Here at MotorGlide, we’ve been busy all year long with teaching people to fly, but we’ve also had lots of people come to us for their first ever flying experience. We’re always surprised by the number of experienced pilots who don’t know much about motorgliding – let alone members of the public! So today we thought we’d go back to basics with a post on what motorgliding actually is. This post was originally published on our sister company, Air Experiences, and we’ve reposted it here for the benefit of anyone who’s wondering: just what exactly is motorgliding?
You’ve heard of light aircraft, and you’ve almost certainly heard of gliding. But what about motorgliding? Not many people are aware that motorgliders offer the best of both worlds, so if you’re struggling to choose between flying a light aircraft and flying a glider, motorgliding could be for you. It’s also a lot cheaper than flying a light aircraft, and you get longer flights for your money than you would in a typical gliding training flight, making it an affordable and cost-effective way to experience flying or even learn to fly.
What is a motorglider?
The short answer is: exactly what it says on the tin! It’s a glider with a motor. This means that it has long wings like a glider, but it has an engine, so it can get off the ground of its own accord, without the need for a winch or aerotow. Because it has long wings, you can turn the engine off in flight and use it as a glider. Not only does this mean you can enjoy a quieter flight, but it also saves lots of money on fuel! Because of the extra weight of having an engine on board, it probably won’t fly as far as a glider, so you’d need a nice thermic day to enjoy soaring in a motorglider.
Types of motorglider
Motorgliders come in many shapes and sizes. Some are really just gliders with a small propeller that pops out of the back to get them airborne, and once airborne the pilot retracts the propeller and uses the aircraft as a normal glider. These could be described as ‘self-launching motorgliders’ (SLMG). Other motorgliders – ‘touring motorgliders’ – are basically just light aircraft but with longer wings, and can be used for long-distance journeys, with the engine remaining switched on the whole time, just like any other light aircraft. Unlike gliders, they can be used to get to places because they’re able to take off under their own steam. Here are some of the most common motorglider types in the UK.
Slingsby T61 Venture
First flown in 1971, these basic motorgliders – also known as Falkes or Ventures – were used by the RAF to train new pilots. With a cruise speed of around 60kts, they’re on the slow side, but they make great training aircraft as they’re quite tricky to fly.
The SF25 is similar to the Venture – it’s the earlier German version, first flown in 1963, upon which the Venture was based – but in many ways it’s better. The SF25 comes in several versions, with single, double or tricycle undercarriage and different sizes of engine. They have a cruise speed of 70-80kts, so they’re a bit quicker than the Venture.
The Grob 109 is very popular in both civilian and military flying schools, and replaced the T61 Venture as RAF cadet training aircraft (it’s known by the RAF as the Vigilant T1). The Grob 109 had its first flight in 1980 and was still used by the RAF until this summer.
The Dimona is a contemporary of the Grob 109, designed by Wolff Hoffman and manufactured by Diamond aircraft. This fibreglass aircraft comes in ‘taildragging’ (with a tailwheel) and tricycle undercarriage versions. The so-called ‘Super Dimona’ is the same aircraft with a few small differences, the main one being that it has a more powerful engine. With a cruise speed of around 90 to 100kts, these are somewhat speedier than the Venture and SF25, and they have feathering propellers, designed to make them more aerodynamic when soaring with the engine off.
What are motorgliders used for?
The most common use for motorgliders in the UK historically has been as RAF Air Cadet training aircraft and in gliding clubs. Many gliding clubs have a motorglider as part of their fleet as a means of carrying out additional training for glider pilots. They are a convenient way of making the transition from gliding to powered aircraft, and they can also be used for gliding exercises and tests. MotorGlide is one of the country’s only dedicated motorgliding flying clubs, and it comes under the umbrella of the British Gliding Association.
Switching the engine off: should I be scared?
We’ve found that some of our passengers are alarmed at the prospect of switching the engine off in flight. While it does feel counterintuitive to switch off the engine in flight, there really is nothing to be worried about! With those long wings, a motorglider is designed to be flown with the engine off and will go a lot further than a normal light aircraft would without an engine. What’s more, the engine can simply be switched back on when you’re ready to land or if you’re getting too low. In the meantime, your instructor will be looking for thermals, which are rising columns of air that allow the aircraft to gain altitude and therefore time in the air, just like a glider.
