Information for Local Residents: Club history, regulation and launch methods

A short history

Cambridge University Gliding Club which subsequently became Cambridge Gliding Club and now Cambridge Gliding Centre moved from Duxford Airfield to Gransden Lodge Airfield in 1991.


The nature of our operation, hours of operation and the maximum number of certain types of launching in a day are governed by planning permissions granted by Huntingdonshire District and South Cambs District Councils. Both Councils are involved because the DC boundaries cross our airfield.

Where we may fly once airborne is determined by the competent aviation authority, which is the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) who in turn delegate certain powers to the British Gliding Association (BGA).

Launch Methods

Winch Launching

Our principle and most economical launch method is winching.  This uses powerful winches to pull the sailplanes into the air like a kite. We have invested over £150,000 over the past 5 years in new, cleaner and more powerful winches, giving higher launches.  We typical deliver 6000-7000 winch launches a year.  They have no/minimal environmental impact and are not subject to any planning restrictions.

Winch launching


Our secondary launch method is aerotowing, using small powered aircraft (‘tugs’ or ‘towplanes’) to tow gliders into the air. We typically undertake 1500-1800 aerotows a year. Over our 25 years + at Gransden Lodge we have voluntarily developed flight corridors we expect our tug and self-launching pilots to follow if it is safe to do so. These corridors are designed to minimise the impact of these operations on neighbouring properties. The routes followed on a day will depend on wind strength and direction, and other air traffic that may be in the area.

Tow out corridors

We now operate two purpose designed Robin DR400-180R tow planes. These have good aerodynamics and a light airframe to provide a good climb rate when towing sailplanes. They are equipped with additional certified equipment to allow us to reduce their noise footprint in line with our planning consents.

One of our Robin tow planes

We are now permitted up to 60 aerotow launches a day (including any self-launching sailplane launches). Tugs operating from Gransden Lodge must also meet strict international noise certification requirements.

To accommodate occasional competitions, we are also permitted to increase this limit to 75 launches annually on up to 14 days between 1st April and 30th September each year subject to notifying planning authorities and local Parish Councils in advance of any organised events.  

The vast majority of aerotows take place between 11am and 3pm when gliding conditions are usually at their best.

Self-launching sailplanes

From November 2018 launches by Self-launching Sailplanes (SLS) are permitted from Gransden Lodge subject to the maximum number of launches defined for aerotowing.  Self-launching Sailplanes are conventional sailplanes with a retractable engine that can be folded away when the aircraft has achieved the required launch height. SLS operating from Gransden Lodge must (like our tow planes) meet strict international noise certification criteria and we require them to follow the same noise minimisation corridors already designed for our aerotow operations.

A typical self-launching sailplane

Touring Motor Glider

We also operate a Touring Motor Glider (TMG) at Gransden Lodge. This has a fixed engine and propeller. Its primary task is to provide air experience flights for young people through the Scouting organisation. The Club also uses it for certain training exercises including cross country navigation.

Touring Motor Glider