Useful Web Links for Soaring:

Alex Caldwell CFI-G

Updated 08/25/2014

Available from


Flight Training

Ground School


The FAA makes a basic library of information for glider flight training available free on-line.

The following is a minimum library that would fulfill the most of the requirements  for the

Knowledge portion of the Private glider license.  There are many more publications  and glider training syllabi created by very experienced glider instructors and schools, such as those

by Bob Wander, Russell Holtz, and  Tom Knauff  available, that you can purchase as well,  but these links can be  a core where you can start, and represent official sources required by the FAA for your license


The FAA “Glider Flying Handbook”

Information needed for  basic knowledge for the FAA Private Pilot Written Test.  The whole book

Is on-line in .pdf format.



The “FARs  - now called “14 CFR” part 91, 61 etc


“Part 61”

Certification: Pilots, Flight Instructors, and Ground Instructors (14 CFR Part 61)


“Part 91”


General Operating and Flight Rules (14 CFR Part 91)


The accident reporting requirements of the National Transportation Safety Board

Under CFR 49 Part 830.



The Airman’s Information Manual,  AIM  or “FAA Aeronautical Information Manual”


The AIM has many operating procedures and other FAA requirements that are not specifically

spelled out in the FARs, such as traffic pattern procedures, radio phraseology, airport runway markings, lights  and  signs,   airspace information, and ATC procedures and many other





Digital Airport/FacilityDirectory. The official source of information on airports and navaids including frequencies, runway lengths, airport diagrams and much other info.   Some other

online services such as Airnav are trying to do the same thing, in a user  friendly  Web based format,  but this is the official source.



Practical test standards for Private Pilot Glider



Sectional Charts


You must become familiar with these for your written test  and practical test for the Private Pilot Glider rating. In glider flying, we still generally train with old-fashioned paper maps. It is useful to have a plotter, which is a plastic ruler calibrated to the scale of sectional charts, so you can easily measure off distances and measure compass headings.   Many private glider owners are

equipping  their gliders with various GPS moving map devices. It is important to remember

that these are nice, but are more like adjuncts for convenience,  AFTER you’ve learned the basics of pilotage and dead reckoning using old-fashioned paper charts.  The GPS devices used in gliders are generally not officially approved ones that could be used for navigation in actual IFR flight in the national airspace system, like the ones in the newer power planes that have “glass cockpits”, such as the GARMIN G1000.      However, they can be useful in reducing the workload for a glider pilot when used in the type of VFR flying we do in gliders in conjunction with the older,  but still official paper sectional charts.  Sometimes, you can get the required info from them faster and with less tendancy for your head to be down in the cockpit, rather than looking out for traffic and other hazards,  than when trying to unfold and read a paper sectional in the cockpit.

There are devices coming out that present you with digital sectional charts on an electronic display IPADs, Iphones, Android phones and tablets,  re-programmed automobile GPS devices etc. Generally,  these are not FAA approved, and while handy and helpful, you should not rely totally on these,  and  should have  current paper charts available in the cockpit for cross country flight.  An FAA approved or “TSO’dGPS  navigation system is a much more expensive and rigourously tested  device.  They include an FAA approved database of airports and navaids, as well as much more sophisticated components for self testing for accuracy and for various kinds equipment failure, satellite failure and other kinds of internal errors that could affect the accuracy of navigation.  Obviously this is much more important when flying in IFR conditions where your life depends on the equipment, than in the type of VFR flying we do in gliders,  where we maintain visual contact with the ground at all times.


The FAA now provides all sectional, WAC and IFR charts on line for free

in a digital format. They also have the entire Aiport/Facility directory, mentioned above,

which is the real official source of data about individual airports, like

whether fuel, oxygen, a mechanic is available and many other things you

need to know if you are planning on landing there.



Aircraft Flight Manual – “POH” Pilot’s Operating Handbook


You need to have a manufacturer’s Flight Manual for the glider in which you will be training.