5 reasons to try a motorglider experience
If you needed any more persuading, here are our top five reasons for trying a motorglider experience…
- You’ll be able to say you’ve tried gliding AND light aircraft flights!
- Motorgliding is cheaper than flying a light aircraft, especially if you come back to fly regularly for lessons.
- Motorgliders offer a gentler take-off experience than the scarily steep climb you’d get in a glider on a winch launch.
- It’s the perfect experience for those looking for something a bit different from the ordinary.
- It’s nice and quiet with the engine turned off – just the sound of the wind whistling past.
If you’re interested in experiencing what it’s like to fly a motorglider, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07976 985 689 to arrange a flying lesson at our base at Long Marston Airfield near Stratford-upon-Avon.
Club member Mike Rogers had been in discussion with our CFI Lee for many weeks about how he could involve flying and proposing to his girlfriend Jo.
Mike spent many weeks preparing for his big proposal; whilst Jo was at work he would sneak out to his parents’ house with tins of black paint and draw up his giant wedding banner.
On the big day Mike and Jo came to the airfield for what Jo thought was going to be a normal local flight. What Jo wasn’t aware of was what Mike had prepared: he had booked a restaurant and hotel, his parents had hidden a picnic at the airfield for the couple’s return, and most sneaky of all, Mike had packed an overnight bag for Jo without her realising (although whilst sitting in the car at home she did wonder what Mike was up to taking so long to lock up the house!).
Mike and Jo took off in Wilhelm and flew over Mike’s banner. He proposed to Jo in-flight and of course she said yes!
Huge congratulations to Mike Rogers & Jo Illingworth :)
MotorGlide member Stan Shires achieves a flying milestone.
The other week I accomplished the real main reason for me learning to fly. What was it? My First Solo? No, though that was a very satisfying first. Was it was the Cross-Country or General Skills Test? No: they were mere gateways to get me to this meaningful event.
You see, about thirty-seven years ago when I was a 6-year old boy, I started to go flying with my dad. We lived on the London/Essex border and he was flying out of Stapleford Abbots in Essex. My dad was in various groups, including a Tiger Moth. However, his flying got serious when he bought his own plane: a Stampe SV4C (G-AZTR) – the French equivalent of a Tiger Moth. He is an accomplished pilot and learned to do aerobatic and even competed. One of my lasting regrets is that we never did aeros as I was too young and too scared.
After a few years he sold the Stampe and bought a Beechcraft Bonanza (G-BGSW). This was a beautiful plane – a fast 4-seat tourer with retractable undercarriage and variable prop. We toured as far as Spain, Portugal, Finland via Denmark and Sweden and regularly went to France.
However there came a point when my parents moved abroad and his licence lapsed. Suddenly 20 years had passed. Then my dad hit 70 years old. It was then he was revalidated and started flying again. He now flies every week in a PA28 out of Wellesbourne.
So that is the background to the real main reason for me learning to fly. I wanted to be like my dad. So the other day we met at Long Marston and got Wilhelm ready. I went through the Daily Inspection and followed all my checks. Finally we lined up, with the GoPro recording all of this, and then I opened the throttle.
For the first time I was in the left hand seat. We flew around for about an hour and then returned to Long Marston. After about an hour I made a fine approach and made a very good landing (for me at least). As we taxied back I don’t know which one of us was more proud. I could see the genuine pride in his face and I was bursting with pride that I was a slightly average version of him. He complimented me during a debrief on a very safe and smooth flight. He even complimented the landing saying it was better than the guy he normally flies with in the PA28.
Afterwards we went for a pint and a Cuban cigar. I don’t know who was more proud, but for the first time I was in the left-hand seat and I did a good job.
One of the big flying tests you do towards the end of your NPPL training is your Qualifying Cross Country flight, a 100km solo that includes landing away at two other airfields. One of our members, Stan Shires, completed his on Bank Holiday Monday and today he shares his experiences of this milestone in his flying career.
Last Sunday I took my big penultimate step in my quest to gain my flying license. It was time for my Cross Country test. I had planned it all out in my head and had chosen the first leg to be from MotorGlide’s new base at Long Marston to Enstone. I chose Enstone as it has a lovely long runway, I did my first solo there and knew the airfield and circuit well as I had my first few lessons there. The second leg was going to be from Enstone to Shobdon. Its runway was aligned with Enstone so if the wind was right I was all sorted. I had not landed there myself but I had flown in with my dad.
