- Aero tow. A single engine plane such as a Super Cub
is equipped with a tow hook and a 200 ft. rope connects the tow
plane with the sailplane equipped with a similar hook. The tow
plane pulls the sailplane up until the sailplane releases the
rope, typically between 2,000 and 3,000 ft. above the ground.
The tow plane then returns to the airport to tow the next
sailplane into the air. The entire process takes between 10 - 15
minutes per launch.
- Winch launch.
A large winch powered by an automotive
gasoline or diesel engine is situated up to about 5,000 ft. from
the sailplane. A tow line connects the winch to the sailplane
and on launch the winch winds in the tow line. The sailplane
quickly accelerates to flying speed and climbs at a steep angle
to its release altitude of between 1,500 and 2,000 ft.
This method of launch is very popular in Europe but seldom used
in the United States.
- Self Launch. A recent modification of the sailplane
is the installation of a small engine with a retractable
propeller system. While the addition of the engine, propeller
and drive system does increase the aircraft weight the benefit
is worth the small loss of soaring performance.
- Bronze Badge is designed for the solo pilot and requires two
soaring fights of at least two hours each.
- Silver C Badge is designed as an introduction to
cross-country flying as well as demonstrating increased soaring
skill. Three separate tasks are defined: 1) A soaring
flight of at least five hours; 2) An altitude gain of at least
1,000 meters (3,280 feet) from the lowest point of flight after
launch; 3) A cross-country flight of at least 50 kilometers
(31.1 miles) to a destination.
- Gold Badge continues to increase the challenge for the
soaring pilot. Two separate tasks are defined: 1) A soaring
flight of at least 300 kilometers (186.4 miles); The
flight may be accomplished using a variety of courses such as Out
and Return, Triangle or Straight Out Distance; 2) An altitude
gain of at least 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) from the lowest point
of flight after launch.
- Diamond Badge. This is the highest level of badge
awarded to the soaring pilot. Three separate tasks are
defined and are intended to establish the mastery of the soaring
pilot: 1) A cross-country flight of at least 300 kilometers to a
defined goal; a variety of courses may be utilized as described
above; 2) A cross-country flight of at least 500 kilometers
(310.6 miles) using one of the courses defined above; 3) An
altitude gain of at least 5,000 meters (16404 feet) from the
lowest point of flight after launch.
- A diploma is also awarded to a pilot who accomplishes a
flight of at least 1,000 kilometers (621.3 miles).
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