Launch Methods

There are two main methods of launching a glider - winch launch and aerotow. The first is the cheaper method, but doesn't launch the glider as high as an aerotow. Typically a winch launch will take you to between 1000 and 1500'. An aerotow will typically take you to 2000', but you can request to go higher. Winch launches have a fixed price, while aerotows depend on how high you wish to go.

In a winch launch a powerful engine drives a large drum and rapidly winds in the cable which is attached to the glider. THe glider then rises like a kite. At the top of the launch the pilot releases the cable and flies off. The acceleration is very rapid - from walking pace to 60 kts in about 5 seconds. The angle of climb looks steep, but if you look out to the side, you can see it is not as steep as you imagine.

Aminated winch launch

It is a big mistake to roll your head back as the glider rotates into the climb. This fools your brain into thinking the glider is climbing very steeply and confuses you. This is because the head movement doubles the amount of movement the fluid in the inner ear receives which is what tells the brain your attitude. So just hold your head in its normal position. Even experienced pilots find it confusing if they roll their head back - I did this once recently when I imagined that I'd heard a noise behind me and was surprised at how it felt.

.ASK 21 winch launching

In an aerotow, the glider is connected to a rope with a tug - a light aircraft - on the other end of it and towed behind it up to the chosen release height. This is a much more relaxed and sedate way to launch, but it is more expensive. However it has the advantages that you get taken higher, therefore stay up longer, and can be taken to a nice cloud with a thermal under it, to help lengthen your flight even more. Good pilots simply find a thermal quickly off a cheap winch launch and climb away.

Follow that tug!
The view from the inside, sitting in the rear seat. (The instructor's seat.)
Lift off on aerotow
The view from the outside.
Competition standard instrument panel
And looking down at the instument panel.


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