I awoke early thinking about the flight and started working on my plog, checking the weather and for NOTAMs. All was going well until Lee sent me a text saying the wind was in the wrong direction so it was time to through my plans out and pick two new airfields. I could feel my tension rising as I started from scratch again and tried to get my head around visiting two new airfields.
This was going to be a day of firsts:
- Flying away from Home for the first time alone
- Making a PPR call
- Speaking to London info
- Landing at new airfields I had never been to before
With advice from Lee I chose Halfpenny Green near Wolverhampton for the first leg. Then it was a long leg, into wind, down to Kemble. Then back home. I planned the route again and got myself all set. Wilhelm was full to the brim and we were ready to go. However before I could start up I had to make my PPR call to Halfpenny Green to tell them I was on my way. Isn’t it funny how making a phone call about something new requires a bit of thought. I rang them up, passed my details and answered their questions. I made a point of telling everyone that I was a student pilot, which seems to make people more understanding. Even just knowing the runway in use and the direction of the circuit calmed my nerves a bit as I made a note.
The flight to Halfpenny Green passed without note. I changed frequency and started listening to the traffic, which confirmed the info I had from my PPR call was still valid. After a while I made my call, told them I was a student, used the radio script in Wilhelm in an attempt to sound professional. Standard overhead join, call downwind, call final and I was down. The tower then advised me on where to taxi and I parked up.
As I walked to the public area part of me was thinking, “Blimey I am a pilot!” Halfpenny Green is an old World War 2 airfield. Maybe I should visit as many as I can as a nice little personal goal with my flying? Anyway in the tower I gave the two guys there my form to sign and paid my landing fee. While I was there the Air Ambulance flew past and landed, which added to the occasion.
Time was pressing and I had a long leg down to Kemble and it was all into the wind. I phoned Kemble and the lady who took my details was very encouraging to this student pilot but told me not to hang about as they closed at 5.
After a while in the air I thanked Halfpenny Green and changed frequency to London info. Like the first PPR call speaking to London info got my heart racing a tad. I listened for a few minutes before finally calling them up. I thought I did OK but they then asked me for my current location. Oops I forgot to say I was over Worcester. They were fine and very unthreatening to the student pilot. I needn’t have worried. Squawk was set. As I listened to the other pilots asking for basic service I noticed with some reassurance that I was not the only one who left an item or two out of my information.
After an hour into wind I spotted Kemble and all was quiet. I joined downwind and made all my calls. The runway is massive, which made the landing easy to sort out but meant a long taxi. Up in the tower I met the lady who had been so nice on the PPR call. I would have liked to have enjoyed the stop more but she pointed out it was 16:47 and they close at 17:00.
After a quick toilet stop to make sure I was comfortable I was quickly back on the radio and ready to taxi. By the time of my power checks Kemble came on the radio, passed their final info and signed off. So there I was all alone with my own airfield. Time to get going and head back to Long Marston.
Back at Long Marston I must have been more tired than I thought with all the concentration of take-offs, landings and radio work. I made a pig’s ear of my first approach and went around for another go. This time I was on the numbers and taxied back towards the clubhouse. Rachel & Lee were waiting for me and Rachel even took some pictures so I have some nice shots of me to go with the ones I took with my iPhone.
So my day of firsts went well and I had passed my Cross Country without incident. 2.1 hours of solo time to go in my logbook plus two new airfields too. Now I just need a couple more hours solo then it is time for my General Skills Test with Matt Lane. So with a bit of luck and some decent weather I will have my NPPL-SLMG very soon.
As a pilot, it’s essential to think in 3D. A ground-based forecast of the sort transmitted after the news isn’t sufficient preparation for a flight, as wind speed and direction vary with altitude. This means that to plan a flight accurately, you need to be aware of wind speed and direction at your planned altitude. The forecast you need in order to do this is the Met Office 214 – the UK Spot Winds.
Start by logging into the Met Office aviation section – click ‘Launch’ once you’ve registered your details.
It’s vital to select the forecast that’s valid for the time window in which you’re going to fly – there will be several listed, including some for time periods that have already been and gone. You can double check the validity period at the top of the chart, where it tells you the times and dates. This one is valid between 9am and 3pm UTC. However, though the validity window says 09 – 15 UTC, you’ll notice above this that it says ‘Forecast for 12 UTC’ – this means that it is actually a snapshot of the forecast winds at 12:00 UTC; the winds before and after this time will probably be slightly different. (It’s also worth remembering that UTC is the same as GMT; therefore it is currently an hour behind UK local time, as we’re on BST.)
