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North Wales Gliding Club

Terms used in Gliding

There are a number of terms and words used in gliding that have special meanings. A list of these is given below. The list is not comprehensive, but includes a lot of common terms.


One knot is one nautical mile per hour. A nautical mile is 6,000 feet as opposed to a standard mile's 5,280 feet. Thus 1 knot is 1.14 miles per hour. One knot is also 100 feet per minute. A 4 knot thermal will lift the glider at 400 feet per minute.


Rising air lifting the glider higher. Measured in knots.


Falling air that forces the glider to lose height. Measured in knots.


This is nothing to do with your emotions. The attitude of an aircraft refers to its orientation in the air with respect to the horizon. If the aircraft is diving downwards then it is said to have a "Nose down attitude".


Pitch refers to the up and down movement around the wings. Increasing the pitch will lift the nose and drop the tail. Decreasing the pitch will drop the nose and lift the tail.


Roll is movement around a line between the nose and tail. Rolling right will drop the right hand wing whilst lifting the left wing.


This is a turning motion where the nose of the aircraft moves to the right or left.


The steel wire used to connect the glider to the winch. It is approximately 5mm wide and should be avoided at all times as handling it safely can only only be done after the correct training has been given.


A special part of the winch cable which is designed to be handled. The strop has the Tost rings which are attached to the glider.

Weak Link

A safety device in the winch cable. They came in various strengths (indicated by their colour) and the correct one must be used with a given glider.


A moveable section in the tailplane ( the small wing at the back of the glider) which, effectively, controls whether the glider climbs or dives in flight.


The upright wing at the rear of the aircraft that most people refer to as the "tail". The fin contains the rudder which is used to help steer the glider.


(Pronounced "Ale-er-on") These are moveable flaps at the ends of the wings and they always move in pairs. When one aileron moves up, the aileron on the other wing moves down. This is what makes the wings "tilt".

Air Speed

The speed at which the glider flies through the air. This is usually not the same as the ground speed.


The height of the glider above the ground, measured in feet.


Also known as a Variometer. This measures whether the air around the glider is moving up or down.