We are offer stunning and unique aerobatic displays in the world’s most exciting aerobatic gliders aided by wingtip smoke and pyrotechinics. Our breathtaking displays are suitable for events of all types ranging from birthday parties and weddings to major sporting events and airshows. No venue is too small and we can fill the sky with action at the biggest event too.
Our Team’s pilots have a wealth of experience from both air displays and aerobatic competitions and our displays have been seen in the UK, Europe and Middle East. Our pilots have taken top honours in national aerobatic competitions and have also competed at European and World levels. In 2010, our displays were witnessed by over 3.5 million people at venues in the UK and across Europe. The team have also featured in the National Press and on International television broadcasts as well as displaying further afield in the Middle East.
Have you seen our displays? Is there something you particularly liked or something you would like to see? We would love to hear from you so please leave a message on our Team Facebook Page
One hundred years before the Wright Brothers, Sir George Cayley had developed the first proper understanding of the principles of flight. In 1853, fifty years before the first powered flight was made at Kitty Hawk, the first man-carrying glider flight was made across Brompton dale in the north of England by Cayley’s coachman.
The brothers’ fundamental breakthrough was their invention of ‘three axis control’ and this was instrumental for the start of flying the first aerobatic manoeuvres.
Gliding took a giant leap forward in 1909, when the world’s first recorded soaring flight took place from atop Amberley Mount, West Sussex. The glider was designed and built by Jose Weiss, a French artist living in Amberley and flown by a local lad, 17 year-old Eric Gordon-England . Eric gained a height of 50ft and flew for 59 seconds before landing in the valley below.
Southdown Gliding Club, home to GliderFX latest aerobatic gliders, is now at Parham airfield, only a few miles away from Amberley.
There were National Aerobatic Championships in the early days, but the British interest in aerobatics all but fizzled out sometime in the 1950s or 60s.
A visiting Polish instructor, Josef Solski, sparked off the latest awareness at Lasham Gliding Centre in 1980s, and combined with the production of some very aerobatic Polish gliders in the 90s, the modern competition and airshow scene was born.
The current display team’s history goes back over 20 years. Guy Westgate first flew gliders at RAE Farnborough and learnt some basic figures with Alex Trueman in the RAE club’s IS28-B2 all metal two seat trainer in 1987. After some powered aerobatic training at British Airway’s training college in Scotland during 1992, Guy started to learn the art of competition glider aerobatics and flew in both the UK Nationals and World Aerobatic Competitions in ASK21, Lo 100 and S1 Swift gliders.
Guy flew the Austrian factory demonstrator MDM-1 Fox in 1996, and was so impressed he ordered one.
Our Glider display team first started in 1998, with an invitation by the late Peter Eager, Flying Display Director and visionary of the Shoreham Airshow. Peter was looking for a new display, and whilst waiting for his new Fox to be delivered, Guy rented the the German agent’s demonstrator Fox, D-4034.
The MDM-1 Fox is an amazing glider, copied largely from the S-1 Swift (same NACA wing section) which itself was an evolution of the 1964 designed Polish SZD-21-2B Kobuz 3. The 2-Seater ‘Fox’ is a pleasure to fly, predictable and surprisingly stable in the vertical, but with sufficiently frisky handling to enable unlimited level manoeuvres to be flown both at competition and air displays.
Our first Fox s/n224, ‘JKC’ arrived in 1999, bought by a syndicate of 10 pilots and was immediately pressed into action flying at the UK national championships and its first public display at Shoreham. The displays were flown in a competition style, featuring aerobatics from 4,000 feet, the glider starting its flight from Southdown Gliding Club, and towed towards the 10miles to the Shoreham display site.
In the following years, the display act evolved to launch from the display site, first to give the spectators a more complete understanding as to how the glider got airborne, and then manoeuvring on the aerotow to spice up the tow and provide some action even when cloudbase limited a full display.
