Gliding in Sussex
over the South Downs

From a glider over the snowy South Downs

Photo: Craig Lowrie
Gliding in Sussex over the South Downs

"Once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned forever skyward, for there you have been, and there you long to return"
Leonardo Da Vinci

Described as the 'ultimate free flying experience', to fly without an engine is graceful and silent. For many enthusiasts, it is this peace which is one of the main attractions of this form of flight.

Flying with the birds, sharing the currents and updrafts, dipping along the edge of the South Downs, soaring over the cliffs at the Seven Sisters, and 'thermalling' with eagles and swifts ...

Soaring over the Seven Sisters in Sussex

Photo: Craig Lowrie
Soaring over the Seven Sisters cliffs

Heights and distances flown

One pilot flew over 1000 miles in the UK by gaining altitude in a thermal and then flying until he reached the next one, regaining altitude and then flying on again. It took 12 hours.

Speeds of 170mph and heights up to 40,000 feet have been reached in this country.

The Sussex South Downs provide wonderful conditions for gliding -where the land meets the sea and the hills lower to the Weald, warm updrafts provide lift and the scenery offers stunning views in every direction.

Launch methods

There are several ways of launching, one, the aerotow method involves being towed to the optimum height and speed by a light aircraft. The cable is then released and you fly free.

A glider is launched over Sussex

Photo: Guy Westgate
Aerolaunch over Sussex

The most common form of launch is with a winch. The plane is attached by a long reel of wire to a winch which is then reeled in and the glider gains speed until it takes off like a kite. Once overhead the winch the cable can be released.

Dependent on the currents of air close to a hill slope to provide the necessary lift, for the final form of launch you need hills, a windy day and quite a few people to help.

Perhaps,for these reasons, the 'bungy launch' is not very common these days!

Local clubs

The South Downs Gliding Club, with over 200 members, is one of the largest and oldest gliding clubs in the UK. Based in West Sussex, members regularly fly over the whole of the South Downs area.

New members of any and no experience are welcome to join, from teenagers to senior citizens - it's never too late to have a go! Lessons are available in two-seaters, and you will be able to learn at your own pace.

Click on the image below to visit the South Downs Gliding Club website.

South Downs Gliding Club

Photo: Craig Lowrie
Click on the photo to visit the
South Downs Gliding Club

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on gliding in Sussex