soaring.

Finally, a stereotypically American observation – – I’ve been VERY impressed with my limited exposure to non-US sites, primarily in Switzerland and the UK, and their size, organization, and particularly their attention to non-flying (e.g., social) activities that can capture the attention of non-flying family members.  We don’t’ do that in this country very well at all, and I’m a little surprised to see how you, as a European, described what thought was a VERY progressive program that we ought to copy here!!

Jim Kellett

“If Flying Were the Language of Man, Soaring would be its Poetry”

Comments about Future of Soaring, Mr.Marvin/Publisher
Millard Marvin

Hello to our friends in Germany and Soaring……
I was visiting your site again today as it is one of my favorites and thought I would like to add my view and maybe suggest how our magazine could try to help. I see the question about the future of soaring as a larger issue about the future of private pilots of all types in every country.  First is that in America we see a trend for the non-flying public to be increasingly targeted with the idea that aircraft are really no different than a car on the freeway. That flying now is a low skill that does not require any serious effort to develop. That powered aircraft are only safe “if” on auto pilot!!

That all private aircraft should be directly under the control of the federal aviation controllers. Now you may think what does any of this have to do with soaring of any type. In California we have several airports where both glider and powered aircraft share the same operational landing areas. Ultra light powered flight is a mixed in between. As I travel to Europe several times each year I see the impact of similar problems. It is very important that the concept of “open sky” for private pilots in every country. But what is creeping into the overall political fabric in almost every country is this idea that people who fly any type of aircraft, are part of “special” and “mavric” class of society. That aviation is only safe if it is commercial transport.

I think this the part of the reason that the hang glider and para glider movements are attracting those who feel pushed out of traditional soaring and aviation. The second is of course higher cost of flying.

We see on a global basis that insurance is one of the biggest reasons for cost of ownership going sky high. I do not know how insurance is priced in Germany for soaring but in the USA many programs are based on a cost per hour operated. Also the liability issue in the USA is at the base of these problems. Our goal at my publication is to try and create a way for more people to make contact with all levels of flying, and to show each of these levels in any country where coverage for events is possible. We currently can not afford to pay people to produce articles on every small competition or owners group. However we are trying to provide a platform so that if a story and photos is of quality, we will try and make space to show a story that helps reflect the common enjoyment of soaring or powered flight for any “web reader” world wide.

Also “Sky Guys” is will son be releasing “free classified” advertising for international distribution in all areas of aircraft from rotorcraft to paragliders.
Also we find that many manufactures have some strange idea that keeping people interested takes little or no work. Our program is to help use learning as the backbone for entertaining those who thirst for more understanding of flight.

While my memo may not seem to have any clear importance, it is to say that we see your concern and it is on target, about the lack of younger new pilots who are willing to step up to pay the cost to learn. Soaring is such a clean and pleasing
sport just to watch it is a shame to see those who do not understand what they are missing. We hope that we can help the soaring community with higher visibility to a group of young people and outsiders, via our school program about flying.

Please feel free to send any suggestions you  have if we can help as over 1/3 of our readers now come from Europe.


Laurance Marvin

Greetings Herr Weber,

I have some comments, personal opinions and hopefully some worthy advice.  I first became interested in gliding when I would watch my uncle Helmut, in Rheinfelden Baden, take festival goes on rides in a primary glider during our yearly harvest festivals.  He would build balsa wood models with me and try to explain the concept of flight.  My parents came to the United States in 1958 when I had just turned 10 years old.  I had built several models until I was in my early twenties.
When I was 23 years old I bought a piece of land for camping and found that there is a Glider Field near-by.  After visiting the club I was told that if I helped with  the flight line I would eventually get a ride but that there was no room for new members since they wanted to limit the memberships to a total of 32.  I worked the flight line for 4 Saturdays in a row but never got a ride and couldn’t afford to pay out-right for lessons.  It seemed hopeless for someone of my means and I gave up trying until last year at age 51.

My wonderful wife of 33 years, knowing how important flight has always been to me, bought me a $65 dollar introductory flight in an ASK-21 at Harris Hill.  I was so excited after that flight I decided to visit that same club again and I was immediately accepted as a member and have been taking lessons ever since.  I did find that the club rules have changed quite a bit and they now offer a wonderful youth program ( not something available when I was growing up).  As I look back I realize too that had I been accepted the first time I tried I probably would have had to give it up when my children were born where I had to work many more hours to make ends meet. If not my wife and I might not be together today.