In  our club,  this will be the Schweizer 2-33.   You must become very familiar

with all the flight limitations  and checklists in this manual. Having the flight manual in the glider satisfies that you have access to the required information by the FAA.  Some of these flight limits can be in the form of placards, such as markings on the airspeed indicator “ASI”, for airspeed limitations,  and placards for some weight and

balance limitations.    You must be able to calculate a weight and

balance calculation and be prepared to do one before any flight. To do it right,  requires some

multiplication and some long hand division,  to calculate the “moments”  and the exact C.G. for your specific flight  considering you and your passenger’s weight.   A digital calculator is very

good to have if you are not handy with long hand multiplication and division.  The flight manual

does have a graphical way to calculate if you are within limits for  a “generic” 2-33 but  if you are

very close, it is better calculate out and compute the C.G.  the hard way,  using the moments. 

The flight manual we have is generic and the weight  and empty C.G. of our gliders may be somewhat different than the generic factory flight manual.


You must have a current weight and balance computation done by a licensed mechanic

for each glider you fly. Remember, each of

our 2-33’s does not weigh exactly the same, or have the same moments in the

weight and balance computation.  There may have been repairs made,  or differences in the type of

equipment installed, such as batteries, oxygen tanks, radios and other instruments,  that can affect the weight and balance of each individual ship.  You need to get the most recent and  current weight and balance for the specific glider you are flying to be correct in calculating a weight and balance for a flight.



Aviation Weather Knowledge


Aviation Weather for Pilot and Operations Personnel AC 00-6A


General knowledge about the atmosphere and weather. Primarily for Pilots but good background information for basic meteorology.  A good read for anyone interested in weather.


Aviation Weather Services AC 00-45 Rev. G$FILE/AC-0045G_chg1_fullDocument.pdf


More about the actual weather services available to pilots for getting weather briefings used in planning their flights, rather than general meteorology information.


Preflight Weather Information


The Pilot in Command is responsible before every flight to obtain all pertinent information pertaining to that flight. Among the most important

Information is that of Aviation Weather Forecasts.


"Duat" - for an official FAA pre-flight weather briefing which also includes  additional things, like "TFRs", and "Notams".


This services is run by Data Transformation Corp. for the FAA. It constitutes an official

Weather briefing for satisfying FAA regs.

If you get a student license, you can register and get a username and password:


Duat also collaborates with Seattle Avionics to offer a free flight planning program called

Duat Voyager  you can download from the link on the main DUAT homepage. It is more

for power flying, but would also be helpful for planning a glider flight as well.



Note: there is another service run by CSC – Computer Science Corp. called “DUATS”

Which basically does the same thing as DUAT.  You can register for it free at:


Now, Lockheed Martin, who administers the 1-800-WXBRIEF telephone weather briefings has a website. Registration is free.  It provides a complete computerized weather briefing similar to DUAT and DUATS.





The AOPA has a very nice article with good diagrams and charts explaining the national  airspace system, and the VFR  weather visibility and cloud clearance minimums for the different classes of airspace.  Also they touch on TFR’s “temporary flight restrictions”, Special Use airspace such as restricted areas, prohibited areas, military operating areas, and various airspace “odds and ends”.  such as the DC special flight rules area (DC SFRZ), air defense identification zones ADIZ, Alert areas and more.  They take sort of a historic  approach combined with emphasizing what the different classes of airspace are used for,  to explaining how the airspace got the way it is that makes it somewhat more logical and therefore easier to remember  (at least I think so).




Commercially available courses


These are three popular  and complete courses  developed by experienced and well respected

senior glider instructors  you can purchase:


Tom Knauff

Tom has written  several different courses for Beginners, Transitioning Power Pilots,  and Instructors.   I have the Tom Knauff books and have used them in recent years.  His “Glider Basics, First Flight to Solo” is a classic now,  and explains his “TLAR”,  or “That looks about right” method of pattern and landing judgement, which is one of the best explanations about how to make accurate patterns and landings, particularly off – field landings in gliders or power planes, for that  matter.


Russell Holtz

   Flight Training Manual for Gliders

   Glider Pilot’s  Handbook of Aeronautical Knowlege


He has some nice check-off forms suitable to print and include in your logbook for tracking.  These may be very useful to you and your instructor as well for keeping track of an documenting your progress:


Written Test Preparation:


Flight Training Progress.