Choose the box that covers the region you’re flying in. Each box is labelled with Lat/Long coordinates, which are those of the point at which the forecast applies. At MotorGlide, we’re looking at the one four rows down and three across, over the Midlands.
The columns in each box are as follows:
Column 1 – altitude.
Column 2 – wind direction
Column 3 – wind speed
Column 4 – air temperature (Celsius)
For example, for our Midlands box, the wind is 210 degrees at 5kts, with an air temperature of +7 degrees.
A couple of interesting points to remark on this particular forecast: firstly the unusual occurrence of “CALM” at 5,000ft, meaning no significant wind. Secondly, “VRB” at 2,000ft, which indicates that the wind direction is variable. At 5kts a variable wind direction isn’t too much to worry about – it’s when it’s gusting in different directions that life gets difficult. It just means that it’s going to be harder to calculate accurate flight times between destinations.
So what if you’re between boxes?
If you’re slap bang in the middle of two boxes, simply take the difference between the two. For instance, if you were between our Midlands box and the one to the right of it, and you want to know wind speed and direction at 1,000ft, you have:
5kts – 10kts – so about 7kts
210 – 150 degrees – so about 180 degrees (210 – 150 = 60, half 60 = 30, 150 + 30 = 180)
All make sense?
If you’re preparing for your meteorology exam, why not come to MotorGlide for your ground school and exam? We’ll take you through everything you need to know for the exam and then you take the exam with us at our Long Marston base. What’s more, we won’t charge you until you pass.
It’s the moment all that flight training has been leading up to, but your Navigation and General Skills Tests are probably the most daunting aspects of learning to fly. In this post, our examiner Matt Lane shares his top tips for passing your tests. These tips are invaluable insider knowledge for any student pilot, including licence renewals and glider pilots who are converting to SLMG after a short period of training.
This is a quick article I have penned to perhaps settle a few urban myths about flight tests and give some useful advice when preparing for your skills test, whether it be for the first time or a renewal test. Any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below!
1. Know the Skills Test schedule
Don’t worry about remembering everything you need to do during the skills test – the Examiner will brief you thoroughly and prompt you through the test items during the flight. However, it is important you are confident and happy you can fly all the test items that will be asked of you, so your pre-test work-up is the time to practise any you are unsure about or rusty on. The test details are all available on the NPPL website in the SLMG syllabus documents, so have a read through with your instructor and make sure you are happy with all the syllabus items.
2. Prepare yourself
If you are not physically prepared, you won’t fly well. A good night’s sleep, a drive to the airfield in plenty of time and being well fed/watered is as crucial as pre-flighting the aircraft. Don’t be afraid to take a small sports bottle of water in the aircraft with you as well if you need, especially in summer. Decent sunglasses and appropriate clothing for the conditions are also vital.
3. Do your route study
When you have planned your route, take plenty of time to mentally fly round it and think out what fixes and features you are going to look for, when you will do checks and RT calls, what airspace is around you, where the weather is in relation to your route and what in-flight diversion options you may have. This will help prevent you having to spend excessive time heads down looking at your map during the flight, which will compromise your lookout and flying accuracy. Even on a local flight, make sure you have a good mental model of airspace, weather constraints and ‘anchor features’ you can keep in sight to keep in your desired area – upper air winds can soon drift you into unexpected areas, as a number of Wellesbourne pilots who have busted Birmingham airspace can testify!
4. Cut out the c**p!
There is no need to take the entire contents of the Transair catalogue flying with you – there is nothing worse than having pens and stuff drop everywhere when you are getting in, or worse in flight. Take what you need and make sure it is secure, yet accessible, during flight. Get rid of loose change, car keys and other junk from your pockets. Taking a mobile is a good idea in case of a forced landing, but turn it off or to flight mode rather than just silent, as it is amazing how distracted people get by it vibrating away in their pocket!
