As gliders do not have engines, they need to be launched into the air. A higher launch means a longer flight, however if the weather is suitable for soaring it is only necessary to launch high enough to find a thermal. Cambridge Gliding Centre offers two launch options
Launch Height – 1,200 to 1,700 ft
Members Price – £11 per launch
Launch Time – 45 seconds
Winch launching is the most common launch method in the UK. It is fast, cheap, and is how most people learn to fly. The glider is attached to a long cable, which is wound in but a powerful engine, dragging the glider into the air. The relatively low launch height normally only allows for short flights (5 – 10 minutes). However, during early training short flights allow lots of practice of take-off, circuits, and landings, which is just what a student pilot needs. When the weather permits soaring, it can be difficult for an inexperienced pilot to find a thermal quickly enough from a winch launch.
Launch Height – 2,000 – 5,000 ft
Members Price – £29 (2,000 ft), £36.50 (3,000 ft), £44 (4,000 ft)
Launch Time – 5 – 10 minutes
Aerotowing is the slower, gentler, more expensive way to get into the air, but it allows you to launch much higher. The glider is pulled into the air behind a powered aircraft, and thus can go as high a you are willing to pay for. Trial flights are usually done on aerotow as are some of the advanced training exercises.
Launches between 2,000 – 3,000 ft typically suffice for training or soaring needs with higher launches of up to 5,000 ft only necessary for aerobatic training.