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Tips on Buying a Glider

A collection of resources and opinions to help guide you in what to buy and advice through the purchase project. Not all of the content is located on this page. Several resources link to other pages full of advice. Be sure not to miss them.

To contribute to this page write to info@glidersource.com, thanks!

Try on a Local One

If you want to buy a make model, find one locally to you and ask to sit in it,  in the shade,  with the canopy closed, for thirty minutes. If  you can't stand it for :30 in the height of lust for the pretty lines and jazzy instruments,  you will hate it later.  

Some seat pans are narrower than others, and pinch on hips.  Some sit deeper than others, and if you have shorter arms than typical, you have to get your crotch so far forward or sit too upright and have no remaining headroom under a canopy.  Room for shins/thighs  on lower panel margins can be an issue.  Free travel for full range of control throw must be available. Use these moments to check for ease of gear extension and retraction.

It is easier to do this prior to any travel expense to see the prospective new toy, and simpler without needing to rig for flight. Just be certain your entry and egress are with the fuselage completely secure  in the belly dolly.

Take along an assortment of parachutes from friends, and a few options for lumbar support or conforming foam in a couple thicknesses to augment the fit.  You might have to juggle shims and cushions to find the set that let you sit for the required 30 minutes. 

Every human/model interface is different.  Finding the right combination of cushions/parachutes/jackets/ hats,  and then the innumerable other accessories will be a time consuming task.  But this tip is just to be sure that the basic fuselage will fit your dimensions.

Advice by Cindy Brickner

Owning a Glider

Everybody's First Gliding Book excerpt

An authorized excerpt from Bob Wander's book: Everybody's First Gliding Book
Areas covered include sole ownership, jointly owned gliders, and sample corporate laws of a fictional glider ownership corporation.

Read the Everybody's First Gliding Book excerpt by Bob Wander

Partnerships and Insurance

Use caution when forming or joining a glider partnership. The number of members may severely limit your flexibility. It may be wise to limit  the number of people involved to a maximum of 3.  With  4 people, the insurance reportedly becomes highly restrictive, unless you pay  significantly more and obtain 'commercial' insurance.  With 3 members, letting any rated friend fly it is no problem. With  4, NO ONE ELSE can touch the stick. There are ways to add pilots, but  they involve coordination with the insurer, and additional money. 

Jim W. via rec.aviation.soaring

Buying Your First Glider

An article asking what are the really important aspects of choosing a glider to purchase. Think it's L/D? Maybe not!
Read the Buying Your First Glider article here.

Peter King
Originally published at http://soaring.aerobaticsweb.org

So, you want to buy a pre-owned composite sailplane?

An excellent article covering many aspects of purchasing a sailplane, especially one of composite construction. Also accompanying is a photo presentation illustrating subjects of the article.

Areas covered include: Preflight, finish, canopy, wing root fittings, main fittings, controls, landing gear, radios/instruments, tow releases, oxygen systems, belts and harnesses, trailers, handling gear, parts, documentation, experimental sailplanes, and insurance. A nice collection of links to US government and manufacturer sites is included.

Article: pdf 48kb
Presentation: pdf 7mb

Aland Adams, February 2008
Revised from "So You Want to Buy a Fiberglass Sailplane", Soaring, May 1991

Advice from an Experienced Aircraft Mechanic

After many years of inspecting glider and other flying machines here are some items you may wish to pay attention to.

1. If you find evidence of damage to the glider that is not recorded in the log book walk away from it. It is highly likely that there is other damage that is not recorded.

2. The seat belts and shoulder harnesses should not be more than 12 years old. If the hardware is in good condition the harness and belts can be re-webbed at a considerable savings over total replacement.

3. If the tow hook is beyond the recommended overhaul time, replacement should be considered. If there is evidence of corrosion, replace it.

4. Have a weight and balance done in your presence before money changes hands.

5. The condition of the trailer is just as important as the condition of the glider. Do not buy a trailer that has lots of fiddly things, loose parts or the use of bungee cords to hold glider parts in place.