5. Try to relax during the flight
Ha, easy for an Examiner to say, you are thinking! The thing to remember is that we are not looking for perfection or trying to select the next Red Arrows pilot recruit. All we want to see is a safe, competent and well-handled flight, as if you were solo or with a non-pilot passenger. If you make a mistake, let the Examiner know and do your best to correct it. Equally, if you drift from your heading/speed/height, we want to see a prompt recognition and effective correction – it is not an immediate fail. Remember, test failures are rare and only in cases where there was a clear safety concern or repeated errors that the candidate failed to recognise and correct.
6. Don’t worry about what the Examiner is doing
Examiners are not supposed to distract the candidate, so don’t worry if we are not chatting away and seem a bit quiet – we are just trying to give you some peace to concentrate on your flying. We will quite happily engage in conversation if you want to, but if you want to concentrate don’t be afraid to ask the Examiner to be quiet! After all, it is an essential skill once you have your licence to manage your passengers at important moments of the flight.
We will also usually bring a kneeboard and may scribble things down. Don’t worry about that; we generally note things down to help debrief at the end, and these could be good or bad things, so don’t stress that writing = errors! Equally, don’t waste your time trying to read our scribblings. With my handwriting, you won’t be able to anyway!
7. Aviate – Navigate – Communicate!
This is an old adage, but a good one! What it really means is prioritise your actions appropriately and don’t overload yourself with trying to do too many things at once. It happens to us all – I failed my first PPL Nav test by trying to turn at a waypoint, talk to (then active) RAF Cottesmore ATC and descend below cloud all at once. I set off on the wrong heading and went the wrong side of Rutland Water through RAF Wittering MATZ, which convinced my Examiner I had messed it up! Don’t rush and set off on a nav leg before you have got the aircraft settled at your desired height, speed and heading, and if the circumstance requires, don’t be afraid to tell ATC to ‘standby’ while you sort out more pressing things. The adage is also great advice for dealing with emergencies – whether simulated or real – as failing to complete your mayday call won’t hurt you, but getting slow and stalling certainly will!
8. Try to get your RT slick
There is nothing that will sap your capacity more than struggling to get your RT calls out or replies in. If you are confident and slick with what you are going to say it will make your flying a lot easier. FISO/ATCOs are usually very happy for Tower visits – take the opportunity to sit in and understand how things flow from their end of the microphone. If you can anticipate how the FISO/ATCO will respond to your calls, it gives your brain a mental head start for a slick reply. Don’t be afraid to practise saying out your RT calls at home or on car journeys (probably on your own!) – it is a great way of running through a simulated flight.
9. Keep the workcycle going
When airborne, your workcycle should be based around LOOKOUT – ATTITUDE – INSTRUMENTS, with the majority of the time spent on an all round good LOOKOUT, with confirmatory checks of ATTITUDE and INSTRUMENTS. Spending excessive time ‘heads in’ looking at maps, instruments or PLOGs is dangerous and will compromise your flying accuracy. If you need to look at charts or PLOG or do checks, make sure you break it up and keep the lookout going. The majority of problems during navigation stem from candidates staring at their map while the aircraft drifts off heading and/or height! An old RAF tip – hold checklists and maps up at canopy level to look at them rather than on your knees. It keeps your peripheral vision working on the aircraft attitude and lookout and I guarantee you will fly more accurately.
10. Don’t be afraid to Go Around!
Don’t persist with a bad approach if it goes wrong on the day. An examiner will be far more impressed to see you make a timely and safe decision to go around rather than continuing a poor approach, which will inevitably result in an untidy or unacceptable landing. Everyone has an approach go a bit wrong at times; the real error is to let it develop rather than going around and repositioning for another go.
For bonus points, name the pilot of the unfortunate aircraft in this photo showing what happens when you persist with a bad approach!
Welcome to the brand new MotorGlide blog! Over the coming months, we’re going to be adding loads of useful content to this blog, including:
- Top flying tips
- Motorgliding news
- Resources aimed at student pilots and qualified pilots
- Tips for converting to motorgliding from gliders, SEP and other aircraft types
- Useful insider advice from our examiner
And lots more! Including, of course, the most important bits of club news.
If you have any suggestions for what you’d like to see covered on this blog, let us know in the comments below. It could be a specific question about motorgliding, a general topic you’re struggling with, or anything else – we’ll do our best to answer it in a dedicated blog post.
Our first proper post will be coming soon courtesy of our examiner, Matt Lane, and you don’t want to miss it, so bookmark this blog and check back regularly for updates! You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss any new posts.