Operations resources


Sport and recreational aviation activities

Gliding operations




Pilots should take extra care when operating at an aerodrome where gliding operations are in progress. Gliding operations are indicated by the gliding operations in progress ground signal displayed next to the primary wind direction indicator. Pilots should also establish whether the gliders are being launched by wire or aero-tow, or both.

Gliding operations in progress ground signal


Where aero-towing is in progress, pilots should remain well clear of gliders under tow. If wire launching is used, pilots should establish the locations of either the winch or tow car and the cable, and remain well clear. Over-flying the active runway below 2000 ft AGL is not advised, nor is landing without first ascertaining that the cable is on the ground and not across the landing path. Aero-tow and winch launching are possible up to 4000 ft AGL, but launches to 1500 ft or 2000 ft AGL are normal.

Except for operations in controlled airspace, gliding operations may be conducted no-radio, or may be on frequencies 122.5 MHz, 122.7 MHz or 122.9 MHz, which have been allocated for use by gliders. Unless otherwise authorised, gliding operations in controlled airspace must be conducted using the appropriate ATC frequency. Radio equipped gliders at non-controlled aerodromes will use the CTAF. Except where the use of a gliding frequency is operationally necessary, it is recommended that gliders operating above 5000 ft outside controlled airspace (Class G) monitor the Area VHF frequency.

Gliding operations at certified aerodromes

Gliding operations at certified aerodromes may be carried out on:

  • a glider runway strip within the runway strip (single runway), using a common circuit direction
  • a glider runway strip adjacent to the existing runway strip (dual runways), using a common circuit direction
  • a separate glider runway strip parallel to and spaced away from the existing runway strip (parallel runways), using contra-circuit procedures.

Details of the gliding operation are published in the ERSA entry for the aerodrome. When procedures are changed for intensive short-term gliding activity, a NOTAM will be issued.

Where dual or parallel runways are established, the glider runway strip will conform to normal movement area standards, but will be marked by conspicuous markers of a colour other than white. Glider runway strips must not be used except by gliders, tug aircraft and other authorised aircraft.

Where a single runway is established and gliders operate within the runway strip, the runway strip markers may be moved outwards to incorporate the glider runway strip. Glider movement and parking areas are established outside the runway strips. When the glider runway strip is occupied by a tug aircraft or glider, the runway is deemed to be occupied. Aircraft using the runway may, however, commence their take-off run from a position ahead of a stationary glider or tug aircraft.

Except for gliders approaching to land, powered aircraft have priority in the use of runways, taxiways and aprons where a single runway or dual runway operation is established.

At the locations where parallel runways exist and contra-circuit procedures apply, operations on the two parallel runways by aircraft below 5700 kg MTOW may be conducted independently in VMC by day. Aircraft must not operate within the opposing circuit area below 1500 ft AGL. Pilots should ascertain the runway direction in use as early as possible and conform to that circuit. A crossing runway should only be used when operationally necessary, and traffic using the crossing runway should avoid conflicting with the established circuit, for example, by using a long final, or not turning after take-off until well clear.

At aerodromes without prescribed contra-circuits, gliders must generally conform to the established circuit direction. However, unforeseen circumstances may occasionally compel a glider to execute a non- standard pattern, including use of the opposite circuit direction in extreme cases.

At non-controlled aerodromes a listening watch on the appropriate frequency is maintained during aero-tow launching by the tug pilot, and during wire launching by the winch or tow-vehicle driver. The tug pilot or winch/car driver may be able to advise glider traffic information to inbound or taxiing aircraft.

Where wire launching is used launching will cease, and the wire will be retracted or moved off the strip when another aircraft joins the circuit or taxis, or a radio call is received indicating this. A white strobe light is displayed by a winch, or a yellow rotating beacon by a tow-car or associated vehicle, whenever the cable is deployed.

Gliders are not permitted to perform aerobatics, including spin training below 2000 ft AGL, within 2 nm of a certified aerodrome. Gliders must not perform continuous 360° turns nor use thermal lift on the live side of a common circuit area (including the circuit area being used by known traffic on a crossing runway) unless they monitor the CTAF and give way to maintain adequate separation from other traffic in the circuit area.

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New rules come into effect from 2 December 2021 that cover the general operating and flight rules. We are currently updating this guide to reflect the new rules. A new version will be available to download from 2 December.
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