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What am I Getting Myself Into?

Certification of sailplane pilots is regulated by the FAA, just as it is for power pilots. To pilot a sailplane with a passenger, you will need a Private Pilot (Glider) certificate. To obtain the certificate, you must pass two examinations, the FAA written Private Pilot (Glider) examination (about $100) and the FAA Private Pilot (Glider) flight check (about $350). No medical exam is required.

The FAA requires at least two hours of solo flight time including 10 solo flights for the certificate. In order to solo, you must receive instruction covering all aspects of flying sailplanes, and your instructor must feel confident of your ability to handle the sailplane. Generally, this happens after 20 to 40 flights, although naturally it varies between individuals and how frequently you fly.

Training is best done at a steady rate of one or two sessions per week with each session having 3 to 5 flights, which will allow you to solo in one to three months. More intensive training is quite feasible, but may result in some overwhelming sessions. It is particularly important not to have any major breaks in your training, so you should have the necessary funds budgeted before you start. In anticipation of taking the FAA written exam, some time should be set aside for studying FAA regulations, radio communications procedures, aerodynamics, weather and navigation.

The average pre-solo flight will involve about 20 minutes of ground instruction, 20 minutes of flight time, and a 2000 foot tow. At CSA rates, and assuming the instructor charges a rate of $20/hour, the cost breakdown looks like this:

Typical pre-solo flight

1/3 hr ground instruction $ 6.67
1/3 hr flight instruction $ 6.67
1/3 hr Solitaire rental $ 2.00
2000 foot tow $ 37.00
total $ 51.00

To solo in 35 flights, will cost about $1820, not counting dues, deposit and initiation. Solo flights will be cheaper as you will no longer be taking an instructor with you and when soaring will be longer as well. You could easily get the entire two hours in one flight. The post-solo cost, then, might look like this:

Typical solo-to-license costs

5 hrs instruction (approx) $ 100.00
3 hrs Solitaire rental (dual) $ 9.00
20 2000 foot tows $ 740.00
4 hours 2-33 rental (solo) $ 12.00
total $ 861.00

For pilots transitioning from powered aircraft, the FAA requires at least 10 solo flights before taking the flight test. No written test is required if you're already a Private Pilot in airplanes. You will need about 15 flights of dual before solo, so the total training cost for the transition will be around $1275.

To take passengers with you, you will need your FAA Private Pilot certificate.

Your mileage may vary.

You can start your lessons at Owl Canyon Gliderport by joining Colorado Soaring Association. For regular members, there is an initiation fee, a refundable deposit with the application, annual dues to the Soaring Society of America, and monthly club dues where rates for these can be found on theCSA rates page. . (There is a 3-flight trial period, during which you can get your initiation fee, deposit and unused dues back if you decide soaring isn't for you.) Owl Canyon Gliderport is entirely club-owned and club-operated, which means you will be expected to help out with the operation. Our dues cover not only glider maintenance and insurance, but also taxes, utilities, and maintenance on the property. The facilities include a flight office, bathrooms, lounge, showers, kitchen, bunkrooms, and a large hangar, all situated on 256 acres of native prairie grass.


Updated 05/28/2014