Frequently Asked Questions

What if I've never flown before?
It doesn't matter whether you've got a pilot's license or have never flown before. Nearly everyone who comes for trial flights has no previous flying experience. A few people have had air experience flights with the CCF while at school, but really don't worry if the only flying you normally do is with paper aeroplanes in maths lectures, or over the handlebars of your bicycle.
What will I fly?
Everyone starts off flying the K-13, a two-seat-beast of a glider. You will have all of your lessons in them and your early solo flights too. Once you have successfully gone solo in a glider, you will be allowed to fly shinier and faster single seat gliders. Once you get really good, you will be allowed to fly the MiG-28.
When do I get to fly the MiG-28?
It usually takes between twenty and fifty flights before you are allowed up on your own in a glider (going solo). You get three flights a day, sometimes more, so it is possible to go solo in a term. However, there is the British weather to contend with, as well as university commitments such as exams. After you solo, you carry on flying the K-13 training glider for a short while (around 10 more flights) before being let loose in a single-seater called a K-8. From then on, you get to fly better and better gliders according to your increasing experience. Look around the website for more details. You will learn better if you come gliding regularly, every fortnight at least, otherwise much of your flying will be taken up simply refreshing the skills you learned the month before. In the Summer, there are several week-long courses run at the airfield too, should you really like it.
When do you fly?
At the weekends. Sometimes people may go to the airfield on Wednesdays (or other weekdays) too.
When can I fly?

If you're new to the club, just sign up online (see the New Pilots menu) and add yourself to the Flying List.

We can only transport a limited number of people to the airfield each weekend, so don't just turn up on a Saturday morning and hope there's space. If you're unsure, then email gliding@soton.ac.uk early in the week.

Where do you fly?

We fly at Lasham airfield, near Basingstoke. It is only a half hour drive from Southampton.

What are all these acronyms?

Gliding is not as expensive as many people believe it is. It is certainly much cheaper than powered flying in this country. Membership is 40 for most students, which gets you membership of not just one, but THREE, acronyms: SUGC, LGS and the BGA! If that isn't good value then I don't know what is! The only way you could possibly get more letters for less is with a tin of alphabet spaghetti, and how far do you think you're going to fly with that?

Once you've joined, the fees for each flight are cheaper. Check out the Flying Fees page (under About Gliding). Typically, a day at the airfield including two flights, a fry-up, and two pints in the clubhouse afterwards will cost you less than twenty quid. Much, much less than you'll spend on the usual daily student habits of alcohol, cigarettes, women, clubbing, drugs, kebabs, porn, Red Bull, baked beans, bingo, gambling, Pokemon cards, protection money, legal fees, rehab, bribes, child support, etc...

How do I join?

Just sign up online and join the Flying List!

Bring your chequebook, Southampton email address and Student ID card. It is ESSENTIAL that you have Athletic Union membership for insurance reasons (this is a requirement for participating in any Southampton University sporting club activity, and not an indication of any gliding-related dangers). You will not fly without it. Indeed, at the university I would not be allowed to play badminton without it. You can apply for AU membership at the Student Services Centre.

Initiation rites?!

There is nothing of the sort, all that we require of you is a cheque and the completion of a few forms. That's all. The closest the club gets to any compulsory tradition is a bell ringing, which is nothing to be worried about and not something a new member will be doing anyway. However if you really do feel you're missing out on the sheep, a discrete rendezvous behind Q hangar can be arranged.

Can I drive there?

Yes, we only have a small number of drivers available, so you are welcome to drive down to the airfield with us (i.e. you are welcome to drive us down to the airfield!).

If you are travelling with a committee member, they should have a key to open the gate. Otherwise, just park in the visitors area, off to your left as you turn in to the airfield.

Can I drive on the runways?
No. Besides, we share the airfield with a few commercial airliners. Don't mess.
Why so early?
We meet early to take advantage of the daylight hours and also to get our names high up on the flying list. The flying list is a queue for who gets to fly the gliders. If we turn up late, we are at the back of the queue.
I turned up at 8.10am...
We do not tend to wait longer than 5 minutes past the defined meeting time for people because of the need to get our names on the flying list (See above). Check the weekly club email for the current meeting time - it changes according to the season.
What should I bring with me?
Dress appropriately. Airfields are basically what the name suggests. Air = windy, and field = flat with no cover. Thus it will probably be quite cold and windswept in the autumn, winter, spring and summer so wear several layers and bring a (waterproof) coat. Wear sensible, sturdy shoes or boots too, it can muddy at times and even if there hasn't been a lot of rain, remember that grass can hold a lot of dew. In unlikely event of summer, there will be little shade so bring suitable precautions against the sun. That said, Lasham has a big bus where you can shelter or store rucksacks and coats. Sunglasses are very useful whether it is summer or not. You're going to be a pilot damnit! and pilots have to look cool. Bring a chequebook and cash to pay for your flights and some food. Know how much you weigh. You need to know it before you fly for glider weight and balance reasons and no-one can find the scales on the airfield at the moment.
What should I wear?
Check with your personal stylist. The BBC website also has a good, easy to understand, weather forecast at www.bbc.co.uk/weather and look for the 5-day city forecast. Please do not wear a skirt or dress. It will be in the way of the control stick and some gliders also are fitted with a five point harness.
What happens during the day?