Our first inverted aerotow, and our now trademark ‘roll on tow’ maneuver was at Shoreham Airshow in 2003 followed by several venues the following year, being towed by Super Cub from Southdown Gliding Club, RAFGSA Supermunk (Chipmunk) and Robin DR-400 from the London Gliding Club.
The Extra 300L towplane came on the scene late in 2005, with the first public displays during the 2006 season including Biggin Hill and Farnborough. The blisteringly fast roll-rate of the Extra 300L extended the possibilities to fly synchronised rolls on aerotow and more dynamic wing-overs, barrel rolls and near vertical zoom climbs, all whilst still being attached together by the rope.
2007 Saw the principle glider change from the MDM-1 Fox to the purpose built Polish S-1 Swift with the import of s/n 110 from Florida, USA, and marked the start of our links to the RAFGSA. Halton staff Ian Gallacher and Paul Moslin owned a rare Vogt Lo100 aerobatic glider based at the RAFGSA centre. The tiny wooden glider, designed in 1952 was the perfect formation partner to celebrate the history of aerobatics.
2008 was a year of innovation and change. Just as the union of aerobatic towplane and glider become more harmonized, tragically we lost the Extra 300L in a cross-country accident. The owners have since replaced the Extra, but regrettably the new airframe does not have a tow hook.
In aviation, as in life, when one door closes, many others open and we met Peter Wells the same year. Peter flies the stunning little retractable gear SA180 Silence Twister, and we embarked on probably the most successful chapter of the teams history.
The Swift Aerobatic Display Team was formed to promote a new integrated display, showcasing the best elements of the glider’s presentation combined with Pete’s solo twister display in one package.
The combination worked well, and 2009 was our busiest year to date, with the Team flying over 60 public displays at venues as diverse as Al Ain in UAE and Dala Jarna in Sweden. We also flew several sea side displays, with the glider never releasing from the tow rope.
2010 was another busy year and saw the start of our brightest project, the twilight pyro show, first featured at Odyssey 2010 in West Sussex. Not only did the Swift Team enjoy another busy season, but Pete Wells rolled out his second Silence Twister and formed the Twister Duo, quickly establishing itself on the display circuit and performing over 50 displays in its inaugural year. As our confidence grew we started to extend our range and aerotowed the Swift as far as Scotland, Cornwall and Germany during the season.
Towards the end of the 2010, our S1 Swift was badly damaged in a landing accident at the Shoreham Airshow. The pilot Mike Newman was hurt but thankfully made a good recovery. Thanks to the generosity of John Marriot at Bicester and the Dutch Aerobatic Glider Association we were able to complete the season with John’s Pilatus B4 and the Dutch Fox, including displays in Sanicole and Barcelona.
We found a replacement Swift, s/n111 in Austin,Texas, but it was also badly damaged and so in 2011 a new glider, a 2 seat MDM-1 Fox G-IIFX, joined the team. By a pleasant coincidence, it is the very same glider that started the team’s display flying at Shoreham in 1998, and was sold by the German agent to Switzerland in 2000.
The team also changed its name to Gliderfx, a play on phonics to read glider effects.
The MDM-1 Fox allowed the team to broaden it’s appeal to display organisers not only matching the display abilities of the Swift, but also allowing us to share the thrill of gliding with the public as a training aircraft. See the “What we Offer” page for more information.
Paul Holdnall joined the team as tugpilot and we purchased our own tow plane, and embarked on another year of innovation with the addition of a banner tow hook to the PA25 Pawnee and with help from Simon Moores of Airads, we passed our training and towed 15 banners over the first year in UK, Holland and Belgium. Peter Wells’ two Twisters took on a new identity as the SWIP Team and displayed as a formation display, allowing the glider to again take centre stage.
Over the 2011 Winter we started a training program with the Fox, flying from Edgehill, Parham, North Hill and Bannerdown (Keevil) and that summer added some new display venues for the Fox, Volkel Holland, Pershore, Sywell and Dala Jarna in Sweeden.
