Civil Air Patrol Glider
Gliders play an extremely important role in the Civil Air Patrol.
A primary mission of the Civil Air Patrol, or CAP, is aerospace education. Civil Air Patrol gliders are one of the tools we use to help teach people about the principles of flight. While many people think that engines are what keep a plane aloft, it is actually air flowing over the wings that provides lift.
Jets and propellers can increase the amount of air flowing over a wing. However, gliders are proof that engines are not strictly needed to fly. This makes a glider one of the most effective demonstration tools for the mechanics of flight.
What Is a Glider?
Put simply, a glider is a fixed-wing aircraft without any engine or mechanical means of propulsion. While a glider may be towed aloft by another plane, no engine is needed to keep the glider airborne. Air moving over the wings creates the mechanics of lift, which as the word implies, can keep the glider flying.
Another name for a glider is a “sailplane.” While glider is a more common term, sailplane is often used within the unpowered aircraft community. Sailplane is both descriptive and poetic, suggesting the serenity of flying through the air in one.
How Many Gliders Does the Civil Air Patrol Have?
The Civil Air Patrol operates 46 gliders throughout the United States. The Florida Wing has one glider. We have frequently hosted the glider at the Hernando County Composite Squadron.
Florida Wing Glider Operations
While it is frequently based at our squadron, the Florida Wing glider can be disassembled and moved to other airports around the state. In the past, other Groups in the Florida Wing have received the glider for orientation flights and training.
However, the glider is traditionally located at the Hernando County Composite Squadron. Located at an airport, we have the facilities to park the glider, store its tools and accessories and host visiting squadrons who come for glider ops from other areas of the state.
We have an excellent relationship with the Brooksville Tampa Bay Regional Airport. The airport allows us to conduct glider operations from the taxiway that runs parallel to the main runway. As the taxiway is directly adjacent to our squadron building, this allows us to efficiently set up and conduct the operations.
The Florida Wing operates a Blanik L-23 glider. Its tail number is N363BA. Our Blanik L-23 is a two-seat model allowing a qualified pilot to give orientation flights to cadets. It also allows an instructor to work with student pilots.
First flown in 1988, the L-23 glider was developed in the former Czechoslovakia. After the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, Czechoslovakia split, and the Blanik Aircraft CZ company continued operations in the Czech Republic.
Wing Runner Training
As with any air operations, glider ops require trained ground personnel to ensure safe take-offs, flights and recoveries. Under the supervision of trained senior members, cadets comprise the majority of a Wing Runner Team.
A Wing Runner Team is a group of specially trained cadets and senior members that handle all of the ground operations. This includes:
- moving the glider while it is on the ground,
- conducting all communications between the glider and tow plane,
- conducting all communications between the ground team and the control tower,
- assisting pilots with control checks,
- protecting the glider,
- positioning and connection of the tow rope,
- performing spotting duties and
- recovery and inspection of the tow rope.
The full CAP Glider Program Procedures Manual is here.
The Soaring Society of America graciously extends free memberships to Civil Air Patrol cadets. The membership allows cadets to access the SSA website, magazine archive, electronic newsletters and much more. You can sign up here – just scroll down to the bottom section and find the “Cadet” membership. Make sure you enter our website address, fl301.cap.gov, when it asks “Where did you learn about SSA Cadets.”
Additionally, as members, CAP cadets are eligible to apply for multiple flight scholarships. If getting a pilot’s license – powered or glider – is of interest, make sure you read our Learn to Fly page.
U.S. Air Force Gliders
As the official auxiliary to the United States Air Force, the Civil Air Patrol often aligns closely with the military in areas such as flight training. As such, the CAP glider program is an excellent experience for anyone seeking to attend the U.S.A.F. Academy.
At the United States Air Force Academy, first-year cadets (freshmen) participate in an introductory glider class that involves four flights. As Civil Air Patrol cadets typically participate in three glider orientation flights, the CAP cadets who gain admittance to the USAF Academy may find the soaring classes a natural extension of existing training.
The previous acclimation to non-powered flight through the Civil Air Patrol allows cadets to be better learners. Air Force Academy cadets can continue with glider training and receive pilot and instructor licenses during their time there.
Currently, the U.S. Air Force Academy operates 19 TG-16 gliders. They are made by DG Aviation GmbH in Germany.
If you or your cadet has an interest in attending the Air Force Academy, we strongly recommend joining the Civil Air Patrol and getting as much flight training as you can.