Are You Ready to Learn to Fly?
Welcome! Are you ready to begin the adventure of a lifetime, one that will grow and change with your skills, providing fresh opportunities to learn and grow each time you take off? Do you wonder what it is like to be towed aloft in a motorless aircraft only to stay there, sometimes for hours, using just your wits to capture the energy in the atmosphere around you? Does your heart race just a little when you see an aircraft take off? If so, soaring at HHSC – the birthplace of American soaring – could be for you.
Soaring pilots are a rare bunch, even among their pilot peers. Just 3.5% of the 600,000 pilots in the United States hold a glider rating. Nevertheless, you can learn to fly a sailplane if you are dedicated and persistent. Joining the ranks of glider pilots is just the beginning of an incredibly rewarding journey that you can participate in for many, many years. Best of all, you’ll meet new friends at HHSC who also think soaring is pure joy and are there for fun as well. Not only that, but soaring is one of the most cost efficient ways to learn how to fly.
Fortunately, the road to your license is fun and rewarding and Harris Hill instructors and club members are outgoing and friendly. All it takes is time and persistence on your part.
After you join, you will start right away by flying with our instructors and likely other students learning to fly as well. Our instructors volunteer their time -you pay only for the flight cost, and we do our best to hold weekly flying sessions for our prospective pilots -after normal work hours, mid-week.
During these sessions, you’ll learn how to takeoff, land, fly behind the tow plane and execute many different maneuvers. You’ll learn how an airplane flies and why it is important to understand the forces that keep you aloft, you’ll learn about weather, and you’ll learn the ins and outs of handling the glider on the ground. If you begin early in our season and fly regularly, you will fly anywhere from 35 to 65 flights in order to solo – that is, be proficient enough to fly the glider on your own. After some 10-15 more flights you will be ready to fly with an FAA designated examiner and will be ready to take your flight test.
Not everyone progresses at the same rate and some HHSC student pilots do not progress to their private pilot license. There is a wide variability in the number of pre-solo flights due to age, ability and frequency of training flights. The best way to prepare to be a glider pilot is to simply fly as frequently as possible and dedicate time to studying for the written test. There are ways to speed up the license process and the Soaring Society of America has resources to get your rating quicker at Let’s Go Gliding.org.
After your license, the sky is literally the limit. Many of our pilots go on to earn more advanced ratings -commercial glider pilot, or certified flight instructor. Sharing your love of soaring by taking passengers aloft or teaching others to fly are great ways to continue the proud tradition of operating one of America’s oldest glider clubs.
Expectations of You as a New Member
HHSC is a volunteer organization -we have no paid employees. Our weekend operations are staffed by club members who are required to work one or two 4 hour duty shifts each month during our flying season. Once you join, you will be assigned duty shifts and expected to work them. There are a number of other responsibilities that club members take on as well.
Make the effort to fly. Our instructors teach students because they love to fly and want to pass on the experience to you. They do not, as a rule, read your mind and ask you if you want to go flying. It is the responsibility of the student pilot to simply ask an instructor to fly with him or her. This is easy for some people and more difficult for others, but if you want to fly, you’ll have to ask. We have had people quit the club because nobody asked them to go flying. Don’t be shy, ask. If an instructor has time, they will fly with you. If they don’t, ask a different time.
Help out HHSC is club and requires cooperation to function. If you simply show up, get a flight, then disappear until next time, people will notice. Stick around, help work the line, move gliders around, help out. The instructors are giving you their time, please give some of yours.
Study for your tests and for your flights. To get your FAA license, you will be required to pass an FAA administered written test. There is far more than you think on this test and it is not easy. It will require bookwork to pass the test, but also some study to understand the systems in the gliders, the basics of how to fly and so on. Do your homework and be prepared for your flight lessons.
Engage with other members. HHSC is as much a social gathering as a flying club and the people in the club are great fun to be around. You all share a common passion – soaring, and the depth and breadth of experience is substantial. Don’t be afraid to say hello, ask a question, join in and especially attend our social events. We WANT new members to become lifelong members and that means you.
How do I join HHSC so I can learn to fly?
Read a letter about the training process here. Then contact our new member coordinator email@example.com to get an application and find out how to join. Better yet, come out to Harris Hill and talk to us about joining! If you are a teen and want to join ourlegendary juniors organization,see this page.
How hard is it to learn to fly a glider?
Almost anyone can learn as long as you are committed to the process and dedicate yourself to regular flying. In order, the steps are: Become proficient enough to solo a glider, pass your FAA written exam, take a checkride with an FAA examiner.
How safe is soaring?
Soaring is not a daredevil sport. Accidents can and do happen in the sport of soaring but the risk level is not particularly high. We teach all of our students the skills to recognize issues associated with safety and what to do to fly as safely as possible.
How much does it cost to get a glider license?
About $1900, spaced out over time. An average student flight is around $30 (2011 rates) and takes about 75 flights. Junior member flying is subsidized by HHSC and is substantially cheaper.
How long will it take?
About 75 flights, or around two flying seasons at HHSC. You can earn your rating much faster at a glider school, but it will cost more money. SeeLet’s Go Gliding.com for more information.
I have a private pilot power license. How hard is it to get a glider rating?
Fantastic! You do not have to pass an FAA knowledge test, but you will have to take a checkride for the rating. Figure perhaps 40 flights to gain proficiency at Harris Hill and transition to gliders. You can transition in as little as 10 flights at a for-profit glider school, but the cost is higher. See Let’s Go Gliding.com for locations.
What kind of commitment is required if I join?
Learning to soar is a committment – both to the exciting task of learning a rare new skill and also to helping HHSC preserve soaring at this historic site.
Learning to fly takes persistence and dedication. If you WANT to be a glider pilot, you CAN be a glider pilot but it takes both flying and self study to get your rating.
Harris Hill Soaring Corporation is a not for profit club dedicated to education, demonstration, and competition of motorless flight. In order to learn how to fly, you must be an HHSC member and there are certain expectations of club members in exchange for access to this amazing soaring resource. Read a letter from our Vice President of Safety about being an HHSC student pilot and club member.
Is there more information on learning to soar?
Read the following from Steven Philipson. Written in 1995, the road remains very similar today.
Need more inspiration? Watch this short video about flying at HHSC that one of our Junior members made. It’s every bit as magic as it seems.
If you are a teen – Our Juniors organization is one of the premier young adult education organizations in the soaring community and you can visit our web page on the program here. Part of HHSC’s mission is education and we believe that teaching young adults to fly -and do so safely, prepares them for the responsibility of adulthood. In fact, we believe in this so strongly that our juniors fly at a substantially reduced cost that is subsidized by club operations. In exchange, juniors work our flight line, help with events, and sometimes win our Snowbird contest!
Teens can join the junior organization at age 14 (or 13 if their parent is a member) and solo at age 14. They may earn their private pilot license at age 16. Our instructors work very closely with our junior flight students to ensure that no junior solos before they are ready to do so safely and proficiently. Many of our instructors are former juniors themselves and pay close attention to the welfare and safety of our juniors.
Even after earning their license, juniors continue to fly at nearly half the national average cost per flight. The combination of work and accomplishment is a key to the junior experience and serves as a launchpad to a career in aviation for many of them. If you are a teen and want to join, click here to go to the Junior’s page, or find the Harris Hill juniors group on Facebook, come out to the field during regular hours, or contact our new member coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) to find out more about joining the Harris Hill Juniors organization.
Typical Gliderport Activities – From our soaring friends in New Zealand. This is pretty much a day at Harris Hill -minus Mt. Cook, of course!