How fast does a glider fly?

The fastest glider is probably the Space Shuttle. Five minutes before landing, and well into the Earth’s atmosphere, its already slowed down to around 800mph and from there to touch down is being flown in the same way as we fly and land gliders!

A modern high-performance glider/sailplane may have a VNE (velocity never exceed) as high as 155knots (180mph). This is its maximum allowed speed. It could go faster but it’s not structurally designed and tested to do so.

During a cross country flight, the glider may be climbing in thermals, rising air currents, while flying slowly at perhaps 50mph. But when ‘cruising’ between thermals might be flying at speeds between 70mph and 100mph or more.

Glider pilots flying cross country aim to fly as fast as possible for the day’s conditions. This means they will seek out the strongest lift, ignore weaker lift, and fly at optimum speeds between thermals. There is a real science to this called ‘speed to fly theory’. These days many gliders have ‘Flight Director’ computers that make efficient flying at the right speeds easier.

The current speed record for a 300km flight around a triangular course is over 160km (100mph).  This is the average over the whole flight. Remember, it takes into account the time spent climbing in thermals where in effect the glider isn’t really traveling around the course!

Gliders are fast, highly dynamic, and maneuverable aircraft. Most, are cleared for some aerobatic maneuvers and are able to fly fast enough to gain enough speed to loop the loop!

Important Notice: Corona Virus [COVID-19]


** Following the announcement on Monday 23rd March 2020 - Black Mountains Gliding Club and Airfield is now closed other than for essential maintenance.

We are monitoring emails to the club. And if it is urgent you may also use the Contact Us form on this website.

The current position with regard to Flight Vouchers and Courses is this:

Trial Lessons already booked are now cancelled. We've endeavored to contact voucher holders. If you've not been contacted please accept our apologies. 
Vouchers for Trial Lessons and Air Experience Flights will have their expiry dates extended by 12 months.
Training Courses are under review depending on when they are scheduled for, and attendees will be contacted as required. The ones planned through to June have been cancelled!
We will not be able to take new voucher bookings until further notice. When we are up and running again we will have a significant backlog.
We look forward to meeting and flying you as soon as it is practicable and such difficult times are behind us!