Paper Glider glide slope calculator outline:




Bob Wander

Several different courses for beginners, commercial candidates, flight instructor

candidates, Cross Country.


Joy of Soaring


I will mention the “Joy of Soaring”, which was the most popular training manual

in the past (like when I was a student glider pilot).  It is now out of print.  But you can find copies on Amazon.  Some people,

notably Tom Knauff,   are now critical of certain things in it,

but it was pretty good for it’s day.  Some of the illustrations are very good for helping

to remember certain concepts, like the effect of the “wind gradient”. The illustrator, Gil Parcel, was very talented, and in my opinion,  has not  been surpassed to this day.



General Flying Information



“Stick and Rudder: an Explanation of the Art of Flying”

by Wolfgang Langeweische


Written in the 1940s and still in print, it is a classic book about the practical fundamentals of handling and flying light aircraft. Full of useful concepts  that can make you a better pilot andsave your life.  Very good if you plan to fly a tailwheel airplane.  If  one  combined this with the “TLAR” methods of Tom Knauff in “Glider Basics, First Flight to Solo”,  it would be complete for both power flying and glider flying.  These two books have all the stuff you absolutely have to know.  90% is not good enough on this fundamental information. Everyone must understand it 100%. If all pilots did understand all of this information, we would have very few accidents.



“See How it Flies”

by John S. Denker


Very good book which has been made available on-line. The author is an experienced flight instructor  who combines the practical aspects of how to fly with aerodynamic theory that explains WHY  things happen the way they do in a practical manner that is useful to pilots in the cockpit.  Like “Stick and Rudder”, it is full of concepts that if understood and applied, will make you a better

pilot and even save your life.



Mantaining Currency


Wings Program – you can get your “BFR” or biennial flight review, by enrolling in a continuous ongoing educational program, which includes educational activities along with flight instruction spread out over a period of time.


A site with many resources, allows you to enroll in the FAA Wings Pilot Proficiency Program.

Record all your educational activities and required flight instruction on the site.

The most significant incentive to participating pilots is the added level of safety and professionalism that is obtained through adoption of a consistent recurrent training program. Pilots participating in the WINGS program to at least the Basic Phase need not accomplish the flight review requirements of 14 CFR part 61, if since the beginning of the 24th calendar month before the month in which that pilot acts as pilot in command, he or she has satisfactorily completed or currently holds the Basic or higher WINGS phase in an aircraft (reference 14 CFR 61.56(e)). Pilots who participate in the program throughout each year so as to maintain at least the Basic Phase will always have a current flight review, as the date for their Basic Phase and corresponding flight review will move as they continue their safety education by participation in accredited FAASTeam activities and courses. Your activities can be customized for the type

of flying that you do and the ratings you have.





Another newsletter that is really nice way to keep up with what the FAA wants all pilots

to know,  is what they now call the "FAA Safety Briefing".  It used to be called FAA Aviation News but they recently changed the name.  It has tons of

really good information in a magazine like format,  and is easy to understand and read.  I learned a lot about this new ADS-B system that is coming in the not too distant future. It will be required by 2020 but is already starting to be used.  It will add signals that aircraft will send out to broadcast their GPS position and they will be used to inform ATC and other aircraft for traffic separation and collision avoidance.  They will still have RADAR, but GPS will add other types of information that RADAR cannot, such as giving you weather information in flight.













Online practice for the FAA written  or “knowledge” tests.

I have not checked all of these in detail.  I tried to include the ones that allow filtering the questions for  the glider exam, as opposed to airplane specific or instrument flying specific

questions.  Remember, the glider written test does have many questions that are not specific

just to gliders,  and apply to all types of flying.    But it will not have things that pertain to such

things as the Airline Transport rating, Instrument flight, multi-engine flying etc.  So you can

pretty safely filter out those kinds of questions from you practice test taking.