Now that I am close to retirement and my children are all grown this wonderful activity seems to fit so nicely into my lifestyle.
My wife is very understanding when I visit the club and doesn’t expect to see me until after dark. ( I also give my wife equal time during the week).  My club does offer a few social gatherings during the year and she enjoys those also.

Our club appears to function quite well with several trainers available (2-33’s, L-13, and a ASK-21), including two golf carts used for runway retrievals, two tow planes and three single place ships.

Our normal instructional weekends consist of calling your assigned primary instructor during the week and then calling to reserve a trainer of his choosing for a time that is available.  Instructional flights take precedence over all other before 1pm and sometimes there is time for more instruction in the afternoon if an instructor is available.  When our members are scheduled for line duty or Operation Manager they are expected to be there for the entire day beginning with the Line set up with the trainers and the tie downs of all other club aircraft prior to the start of the day’s operation. If a member who is scheduled for duty does not show up he/she will be fined accordingly. Members are allowed to switch with others for their duty days.  Our system seems to work quite well with few people abusing it.

I often talk excitedly with my friends and coworkers about my exciting new hobby but most have no idea what I’m talking about. (Most think I’m talking about Hang gliding or Ultralights).  The general public is not informed well enough to understand or even realize that the sport of soaring exists.  I rarely ever see a sailplane in the news or on TV or even at the movies.  Most aviation events don’t feature sailplanes (I presume because someone doesn’t want to give up a flying day). There are no sailplane related magazines on most US shelves and the magazine “Soaring” published by the Soaring Society of America only goes to members.  If more information were available to the general public I believe we would also see more people visit the glider ports.  I’ve gotten two people interested in the sport.  Both of these people had no idea what it was about and had considered buying Ultralights with no previous flight experience.

Recently our club’s insurance policy became due and we found out that the insurance companies in the US are reluctant to insure clubs and would rather insure the more lucrative individual pilot.  After much negotiation we were able to secure another year’s of insurance but with many stipulations attached.  (No more glider rides to the public), an interested party would have to become a member to get a ride.  More Tow Pilot experience and accumulated hours made half of our tow pilots ineligible.

I will be looking forward to a few more productive years as a glider pilot but I will be purchasing a motorized version just in case.

Thank You,
Peter Eberhart
Finger Lakes Soaring
Dansville, NY
“Peter Eberhart”

Betreff: DG Website/young people gliding
Datum:Sun, 4 Nov 2001 18:44:15 -0000
Von: “Henry Wood”

Mr Weber,

I am an english student in my final year at school, and addicted to gliding.
The school thoughtfully provides each student with their own high-speed internet connection, and for the last year I have been using it to investigate the possibilities of a future career in gliding, starting with a year out between school and university beginning next summer.

I came across the DG website by accident, and I have to say I was extremely impressed.  I have visited the websites of many other glider manufacturers, and none of them came remotely close to the wide-ranging high standard that I found on this one.  Schempp-Hirth have very little information on their website, laid out badly, and Schleicher have no english website at all.  Yet on the DG website I found innumerable articles on gliders, safety, building gliders, and many of the other things which have so fascinated me over the years I have been gliding.  Not only that: the DG company has come up with many documented innovative ideas that I am beginning to wonder how I have seen so few of its sailplanes flying!

I fly with the Midland Gliding Club here in england (www.longmynd.com), and I still remember the first time I saw a DG glider.  The main thing to strike me was the huge canopy . . . an impressive sight.  There are two DG gliders that I have seen resident at my club, and I still enjoy the sight of one.
My only bad thing to say about them is that I am not qualified to fly one yet, and they are privately owned . . . not club gliders for hire.  I hope one day I may be lucky enough to own one myself.
I read the article on the future of gliding with great interest, since I have several views on this myself, and as a young pilot actively trying to promote gliding I think I could add some useful points.  I am school captain of gliding here, and when I put up a site on the school network concerning my chosen hobby, I was deluged with requests from people who wanted to know if they could learn to fly too.  My goal is to make this school a breeding ground for young glider pilots, something which I hope will eventually spread to other private schools in england.

The problem I have, in fact, is not in getting young people to want to glide, but allowing them to try it.  They must give up one afternoon a week, in which many are obliged (forced, even) to play in-school sports, and few people can actually do that.  Even if they do have an afternoon free, the number of people who could fly on that afternoon is limited by the availability of gliders and instructors.  The highest number we could take is eight, and about half of those are people who are not just interested in starting gliding, they are hooked and are beginning flying training in earnest.
One solution my gliding club has devised to help young people begin flying is to halve the cost of all gliding activities: half price launches, half price flying for all those under 21 (or under 25 and still in education).  I don’t know to what extent this is applied in other clubs around the world, but it seems to be a very good incentive to try.
I thought I would send you some of my own thoughts on keeping the sport going by bringing in young talent:

There are two big difficulties in getting young people to try gliding.
The first is dragging them away from other activities (someone mentioned computers . . . as a committed computer geek, I can relate to that!) The second is persuading them that gliding is a worthwhile activity.