2012 was the year of the London Olympics, and much of the year was spent building up to the pyro flight that opened the Paralympic Games. The LED and Pyro technology we used on the twin engine Tecnam was an evolution of what we had developed for the Fox and Twisters. The historic flight also started our partnership with Aerobility, a Charity based at Blackbushe, with a mission to help disabled pilots to fly.
Gliding was an Olympic sport briefly in the 1940s but ditched from the lineup after the war in Europe. We flew another Olympic tribute at Shoreham Airshow that year, a formation of two 1947 ‘Oly’ gliders.
Our display over Barcelona in 2010 sparked interest with the Spanish Gliding club in La Cerdanya, and we agreed to base our Fox there for the 2012/13 winter, completing over 100 aerobatics training flights, with some spectacular wave flying in the mountains.
The next year we flew with TV personality and Motorbike racer Guy Martin for his TV series ‘Speed’. He was learning to fly a human powered aircraft for a record attempt, but enjoyed the Fox far more than filming.
We advanced both our pyrotechnics and lighting effects to expand the appeal and flexibility of our twilight displays and experimented with some large printed sheet banners to add quality, colour and impact to our flying message.
Paramotor specialist Michel Carnet joined us to launch a new concept in flying displays.
The Fox took another winter vacation in Spain where we met with skydivers Andres Vazquez Maso and Alain Dony at La Cerdanya. Together we explored the possibility of jumping from the Fox, exits from loops, and rolls, and eventually firing the skydiver straight up at 100mph.
Back in UK, we launched into another busy display season for 2014. The glider had a complete make-over with new paint and a temperature treatment to permit coloured graphics across the wings.
We expanded the LED matrix on the Fox in partnership with Advanced LED in Derby to make every LED lens separately controlled by a computer. The result was spectacular.
We also started work with some firework companies to coordinate ground fireworks with our flying pyro.
The Fox spent a third winter in the Pyrenees, and caught some of the legendry wave for several flights above 10,000ft and we developed the skydiving concept further with Andres.
That summer we flew more training camps at Leeuwarden and Husbands Bosworth and at the end of the year packed up for our second invite to the Al Ain airshow in December 2015.
We flew our first public display of the new skydiving act in the UAE, and at the end of the show, took the Fox glider to Skydive Dubai’s desert runway to present the act to the boss, Nasser Al Neyadi. He loved it, and invited us to stay for a few weeks and fly with SkyDive Dubai.
Aerotowing to 10,000ft over Dubai was quite surreal, and we pioneered some unique flights, formation flying with wingsuits and jumping over the Palm Jumeirah.
2016 was a difficult year in UK and Europe with a number of show cancelations in the wake of the Shoreham tragedy, but shows continued, with skydiving in France, and pyro shows across UK and Europe.
The 2016 winter, we accepted an invitation to go back to Dubai with the Fox, and rolled out our latest glider, the Austin Swift that we christened the ‘Phoenix’, arisen from the wreck we found 2010.
Rob Barsby joined the team as a tug pilot and we formed a new partnership with Simon Wood and Colin Whitehead of 2429 Technologies to develop the LED and pyro firing system to take our displays to the next level.
We shipped the new Swift to New Zealand, for our first display south of the equator.
GliderFX – Up and Up!!
If the display has enthused you to try gliding, there are almost one hundred clubs across UK able to provide lessons. The coordinating body in UK is the British Gliding Association (BGA). You can find your nearest club here.
The glider aerobatic scene is overseen by the British Aerobatic Association (BAeA), who coordinate all the competitions. Aerobatic instruction is hard to find,but is coordinated here.
Finally paragliding and powered paragliding (Paramotor flying) is overseen by the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (BHPA). There are training schools across the country and the website has an excellent “learning to fly” section here.
We are proud to display where nobody else can! Imagination and Flexibility go hand in hand with our team displays. We can tailor a display to fit most budgets and most requirements, No crowdline is too big, no venue is too small!
The gliderFX Team’s purpose is to entertain with a demonstration of glider aerobatics and we have a number of different displays and innovations to show our aircraft at their very best.
We developed the aerotow presentation 11 years ago with our signature manoeuvre, the ‘roll on tow’, with the glider rolling and flying upside down during the aerotow.
