Copyright Charles Forsyth

  Why an F15 Eagle? 


As a member of the gliding club, you may get opportunities to visit some great places!


Some members took a trip to RAF Lakenheath during 2014 to fly the USAF F15-C multi-million dollar flight simulators.


You may fancy a trip to Aboyne to fly 20,000 feet or more above the beautiful Cairngorm mountains! Several of our members embark on an autum trip each year to do just that, don't forget the oxygen bottle and the Kendal Mint cake!


This year in March 2016 some club members are travelling to Long Mynd to catch some ridge lift over Shropshire's beautiful rolling countryside.

F15-E (Photograph taken on our club trip to RAF Lakenheath)

Final approach




Alex Harris, until recently our Chief Flying Instructor for 2018 and twice UK National Aerobatic Champion pilot, seen here providing inspiration to young viewers of BBC TV's Blue Peter program during 2013.


Learning to fly gliders often provides the foundation for a career in aviation. Alex's father is an airline captain and instructor based at Essex Gliding Club.

Our child protection policy can be found on this link.


Our British Gliding Association qualified instructors use the PW6 and K13 two-seater dual-control gliders for teaching, and you will be sitting in the front seat, with the instructor helping from the rear seat.

All the instruction is done in very easy stages; the first flights for the ‘fixed price to solo’ course will take place from an aero-tow to ensure that you have a long time in the air to get used to the controls.  The instructor is always ready to take over control (just like learning to drive – but all the controls are duplicated in the rear cockpit of the glider) so you can be confident that the instructor will not let any situation get out of control.   As with learning to drive, everything will appear to be ‘all happening at once’, but you will very quickly become accustomed to the new sensations of flying.

Once you have reached a suitable level of competence, you will have the thrill of your first ‘solo’ flight – something that you will never ever forget – even more memorable than your first drive without ‘L’ plates!


The medical requirements for flying are very straightforward – all you need is a valid driving licence, or if you don’t drive, a certificate from your doctor – the club can provide you with the necessary forms.


The adventure of gliding doesn’t just ‘stop’ after your first solo flight – there is a whole new area of skills to learn and perfect – how to thermal, navigate, fly cross-country, to do aerobatics, improving your landings and launches and how to predict the weather – it is a never-ending list of challenges!  One of our club members who learnt to fly at the club has won the UK National Aerobatic Championships twice!


The club will continue to help you improve by giving free tuition in the two-seater, and you will progress onto the ‘Marianne’, which is a high-performance glider designed especially for long-distance gliding.  You will also be able to fly our single-seat ‘Astir’ for solo soaring flights, or you may even want to buy your own glider!  Again, the more experienced club members will be able to guide you in your decisions.


Even when you wait for your chance to fly, there is always a lot to do in helping around the airfield – launching and retrieving the gliders, manning the control point, becoming a winch driver – it is always busy, we are all volunteers depending on each other to help us all enjoy the sport and thrill of gliding.

Why can’t I just book an hour’s flying?

Not ideal, because the amount of flying you get depends on weather and skill. Plus you need other members to be there to enable you to fly, and they need the same courtesy from you. Anyone who takes up gliding seriously will find it's done in full days. A typical gliding day for an experienced pilot might be 40 mins assembling the glider, the same helping others to rig, an hour or two doing club stuff while you wait for the weather to come right, 2-6 hrs airborne, an hour de-rigging and helping others, plus of course all the time spent chatting with friends about the anticipated/achieved flight.

Is it all day for one training flight?

Not at Ridgewell. Though it would be nice if you drove the retrieve vehicle (just as someone retrieved you after your own flights). In training 3-5 flights per day is common. We tend to stop because everyone has had enough, not because night has fallen.

How long will it take for me to go solo?


The time it takes to become proficient enough to fly solo very much depends on the individual.


Gliding is all about consistency, flying on a regular basis, especially during training.

Individuals need to have good hand/feet eye co-ordination and to be able to demonstrate sensible decision-making. There will be times during training when the student will deliberately be put into simulated emergency situations and have to perform under pressure, (gliding instructors are highly trained and have many hours of experience, your safety is well assured).


You will have to demonstrate that you can cope with simulated emergencies, such as cable breaks at any height from winch and aero tow launches, and how to recover from becoming too low in the circuit for landing.

The student will be put into unusual flying attitudes from which he/she will need to recover. Learning how to recover from stalls and recover from spins are an important part of learning to fly a glider. The student will need to be proficient in coping with the challenges of windy days and cross wind landings and take-off's.


It goes without saying, being able to judge distances and height are very important. Aptitude and being confident are important too, not so confident that you cannot be critical of your own flying. Prospective pilots will have the ability to learn from books and to eventually pass written tests after completing their first solo flights, (air law, navigation, meteorology & the principles of flight) assuming you decide to continue gliding after reaching solo.


Considering that the student pilot has the abilities mentioned here, it may take you between 70 and 100 flights to go solo. Some people take more flights/time to reach solo flying standard, I have known people in the past to solo with less than 50 flights while attending intensive daily gliding courses, typically 70 of more flights would be more realistic.


If you are fortunate to have previous flying experience, this will help you with learning to fly gliders and give you an advantage.

We have a deal for PPL & ATPL pilots as well as microlight pilots.

Even if you never decide to fly solo, you will have experienced a wonderful sport and learned much more about yourself, gliding can be a character building experience especially for young students.

An awe inspiring & truly beautiful video by Balleka

Climbing on a winch launch

I have reached solo, how much will my flying cost me over the next year?


Using the club aircraft you can fly 20-30 hours a year for around £1,500 all in (including your annual membership). It’s hard to fly more because you have to share the aircraft with other members on the good days.


If you buy a 50% share in a mid-performance glider (£4-5k for your share) you could fly 40 hours per year for between £1,500 and £2,000.


If you bought the same glider outright you could manage 50-100 hours per year for between £2,500 and £3,000.


If you want to compete internationally, it’s £100k+ for the right glider and, well, you don’t want to know the other costs just yet!

Advanced glider training .......

Einar Enevoldson and the late Steve Fossett wearing their spacesuits after climbing to 50721.785 feet (15’460m) on 29 August 2006.

Flying from El Calafate, Argentina attaining the absolute world gliding altitude record!

Note: This record now appears to be broken, click on this link to learn about the Airbus Perlan Project. A flight reaching an altitude of 15,902 metres was made on the 3rd September 2017!

Once you have gone solo you will be awarded your first gliding certificate and gain your first gliding badge. To find out more about gliding badges/awards please CLICK the GOLD GLIDING BADGE.

Sorry, we are unable to offer this type of advanced training at the moment!

Mailing Address

Essex Gliding Club

c/o Breckenridge

Smiths Court

Thornwood, Essex

CM16 6BD

The Clubhouse

Ridgewell Airfield

Ashen Road




CO10 8JU

Flying days ...........
Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays.
Holiday flying weeks throughout the year, (refer to our calendar page).
Call us  

07538 639772 (Office)

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Contact: Tony Brook

©2016  Essex Gliding Club.    Website concept, design & construction by Charles Forsyth

Glider club and courses