The Bicester Gliding Centre (BGC) operations take place every Saturday and Sunday, and seven days a week March to December.
The flying day usually starts at about 9:00 am and ends at dusk or at about 6:00 pm (in summer if someone is close to going solo, we tend to stay out longer if it helps them achieve this important milestone). Some people turn up earlier to help get the equipment and gliders out onto the airfield and get flying started as soon as possible. Gliding at the Club is a team effort - there are NO paid staff to do it at weekends! Even if some of those you meet are paid to be there during the week, they are giving up their spare time to help run the club side of things if it is a weekend. The advantage of an early start of course is that you potentially have the whole day in front of you to do lots of flying. (It's almost a first come, first served situation, so early arrivals are more likely to get two or more sets of flights.) However it is recognised that not everyone can spare a whole day every time they come to the airfield (some members drive over 100 miles to come here!) and really you just have to put in whatever time you think you have available. Like most sports of course, the more you put in the more you get out.
After flying finishes and we have helped put the equipment away, most members move to the Bar and have a chat with friends in a sociable environment. Some stay overnight in their caravans to be ready for the next day's flying.
British weather can be a problem, but generally speaking, if it isn't raining or snowing, if there isn't a strong wind warning, and it isn't foggy, the club will be flying. A word of warning - forecasts are usually a little bit pessimistic about the next day's weather, so don't rely on them too much! It is a real shame to lose a morning of fun flying just because a little bit of forecasted bad weather didn't materialise after all. The weather page contains some useful links for local forecasts.
When you come gliding at BGC, you should go to the front of the green bus at the launch point and ask for the Duty Instructor who will put your name on the flying list. If you are a new member, make sure you have filled in a membership form in the office first! Then, while awaiting your turn to fly, you can help with some of the tasks required to run the flying. But please DO say you are a newcomer whenever you're asked if you can do some task, no matter how trivial it seems - some things may look simple but require background knowledge of gliding to be done properly.
At the Weekend:
If you are a full member you can book an instructor for the morning or afternoon via the online system called Dutyman. We offer 4 instruction slots both in the morning and afternoon. You will share an instructor with one other member. Speak to the office about getting a login and details of the system.
When it gets close to your turn to fly, the Duty Instructor will allocate an instructor and glider to you, in plenty of time for the instructor to discuss your experience and brief you about the flight before you fly. However some students find they get on well with a couple of instructors in particular - no problem - just grab them early! Most instructors like to be appreciated (they are human!) and are really dedicated to helping you learn as quickly as you can comfortably handle.
Don't forget to use your training record card and keep it handy in the box on the bus. It really helps both you and the instructor to get you through the training syllabus. Do remember that some lessons will be repeated several times as they require continual practice, so don't expect to get something "ticked off" every time you fly. Also, it isn't necessary for a new topic to be taught on every single flight - if you are having problems learning something, it is worth repeating that lesson before moving on.
You can phone the office and book an instructor for a half day or a day, for £10 and £20 respectively. You will share the instructor with one other member. The office will explain the details.
As many as we can fit in! Everyone takes their turn and we try to work through the flying list more than once to give you another set of lessons if practical. The general pattern is three winch launches per set of lessons, or one long flight if it's soarable (three medium flights are actually better than one long one when learning), or one aerotow. Motor glider flights are also available and when it's very busy, these may take the place of winch launching for some students, but are usually a separate option.
Every flight is a test to go solo. Your instructors will continually be assessing your progress and when you have reached the required standard, the instructor will send you solo. It is not compulsary to go solo when told you are ready for it - if you are nervous, you can say no. After you are sent solo, your flying will continue to be monitored by instructors, and you will get check flights on a regular basis until you are flying consistantly well.
How long is a piece of string? Like learning to drive, it takes as many lessons as you need. The exact number is not important. Poor weather, especially strong or gusty wind conditions, may prevent you from being sent solo when you are good enough. The number of flights required is very variable. Typically it takes anywhere between 70 to 120 winch launches to reach the correct standard. Some people may take less, others may take more.
Yes! Because when you reach solo standard you will then have the entire summer in front of you in which to extend your flying skills and raise your gliding qualifications. It also enables you to experience a variety of weather conditions with an instructor on board to point out how you should handle them.