The Gliding Sport in the UK

Although gliding as a sport begun in the 1920s; in the UK, it was first practiced in 1922 in a competition organised in East Sussex. Following years of silence, the sport was revived again with the formation of the British Gliding Association (BGA) in 1929. The BGA is the body that governs gliding in the UK.

Gliding is adventurous, affordable, exciting and inclusive. It involves flying an unpowered aircraft, designed to be sustained in the air through thermal and air currents and operates under the same principles as flying birds. The gliders fly at a speed of about 100 miles per hour with flight distances averaging at about 1000 km and the highest point ever been achieved in the UK being 30,000 feet.

People of all backgrounds, physical abilities and ages can take part, although there is a set minimum age for gliding (13 years). The affordability of gliding arises from the fact that while hiring a glider can cost only £20 per hour with aero tow costing £30, hiring a plane costs about £150 per hour. Even with this level of affordability and inclusivity, the UK has only about 85 gliding clubs, with 2,300 gliders and 9,462 full flying members including the BGA personnel. According to available statistics, a further 17,000 people have experiences of gliding on an annual basis, but this is a small figure compared to the UK population that is above 13 years.

Despite the fact that sporting activities, and especially among the youth and persons with disabilities are supported in the UK, it is not clear how many charitable trusts support gliding. Moreover, no data are available concerning the level of funding that has been advanced in the past to support the training of glider pilots. It appears to be a sport whose potential in supporting integration, social support and cohesion, teamwork and the spirit of adventure is yet to be realized.

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