The first problem is related directly to the second – when you can persuade young people that gliding is worthwhile, they will often drag themselves away from their other chosen activity.  So the real problem is persuading them that gliding is worthwhile, while not making them go to any more trouble than usual.
I know the teenage mentality well . . . if something can be done on the internet, it seems worthwhile.  Hence internet sites (web addresses publicised in the first place somehow, of course) are one of the best ways of getting young people interested in gliding.  Unfortunately, very, very few club or manufacturers websites are any good at this (my own club’s website is a point in fact: badly laid out, takes a long time to download, very little useful information, rarely updated).  Interestingly, university gliding club websites run by talented and committed young pilots are often exactly how I would see a good gliding website – if only gliding clubs would hire students to write their webpages!

A good gliding website explains what gliding is about, and promotes the good points.  Exciting photos of gliders are good to catch attention, as are photos of a landscape taken from a glider at high altitude.  The aim is to draw the viewer into a trial flight, and hopefully even when they realise that every flight is not about aerobatics they will still enjoy the rest of gliding (from my own experience with young pilots, this is often true).

Some young people, particularly the privileged young men here, are just not prepared for the club mentality of gliding.  This is unfortunate, but they just cannot accept the fact that they have to help around the club rather than sitting around sunbathing until a glider becomes available.  This is a problem with the mentality of young people in general – fortunately there are still many unaffected by it.
Overall, gliding does not do enough to promote itself.  The people that do promote it, although they may have the best intentions, have neither the funds, the talent with language, nor the technical ability to maintain a good gliding website – something which I consider essential to getting more young people into the sport.
I think the drive for recruiting adults into gliding could be just as effective with very few changes: maybe people in a nine-to-five job would enjoy being able to soar freely at the weekends, away from the bustle of everyday life, rather than adrenaline-rush aerobatics that would attract young people.  Also maybe the more picturesque photos, rather than aerobatics pictures (see www.chez.com/beslier/planeurs/menug.htm for some very good examples).

Henry Wood.

Betreff:  Thoughts About the Future of Gliding
Datum: Thu, 18 Apr 2002 21:14:33 +0300
Von:  Bora Ovidiu

Dear friedel,
Today I seen your article about Thoughts About the Future of Gliding on the DG web page. I saw that a lot of problems I observe form my country are the same in Germany. Actually every Romanian gliding pilot have a great admiration for achievements in gliding made in Germany. But as you wrote the gliding market became smaller, step by step. I think that a lot of problems are because our society are changing. You can see that for a young people is difficult to choose between different free time activities. I am pilot for sailplanes, paraglide and ultralights. I am also model builder. But always I prefer sailplanes. Concerning this I can tell you how can I see this problems from my country. In my country young people prefer to spend a lot of time in the front of computers.On the other hand our financial are so poor. Young peoples want to have satisfaction fast and computers can do this, even if we talk about a virtual world.  I love computers but I can see what dangerous can be for human mind if is used intense.

In my opinion the gliders are to expensive even if they are good performers. Maybe ultralight gliders, less expensive, which can be buy easier, with decent glide ratio about 25/30 will be solution for the future. Not to many people can afford a glider right now and they are 80% old persons. On a cheap glider, easy to handle, young people can do a lot of great things. We don’t have forget that the golden era of gliding was invaded by simple gliders . Now people can choose between more aeronautical sports but I think that who is in love for soaring he want to get more. Conclusion is that paragliding and hang gliding are a truth kindergarten for great gliding. After a pilot start by paragliding he want more so if the gliding are aviable he will step on the next dimension – sailplanes. We have to know that a lot of people prefer paragliding because this is simple, cheap and have not to much regulations. This is the reason for the paragliding explosion in entire world. Off course that high performance gliders have to keep go on but in a few years it cold remain the only choice for a pilot and this is not good. It have to be a world for intermediate and beginners. Maybe the ultralight open cockpit gliders is the answer of the problem. This glider have to take the place of old SG 38, or KA8. A glass fibber glider, 14-15m span, partial open cockpit, l/d about 20, easy to maintain, easy to launch and to handling.

I know that my vision are different because I live in a  different country, which is not like Germany. But I can see that the number of beginners are poor. Is not  a big problem right now but it cold be in the future.
I hope that you will understand my letter. I know that I am not to good in English.