6. Be sure to get a legal title to the trailer. Do not close the deal until you have it. Some states do not require titles but yours may. Getting one after the fact can be difficult.

7. If the seller says the glider can be assembled in 15 minutes by one person, make him prove it.

8. Likely the electrical wiring is not aircraft grade and will need replacing. Be sure there are fuses
for each electrical device and also one protecting the battery.

9. Some older gliders did not have factory supplied battery holders. Have a critical look at how
the battery is secured.

10. The cable actuating the wheel brake is likely corroded and needs replacing. The interior of the
cable housing also may be corroded thus increasing the force needed to operate the brake.

There that should get you well on the way to finding a decent glider. If you love to tinker rather
than fly ignore all of the above.

Advice by Robert J. Mudd
Composite Aircraft Repair
Moriarty, New Mexico

Advice on inspecting radios and electronics

Most every modern glider has some electronics/avionics. Ask for the owner to run through how each system works; master switch, battery switches, breakers/fuses, PDA, software, audio variometer, flight computer, recorder, radio, transponder, FLARM, etc.  This will also verify that they all work.  Talk about fuse/breaker protection (minimum is a fuse at each battery) and then obtain spare fuses.   

Take a look under/inside the instrument panel to see how the avionics are interconnected. Does the wiring seem haphazard or a "rat's nest" with loose ends and all manner of types of wires used?  Do you see lamp cord, AC power outlet wire, cigarette lighter outlets, wire nuts, electric tape and other hardware store "stuff" in use?  This can make the glider harder to maintain or prone to failure in flight.  You should see ring terminals (not spade), heat shrink, wires tied down and nicely dressed, no open terminals to short, etc.   The best wiring that you want to find is aviation grade called Tefzel which is usually white, feels fairly stiff when bent, and has a slick/shiny covering with an "M" number (mil-spec) and gauge written along its length. 

Find out how old the batteries are and if a "smart" charger comes with them.  Reminder about having a fuse on each battery.

Also ask how easy it will be to add another electrical device to the 12VDC bus, or is there even a bus?

Ask for manuals, software disks and license keys (if any) for all electronics (especially gliding software.)

If you are not getting clear answers or don't feel comfortable, hire someone to go along with you for the inspection.

Advice by JohnDeRosa on rec.aviation.soaring, revised 1/19/12

Trailer Advice

Get one with a decent trailer.  A lousy trailer can make life miserable.  Been there, done that.

What's a decent trailer?

  1. One that protects the glider.
  2. One that allows easy rigging.
  3. One that your vehicle can tow.
  4. One that has storage space inside for things such as wing stand, tail dolly, wheel chocks, trailer tie-down stakes (for overnight or longer vacations somewhere other than the home airport), etc, etc.

The trailer doesn't have to be a "factory trailer."  I've seen factory trailers that are old and a pain to work with on rigging the glider.  I've seen homebuilt trailers that were built by craftsmen who knew what they were doing and made rigging the glider busy.  That said, the new trailers these days from Cobra and Komet, are really nice.  I have a Swan trailer that is a nice trailer for the money.  Boy, it is so much better than the lousy homebuilt trailer that came with the glider.

Advice by Ray Lovinggood

Specific Trailer Advice

I have a factory Avionic clamshell trailer for my SZD-55. It pulls perfectly, has the same running gear as the others, and came with fittings perfectly made for my glider. I'd buy one again. Additionally, I shipped Canadian standard lights over to the manufacturer and had them fitted to make import easier.
Avionic Trailers website: http://avionic.pl/

Advice by Daniel Daly

Glider and Trailer?

Tony from rec.aviation.soaring adds:

"My typical advice is to buy the nicest trailer you can afford and take whatever glider is inside it. "
Then jokingly ads: " Then people look at my trailer and i say 'do as i say not as i do'  although in my own defense it was the nicest trailer i could afford at  the time.