On Your First Visit

So, you have joined the club, signed up for your first gliding trip. Now what? Where do you go and what should you bring? Hopefully this page will answer any questions about have about coming along for the first time!

What to bring
Photo ID

You will need some form of photo ID so that the RAF can issue you with a day pass for gliding - either a driving licence or a passport. Due to the level of security on an active RAF base, you will not be allowed on the airfield without valid photo ID, therefore this one is especially important!

Warm Clothing

The importance of suitable clothing cannot be stressed enough. In winter wear waterproof boots or sturdy trainers (to keep your feet dry and warm) and a warm jumper or fleece under a jacket to keep the wind out. If in doubt, bring a more clothes than you think you will need. Airfields are famed for being THE coldest places on Earth in winter, so wrap up warm! Gloves and a warm hat are pretty much essential, and a scarf is a good idea too. Kilts, skirts and dresses do not go well with parachutes so wear warm trousers instead. Don't wear your best clothes because it's simply not practical. It's an airfield, not a fashion parade! In summer most pilots wear sunglasses and some kind of hat to keep the sun off. Sunscreen also is something to remember.


There is usually (but not always) a supply of hot and cold drinks as well as snacks and sandwiches available on the bus for a few pennies. There is also a Spar shop on the base, which is 5 minutes walk from the gliding club hangars. You can bring along your own food to supplement this, but most people do not bother. If you are vegetarian however, it is advisable to bring you own food since the food provided tends to include some form of meaty goodness. If you stay overnight, meals are usually available at the Italian restaurant next door, or the Spar shop on base.


Don't forget to bring a cheque book, or cash, to pay for your flying on the day. You might also want to bring some change for drinks & snacks. There is a cash machine in the Spar shop on base, but it charges you to make a withdrawal.

Progress Card & Log Book

You will be given these after your first flights, and you should take them with you every time you go flying after that. Your progress card is needed so that the instructors can see how you are getting on before each flight. Your log book is needed to record your flights, a legal requirement if you intend to learn to fly.


If you ask your instructor, they will let you take pictures from the air during your flights!

Where we meet

Each Saturday and Sunday morning when we are going to Cranwell, we will meet in front of the Portland Building at 7.45am. The cars will leave at 8am sharp so we can get to the airfield for about 9am. If you get the impression that the weather will not be great and there will be no flying, you should turn up anyway. We will still drive to the airfield in any weather, for two reasons:

Firstly, you never know, the weather may change! Many a day we have turned up expecting no flying at all due to bad weather, and it has turned out to be flyable, or even quite a nice day!

Secondly, there are usually lots of other things to do on the airfield involving maintenance of the gliders and trailers, and everybody who comes regularly should help out at some point - this is what makes the flying so cheap!

If a flying trip is cancelled due to bad weather, we will let you know as soon as the decision is made.

Finally, if you cannot come on a weekend you are signed up for for any reason, you should let the flying organiser know as soon as possible. Usually there are others who want to flying and it would not be fair to them. If you do not let us know in reasonable time, others will have priority in the sign up the following week.

When we are meeting to go to another airfield, either for the day or for an expedition, we usually pick people up either at the Portland building or at some other convenient place. The time of the pickup will depend on where we are going, and we will let you know during the sign up on Tuesday or via e-mail.

On the airfield

On your first visits to the site it may be hard to see how the people at the airfield are organised. Whenever gliding is taking place there will be a Duty Instructor, called the 'DI' at the launch site. They are in charge of everything that happens on the airfield, and their word is law. The DI is there to see that safe procedures are followed. They have an assistant called a Duty Pilot, or 'DP', who takes some of the pressure off the DI by arranging instructors for pupils, deciding who to launch next and allocating tasks such as winching and cable retrieving.

Once you arrive at the airfield you will receive a safety brief. It is important that you understand the safety brief and follow guidelines to avoid any accidents. The chances are that if somebody sees you breaking these guidelines, they will let you know about it straight away (and more often than not, in a rather blunt fashion). Should you be on the receiving end of a harsh rebuke about a safety issue, please do not take it personally - the RAF culture is strong on safety but less so on sensitivity!

On a typical weekend day there will be a dozen members of Cranwell Gliding Club at the launch point and ten or so NUGC members. There should always be at least one student present who knows the ropes and who can introduce the others to the Duty Pilot. The airfield is run by the club on a voluntary basis, and it is important to be seen to be helping out when setting up (and putting everything away at the end of the day). This keeps the flying cheap for everyone. Once the airfield is set up, with the winch at one end, and the launch point bus and gliders at the other, it is time to get people flying! There are some things you will be able to help out with straight away, some that you can do after being shown how, and some which you need a bit of experience at the airfield before you can help with (for example, only solo pilots can drive the winch or perform a daily inspection on the gliders before they fly). Nobody expects you to do anything you haven't done before - in fact you shouldn't do anything without being shown how first - ask if in doubt! There are always people around from NUGC and Cranwell who will show you the ways in which you can help out.

The duty committee member will let the duty pilot at the airfield know which university members are out, and the duty pilot will ensure that everyone gets flown during the day, and gets all the instruction they need. Flights are usually done in sets of 3 - this ensures there is enough time to review what was covered on a previous day, have a new concept demonstrated to you, and then allow you to practice for yourself.

Once everyone has done all the flying they need to (often you will get a chance to have a second set of flights during the day, once everyone has had one), things will start to get put away. Gliders that aren't needed any more will land near the hangar, to make them easier to put away. The vehicles and winch are taken back and refuelled, then put away.

Once the hangar doors are shut, the duty pilot will take everyone's payment for flying in the office, and the bar will open. After some socialising and drinking, the drivers will take everyone back to Nottingham, usually dropping people at their homes on the way back if it isn't too inconvenient!