About Soaring

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The freedom and exhilaration of soaring are incomparable! By using currents of rising air for lift, you can fly hundreds of miles over several hours on a good soaring day.

Soaring is also known as gliding - one of the oldest forms of flying. People were flying gliders for many years before powered airplanes came about, including the Wright Brothers! In the early days, a glider-ride usually meant a short flight, probably launched from a hilltop. Today we fly sailplanes: high performance aircraft that can stay aloft for long periods of time, and all with no motor!

Soaring is a safe, fun, and educational sport; and it is practiced every day by hundreds of thousands of pilots on every continent (except Antarctica - brrrr)!

Sources of Lift

How can a sailplane climb? Sailplanes are always descending gradually through the air as they fly. If the air around the sailplane is rising faster than the aircraft is descending, then it will be carried upward by the rising air!
When the sun heats the ground, it also heats the air just above the ground. Like a hot-air-balloon, this warm air will gently rise upwards in columns or blobs called thermals. Air can also be forced upwards by wind blowing up over a hill (called "ridge-lift") - or, under certain conditions, because of high winds blowing across mountain peaks (called a "mountain-wave"). On good mountain-wave days, some pilots are able to reach altitudes where oxygen tanks are required!
For more information on how sailplanes work, check out this article.