Ultralight sailplanes

Ultralight sailplanes are being seen more and more. Reason: less expensive than a normal sailplane and still having very good performances to make cross-country flights.

Lately there are a few ultralight sailplanes like the BUG and GOAT that are designed for fun flying and less for performance.

More advantages

  • more options available like airbrakes, flaps. Those things can make the landings easier.
  • real eye-catchers

More disadvantages

  • being able to set up or break down your ultralight sailplane without being disturbed by others. For some (unlike talkers like me) this is a burden.

Several ultralight sailplanes

You can see, in my remake of Stewart Midwinter's Rigidwing overview, several ultralight sailplanes. There are still a few more. But they were too heavy to be inside this overview of rigidwing hanggliders.

I quickly guide you to the pages of a few ultralight sailplanes i have on my site.

              

Explaining the graph

Speed

Ultralight sailplanes are not really intended for beginners. You need to be able to fly before you get flying in one of these. Reason: they fly faster than paragliders or hanggliders and are therefore less easy to land. 99% are single seaters. I know only of one two-seater ultralight sailplane. The Bi-SWIFT. I learned to fly in that one. Luckily it has room for a instructor next to you. You need it!


Me during a solo-flight in the Bi-SWIFT, the trainer for the SWIFT Light.
Be assured ...those very first flights in the Bi-SWIFT you really want a instructor in that other seat.
Once you gained his and your own confidence, you are free to enjoy the sky on your own.

Low Cost

Depending which model you choose, you will get costs from more expensive than hangglider to nearly as expensive as your house. Those at lower prices will probably be homebuilt projects. I have a own project called BirdGlider, which is a homebuild, low cost ultralight sailplane. Maybe something for you. The construction plans are for free.

Range

Most ultralight sailplanes are made for cross-country. Some are just to soar around the local church. But ...the record of range record of ultralight sailplanes is getting closer and closer to 1000 km. But ...that was not done by a beginner, not by a expert. That guy is close to a god for most ultralight gliderpilots like us.

Going cross country means that you always need somebody to pick you up. Flying in a area where you are sure about good portable phone connection is a help. Reading the book "Cloudsuck" by Davis Straub tells a lot about the pleasures and the dangers of going cross country.

Open air

Open air is a disadvantage in winter. Flying at low temperatures is only for the die-hards. Remember, normally it is a fact that when you go higher, you get in more colder air. You can even get in cold air in spring or autumn.

But ...when flying in warm weather, you can really enjoy the feeling you have with the elements of nature.

Flying in rain

I can only talk about flying a SWIFT. That one is NOT DONE in the rain. The rain drops deform the airfoil and you start like flying a brick. I never experienced it, but my one of my instructors did and he never wants to experience the same.

Are you a toy of the wind?

Pilots know there is a thing called turbulences. It is when the wind does things you would not expect in a steady wind. Suddenly you are thrown upwards or pulled downward. Or you get diverted to left or right. And ...you cannot predict it.

Some air-vehicles have not much trouble with those small turbulences. Reason: they are really heavy. They are harder to push around. Now ...ultralight sailplanes are light. So ...if you are in a turbulence, you get shaken around. So, as a beginner you need to keep track of the weather. Weather with a lot of turbulences or areas with a lot of obstacles that create turbulences are to be avoided. Learn your weather forecast. Ask a expert if doubting.

Trailer

Depends on the type of ultralight sailplane you have. Some are possible to transport on top of your car.

Hangar

Depends on the type of ultralight sailplane you have. Some are easy to dismount and can be stored in a box like the SWIFT Light. Others best stay in the mounted condition and are best stored in a hangar.

Group or solo

You can use your ultralight sailplane as a single person.

Even on very windy days on a ridge, you should be able to control your glider by just using the controls like in the video below. But ...a extra helping hand should be always welcome...as long as that helping hand knows what to touch and what not. 

 

Schools for ultralight sailplanes in the world

I am not sure how they do it when you only have a single seat version of the ultralight sailplane and a total beginner pilot. Do they put you on top of a hill and ask you to jump or roll off?? Any more info on how they do it and where, is very very welcome.

At this moment i only know how one school works. It is Avia Airsports. The school where they teach you to fly the SWIFT, by using the Bi-SWIFT, a two-seater. The following video shows how they work. The kid at 02:40 ...is my son. He was 14 at that time! Talking about beginner pilots.  :)

Visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AviaAirsports/