Thank you for your time!
Happy landings !

Ovidiu Bora

from: Kjell Folkesson

Dear Mr. Weber!

I have read your ideas about gliding in future, I disagree partly. I mainly do not think everything needs to drastic change. In Sweden most sports has lost members last 10 years. Airsports have lost more than average.
Some sports have been very successful and attract a lot of new people with old gliding ideas. Actually with sports camps etc. Gliding’s main problem is that our members are old and very ego. Most glider pilot wishes that they can come out to a gliding field and just start their glider and come back without helping with anything. They are not interested in social events together with other glider friends etc. But this is not anything new it has always been like this. Only problem is that we have not attracted enough new young members who wants to live on the airport. Actually sports like floorball, water skiing, football, horse riding, swimming, athletics etc. today do what gliding was very good on in Sweden until early 80th they have summercamps for people who are not involved in their sports for the age of 12-14th years old.

We have managed to try this in one gliding club last year where their youngest member was 30 years old (me). Anyway 10 kids attended (we could not handle more. It was 27 persons who wanted in age 12-14). We had a camp Wednesday evening until Sunday afternoon they lived in tents and had great days. 4 of them are now members in aeromodell club. 3 wants to start with gliding when they have their age but already started with theory.

I believe that we just need to go back in our history to see what they did, use modern technology like PCs for simulator flying etc and also be more willing to open up our sport for public than DG will survive together with a lot of other gliding industry. Only problems is that glider pilots are lazy they do not want to help young people to get a demonstration of our sport.

We need to change our members ego thinking and be more interested to get friends. I am sure it is possible. I am also sure that we can improve our way to compete to get more media attention so the public starts to know about gliding.

Best regards,

Kjell Folkesson


I just read your interesting article on how to attract more people to soaring. As editor of Hangar Soaring, the newsletter of the Women Soaring Pilot Association  (WSPA) here in the US (you met me at the convention)  and being involved in that organization since 1972, I have some observations on my own. Attached you will find a press release I wrote for the occasion that the WSPA annual seminar will, for the first time, take place overseas in Lesce/Bled ( I am sure all of you at DG are very familiar with that place). WSPA in the last 8 years has become an international organization with members in Germany, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Russia and Slovenia. Our reasoning for branching out across the Atlantic is that world wide there are so few women glider pilots that it helps us all to stick together and help, encourage and support each other.

Last year, for the first time since 1999, did a US woman compete in an international contest again, in the Junior Worlds in Rieti. Right now we have two prospects we are encouraging to fly in the Women’s Worlds next year in Hungary. Hopefully the world wide financial situation doesn’t nix these plans. Should they get the ok from our team committee (all men) the search for 2 suitable sailplanes can begin ( I don’t want to advertise here either J ).

I stopped actively flying sailplanes after 40 years and work now behind the scene only. But this summer, at the WSPA seminar, I came out of retirement when I got a chance to fly John Earliewine’s beautiful DG 1000. What a dream machine. Only I needed a step ladder to get in and out.

Greetings across the Atlantic

Frauke Elber

Editor, Hangar Soaring

Number of Pilots in the different Countries

John Roake from New Zeeland made a table with the number of glider pilots in the different countries and gave comments, how to read it. Here you can download the table:


And here are his comments:


The following notes should be read in association with the membership table.  A determined effort has been made to achieve accurate as possible figures. New data provided this year has allowed me to correct errors in previous years.

ARGENTINA:  A 45% increase in membership can possibly be related to the extreme interest being created by pilots from other countries flying in the Andes.

AUSTRALIA:  A small decrease, an almost continuous trend since 1992.

AUSTRIA:  A small decrease over the previous year.

BELGIUM:   A major increase due 430 pilots from the Belgium Air cadets now under the control of the Belgian Gliding Federation.

BRAZIL: A concerted effort made to get their membership figures, but without success.

BULGARIA: A concerted effort made to get their membership figures, but without success.

CANADA:  A substantial drop in flying membership, their lowest level in 20 years.

CHINA:    First ever time we have found a contact that speaks/emails in English.  A surprisingly small number of pilots.

CROATIA: A concerted effort made to get their membership figures, but without success.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Stable membership with a small increase over the previous year.

DENMARK:  A 4% drop over the previous year.

FINLAND:  A 2% drop over the previous year.

GERMANY: The world largest soaring country.  A small but continuing drop in membership – year after year since 1992.   Germany’s membership loss over 12 years amounts to 9.4%

GREECE:  No response from delegate  – Used previous years membership figures.