Gleim has some of the FAA written test questions specific to gliders on their website,  65 questions for private glider, and 111 questions for commercial glider.  You have to register

to create an account. They also have books with all the possible questions on the exams:








The "Forecast Discussions" for getting the "big picture" of what is happening with the weather. Put in a city name like Avenal, or Visalia to get a general picture of the weather for the next few days. The link to the "Forecast Discussion" is down near the bottom right of the page after you put in a

city name. These are really good, because they tell you what is expected to

happen with the weather over the next several days and also WHY:




Another good site for gathering up aviation weather is

this one. The "Prog" charts are good for seeing the weather systems,

and they forecast out 12, 24, and 36 hours ahead.  It's mostly for power planes, but it gives you a good idea of the big picture and how it is expected to change in the next 12 to 36 hours.





This is a weather site that I developed from one that was online sometime early 2000s

but the developer stopped maintaining it in 2005.

I replaced the above site with this one. I added some new features,  such as several

other world-wide areas can be chosen,  and several other parameters added to the

GFS and NAM forecast models. In addition, it now also has the NAM-HIRES and the RAP

computer models. It does require JAVASCRIPT to be enabled in

your browser.  It seems to work on the Iphone and Ipad as well as the Android with

the default browser that comes with the ATT Android phones.





Unisys has a lot of cool weather information in a nice format. They have all the main

Computer models available including the NAM/WRF, GFS and GFSx, ECMWF and the RUC

The GFSx has a  multipanel format or you can animate it using the “loop” selection.



NexSat  from the

Navy Research Lab in  Monterey, CA


For Satellite pictures that are helpful to look at, to go with the Forecast Discussions, I like to look at this one. I look at either the "CONUS", which is the lower 48 states, and then select the western US,  or the "NE Pacific" to see weather that is coming in from the Pacific and will hit us

in the next day or so. You can animate the pictures  for the past 12 hours and it looks  pretty cool. This one give you the actual history for the

last 24 hours. Combined with the forecast in the above link, you can get

a good idea of what is happening in the "Big Picture".  There are many options, with different

parameters and overlays, such as water vapor, the jet stream, fronts, pressure patterns etc, etc.





RASP – Dr. Jack


After you get the "Big Picture" of the weather, you can cone in on the more local "micro" weather picture for soaring near AVENAL with the RASP. On the RASP, I mostly look at the HCRIT AGL, the "Cu cloudbase where Cu potential > 0,  the Surface winds, the Boundary layer Up/Down,  which

are where the shearlines are going to be,  and the Height of Critical Updraft Strength HCRIT

I also like to look at the Skew T soundings for each of the 8 places it shows them for. That will tell you how high the thermals will go,  and whether there will be clouds,  and if so, what the cloudbase will be and where to look for shearlines for lift.  The Skew T also will try to tell

you if there is going to be rain, or high level clouds like cirrus, which

the RASP Blipmaps don't show.


The basic AVENAL RASP is here:




A larger RASP area covering all of CA and NV at 7.2km resolution.  Page has links to many

other useful weather related sites for planning soaring flights and getting weather briefings, checking TFRs etc.





There is a Weather Underground station now in Avenal at the elementary

school just South of the Airport along Hwy 33.




Of course the CCSC web cams are good for seeing what's happening at

the airport right now



There is nothing like the good old-fashioned weather forecasting method of sticking your head out the door or window.  WebCams are modern way of doing this in real time all over a large region.

There are a number of other web cams around the state that can be useful for

Getting a real time view of the weather right now.  The Owens Lake DustCams are

Nice, the Lake Isabella Kern cams are good, There are some around Yosemite, Mammoth, Lone Pine/ Mt. Whitney, Bishop, etc.  There are more at Gorman, Mt. Pinos,

Frazier Park etc.

Webcamsgalore has a large list of webcams by region.


California Webcams


Nevada Webcams




"Airnav" is a good site  for getting information about a given airport. Like if you were going to fly over to Paso Robles, you can get all the runway lengths and directions, the radio frequencies used, the pattern altitude, the direction of

the pattern for each runway, and other information such as any businesses

on the field, if there is fuel or a mechanic available, even hotels, motels etc.

