• 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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