HUNGARY:  Accuracy in membership hard to achieve.  Delegates estimate.

ICELAND:  Two clubs only.  Maintaining membership numbers.

IRELAND:  Small increase on last year.  Up 6%.

ISRAEL: No response from delegate  – Used previous years membership figures.

ITALY:  Provided clubs, hours, number of gliders  – everything except membership. Used previous years membership figures.

JAPAN:   A 4% drop over the previous year.

KENYA:  First time contact achieved.  One club (commercial operation)

KOREA:  First time contact achieved.

LATVIA:    No response from delegate.

LUXEMBURG:    First time contact achieved.

LITHUANIA:  Another small increase – Have achieved increases every year since 1998.

NETHERLANDS:  Previous year’s membership total as advised was incorrect.  Now corrected but recording a drop of 5.2% between 2002 and 2003.

NEW ZEALAND:  Recording small but insignificant increases since 1999. (3.2% over four years).

NORWAY: The significant increase since the previous year is believed to be only a temporary situation caused by a specific law relating to compulsory membership for introductory gliding activities.  Expecting the rule to be changed and the number to revert back to the previous trend.

PAKISTAN:   A small decrease.

POLAND:   No response from delegate  – Used previous years membership figures.  (I.G.C. ask why?)

RUSSIA:     No response from delegate  – Used previous years membership figures.

SERBIA/MONTENEGRO:    First time contact achieved.

SLOVAK REPUBLIC:     Reasonably stable membership.

SOUTH AFRICA:    Increase of 3.5% over previous year.

SPAIN:  Encouraging 28.4% increase over previous year.

SWEDEN:  Increase of 7.85% over previous year.

SWITZERLAND:  Almost continuous downturn in membership since 1992.   Down 30.9% over the past 12 years and 3.56% for the year under review.

UNITED KINGDOM:   A major drop of 825 members over the past year (9%).

There has always been difficulty attempting to get factual figures from the USA. Soaring pilots do not have to be a member of the SSA.  I have established that the FAA only recorded gliding pilots with medicals over past years, their statisticians believing this to be the prime requisite for a soaring pilot.  (Incorrect).  Their statisticians have just realised their error, so for the first time we are able to record an accurate figure for USA.  We have applied a world average percentage  (+ and -) to all previous USA figures to achieve a more representative count for that country.  The new figures reveal that SSA represents less than 50% of soaring pilots in the U.S.A.


The updated figures produced for the 2004 – I.G.C. meeting show that we have lost 8.13% of our members over the past 12 years.  The year under review shows an increase of 1.02%, (excluding countries reported for the first time), a percentage that has been maintained over the past four years.  We cannot say we have arrested our downturn, but at best, we are currently holding our own.

I have regular contacts with thinking national executives who wish to discuss promotions and other means of encouraging membership.    My promise to have a textbook on membership retention and promotion finished by the current meeting has not been fulfilled.  It is roughly two-thirds finished and I am hopeful I can finally get it into print during 2004.

The world gliding movement has now given away 39,000 copies of the membership committee’s promotion video.  I do believe it is a help in promoting membership, especially when it is given away to all who take their first glider flight with a club.  We are now licensing copying houses in various countries to produce the video for national aero clubs to avoid the costly freight from New Zealand.  This makes them even cheaper as a give-away token to public relations and club promotion.

We have finally finished the filming of our second promotional video  – “How the West was Won” and it is now being studio processed for release in about three months.  All delegates will be mailed a copy.

But on a more serious note, I have come to the conclusion that gliding’s greatest danger is “APATHY”.  Perhaps it is a feature of our times, but all those who write to me for ideas ask the same question  – “How do we get our members to be alive to treating every visitor to our club as a potential member?  How do we change the club’s character?  How do we get members to stop ignoring the uninitiated?   How can we get existing members to appreciate that more members means increased fleet utilisation, and lower flying fees?” An answer to those questions would revitalise gliding and I am ever hopeful that someone will write me and tell me how it can be done.

But getting back to “APATHY”, I would like to provide some statistics that give room for thought.

The draft agenda I have for the 2004 I.G.C. meeting has 69 items, excluding election of officers, past minutes, president’s report and the like.  Of those 69 items, 45 items (65.2%) are directly relate to competition matters, which I suspect will take more than 85% of the time allowed for the meeting.  This – for an estimated 5% of the movement that are competition pilots.

Is it that the remaining 95% are totally apathetic to gliding advancement, and apathetic to the International body as a medium for advancing the sport at club level?  Or have they given up?

Maybe you have the answer.  If so, I would welcome your input!

NEW ZEALAND   -20-02-2004

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