The FAA publishes this stuff in the “Airport Facilities Directory”, but it's not as

nicely presented. But they do put in a disclaimer on these non-FAA sites that they are

not "official", whereas the FAA's Airport Facility Directory is Official.

Another useful thing they have is they give you a phone number you can dial to listen to the AWOS or ASOS automated weather report for the airport

on your cellphone.  It's the same info the broadcast on the radio for aircraft in flight. It gives you the current temp, dewpoint, wind, altimeter setting, ceiling and visibility.





XXXXXX- note Runwayfinder unfortunately seems to have shut down in early 2012. It was great.

Skyvector is probably the closest thing to it.


Runwayfinder is good for an on-line sectional chart view, and you can plot routes between landmarks and calculate distances etc.  They also try to plot  any TFRs, but they warn that they are not responsible, so take that with

a grain of salt. Only the actual FAA sites are official for that type of info. They also give you the latest "METAR" weather observations for all the airports

that have them:






Skyvector is very much like Runwayfinder




A new one I recently became aware of that seems to work and has a nice user interface.

Has links to airport diagrams and airport info from the Airnav site also:





Flightaware shows you  the routes where the airliners and business jets and other traffic that is

either IFR or VFR on flight following flies, so it's useful if you plan on flying near a large airport, to

get an idea where to expect the traffic will most likely be. You can also get airport diagrams, and

even look at all the possible IFR approaches and departures for the airport.   Knowing these

approach and departure paths is very helpful to the glider pilot, mainly in trying to avoid them or at

a minimum, realizing that hypervigilance is necessary when near these areas.




There are a bunch of other sites that are trying to show tracking of

air traffic using GoogleEarth, but they seem to come and go, but that would

be a good way to learn about where the air line and business aircraft

traffic flies in an out of larger airports. Like we were discussing, those

guys tend to fly on "track"s  in the air, so if you learn where those tracks

are, you can do better at avoiding them in a glider if you are flying closer

to larger airports.  One I heard about but haven't tried is. I think it needs

"GoogleEarth" to see the traffice in 3D.



----------------------------------------------------- is a cool site that lets you overlay current Sectional Aviation charts

in GoogleEarth. You can also overlay the current “Special Use Airspace” and visualize

the airspace, such as Class B, Class C, Class D, restricted and prohibited areas,  etc.  in 3D inside GoogleEarth.

XXXXX – as of Aug 31, 2012, this one no longer has the 3D airspace.





Understanding the Sky

An online book by Dennis Pagen written for sailplane pilots, hang glider pilots, RC glider

pilots. Pretty nice.





Weatherpredictor Site


Meteorologist Jeff Haby of Mississippi State has a nice site that is a combination of reference and on-line course in meteorology for people studying to become meteorologists  combined with quite a bit of homespun humor. Very readable for people who are not professional meteorologists but like to learn about the weather.









It can be very helpful to study the flights of other good pilots when planning your own cross-country flights.  The OnlineContest allows you to download the “IGC” files of interesting flights in a GoogleEarth compatable .kml format.


 You can then visualize the flight path inside GoogleEarth in 3-D.  There is a program called “IGCReplay” that works with GoogleEarth. This allows you to analyse and replay in 3-D an “IGC” file which is a recording of a flight made by  a GPS flight recorder.


There are other commercial viewers for IGC files, such as “SeeYou”.  But these cost money.




A lot of soaring clubs around the country have useful training information that they have developed for their clubs that can be useful to us as well.


San Antonio Soaring Society






Soaring Café


An online general interest magazine about what’s going on in gliding, especially racing.





Cumulus Soaring


Paul Remde

Soaring Supplies. Occaisionally puts out a very educational newsletter.  Very knowledgeable about gliding computers, GPS flight recorders  and other electronic devices.




Wings and Wheels

Soaring Supplies and Parts for some gliders, especially brakes. Very knowledgeable resource.


W&W is also the most popular place for on-line ads for gliders for sale.




Knauff and Grove


Ridge Soaring of Pennsylvania

Tom Knauff  and Doris Grove – leading soaring school owners and instructors.

Good source for training books and some general soaring supplies.



Soaring Society of America


Books and Supplies

Services to SSA members