We meet outside the Student Union Shop at Highfield at the time stated on the Flying List and then drive down to Lasham. It takes about 40 minutes to get there. Once at the airfield we go to the hangar and sign up on the day's flying list before helping move the gliders out to where they will launch from.

People on trial flights will be shown round the type of glider they will fly in and will be given a safety briefing. Once the gliders, tractors, winch and the mighty bus are in place on the airfield - which normally takes up to an hour - then gliding can begin. The order in which people go flying depends on the flying list. Look out for someone with a clipboard if you want to know how soon you might be flying. Once all the people on the list have flown, it starts over again, and continues until sunset.

You will be at the launch point all day with everyone else. There will be the bus and all the gliders there. The winch that pulls the gliders into the sky will be at the other end of the airfield to the launch point.

Launching gliders is a team effort, and you will be asked to take part. However, you must ask to be shown how to do something before doing it! Even if it looks really simple (and nearly everything is simple), ask anyway as it will save you getting a telling-off if you attempt something you haven't been shown and you do get it wrong. The main method of launching gliders is the winch launch (or Veeench Lurnch as they say in Germany). Check out our section on launching if you're interested!

Near to the time you will fly you'll be introduced to your instructor and they will talk to you about your flight, what to expect and what you'll do in it. Even if it is your first time, you will be allowed to control the glider once it is in the air. You can control it on the ground too if you like, although it isn't quite as much fun there.

Flying will continue until sunset, or until the weather gets the better of us. At that point, everyone starts moving gliders and equipment back to the hangar before retiring to the clubhouse. The clubhouse has a bar that serves beer and bunk-beds for anyone who likes it so much that they don't want to leave. After a while in the bar, the SUGC contingent will probably head off home, so estimate your return to Southampton to be an hour or two after sunset. (Sunset times can be found on the standard weather forecast on the BBC weather website - see above).

Should I bring a packed lunch?

Lasham has a restaurant/café which serves a variety of meals at lunch. They'll even make the sandwich of your choice! The menu changes, but there is always a fry-up in the morning. Everything tends to be called breakfast regardless of when or what it is.

Is vegetarian food available?
If you are vegetarian, vegan, allergic to muppet meat or have any other specific dietary requirements, it is probably safest to bring your own food. If it is October then you can munch the dinner plate sized mushrooms that grow on the airfield instead.
Can I take a camera?
Yes, of course. Your first flight will seem to go awfully quickly so there may not be much of an opportunity to take shots in the air. If you want to take your camera in a glider, make sure it has a strap you can tie to your wrist or put round your neck. If objects are dropped in the glider there is the possibility they may jam the controls, and even if they don't, it's a pain to have to turn the glider upside down and shake it until whatever you dropped falls out again!
Is gliding dangerous?
Yes. There are always Paramedics and a Padre on hand at the launch point. However we are quite proud of our safety record. Touch wood, we have not had anyone die since March and only three limb amputations have been necessary this year. Due to the advances in prosthetics, many people are able to carry on gliding despite the injuries and disabilities it causes them. No, seriously, it isn't any more dangerous than any other sport. As long as the rules and safety regulations are obeyed (most are common sense) then there is no reason to be at all worried.
...what about the parachutes?
It's just a precaution, like some cars having airbags as well as seatbelts. Just because it is there doesn't mean that the vehicle is any more likely to crash. Also, the seats in the gliders were designed to be sat in by people wearing parachutes - it's apparently quite uncomfortable if you don't wear one.
...and the winch cables?
There is the toggle to release the cable in the glider cockpit, and if that does not operate then one of two things will happen, neither of which are a crash or a bail-out. Firstly, there is a "weak link" near the end of the cable. It is so called because it is designed to break before anything more important does. Secondly, if that fails, the cable can "back-release". This means that once the glider flies past a certain point, the ring at the end of the cable will just slide off the back of the hook on the glider that it attaches to.
...if there is no wind?
Not at all, in the summer a lack of wind means that there will probably be well defined thermals. Thermals are areas of air that go up, rather than along, and that the glider can "ride" on like an invisible escalator. With these thermals you can get a long flight. And even if there are no thermals, wind or anything, the glider will still glide. See the "How We Fly" page of our website for more information.
Can I shoot things down?
Despite being a Naval flying club, none of the gliders are armed. However, subject to being sectioned by the mental health act, you can make all the machine-gun and dive-bombing noises you like.
What are all these acronyms?

The SUGC is the Southampton University Gliding Club - i.e. us lot. As the Athletic Union have withheld the funds we require to purchase our own aircraft carrier and glider fleet, we use the facilities and equipment of the LGS or Lasham Gliding Society. The BGA is the British Gliding Association, the body who regulate the sport in this country. Should you want to glide in the holidays too when you go home, their website has a map and contact details of all the clubs around the country.

Where can I find more information?

A three thousand word FAQ isn't enough? You greedy buggers! Look through our website and there is also an excellent site on learning to glide at www.gliding.me.uk.