The glider display then starts from 3-4,000ft or lower if we have cloud, airspace or time constraints. We use orange wingtip smoke to trace the flight path of the glider. The pilotÂ’s skill is in using the glider’s energy efficiently, trading height for speed preluding each aerobatic stunt. With smoke the pilot becomes an artist, drawing graceful patterns – interspersing the flowing lines with contorted aerobatic twists and turns.
Our S-1 Swift and MDM-1 Fox gliders are capable of ‘unlimited’ aerobatics, and dramatic manoeuvres to watch out for include rolls, loops, tailslides, flick rolls and dynamic tumbles.
We have worked closely with the manufacturers of special effect pyrotechnics to develop unique wingtip pyrotechnics ideally suited to dusk and early evening flying displays.
We debuted the pyrotechnics at the Odyssey 2010 event and also performed at the world famous Sunderland, Eastbourne and Bournemouth airshows to critical acclaim. The flexibility of the glider means such displays would perfectly compliment evening open air concerts as well as airshows and other special events.
These displays are at their best after sunset. However the glider and tug must have landed before the end of civil twilight, typically half an hour after sunset
Our powerful aerotowing aircraft don’t just tow gliders, they can also tow banners. You, or your event sponsors can use our aircraft to send a special message to the show spectators before or after your flying display.
The team’s pilots have wide experience of competition aerobatics and display flying with both gliders and powered aircraft. We have displayed at major events across the UK, Europe and the Middle East.
Team Leader and Glider pilot and occasional tug pilot.
8 times National Glider Aerobatic Champion at Unlimited level and on the British team for 3 World Aerobatic Championships.
Guy has been flying aerobatics since 1993 and displaying gliders since 1998, he has 2 World Records tandem paragliding with his brother, is an advanced aerobatic instructor and CAA Display Evaluator. Guy is an airline pilot and flies Boeing 787 Dreamliners for British Airways from Heathrow.
Guy has pioneered many of the display techniques used by GliderFX, including the roll-on-tow, LED and pyro shows and incorporating a skydiver into the glider display.
Most memorable flights? The first glider pyro display in the Swift G-IIZI at Odyssey in 2010 and a close formation flight with 3 skydivers with wingsuits 10,000ft over the Palm Jamera in Dubai in 2016
After retiring from the Royal Air Force as Chief Flying Instructor of the RAFGSA Chilterns Gliding Centre in 2009, ‘Gally’ is now working at RAF Cosford delivering training within the fields of Human factors and safety Management Systems to Service personnel of all ranks.
Ian has previously flown the solo displays for the RAFGSA’s Team Condor and also won the 2008 Dan Smith Aerobatics Trophy.
Ian flies both the PA25 Pawnee tug and the aerobatic gliders for the team.
In his spare time Gally flies his Christen Eagle aerobatic biplane, rebuilding a Baby Lakes and CFI of The Wrekin Gliding Club.
Tug Manager, Tug pilot and glider inspector at the The Wrekin Gliding Club based RAF Cosford.
Paul joined the team in 2011 as a tug pilot and flies the PA25 Pawnee.
Paul started flying hang gliders back in the 1990`s then progressed on to conventional gliders moving on to Motor gliders and then light aircraft eventually becoming a tug pilot.
In his spare time for fun he flies a Baby Lakes Biplane and is also rebuilding another with team member Gally.
Rob started flying in 1983 at the age of 17 before driving and soon advanced up the ranks, becoming an instructor in the late 90’s and became CFI of one off the biggest gliding clubs in UK, the Gliding Center at Husbands Bosworth in 2013. Rob also works on a number of national projects related to inspiring youth and others into aviation.
Rob joined the team in 2015 as a tug pilot and flies the PA25 Pawnee but in his spare time also fly’s gliders, chipmunks, motor gliders and his own Robin DR400 around UK and Europe
Rob is now training to fly the aerobatic gliders of the team.
Most memorable flights? Towing the GliderFX Fox over the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai
All of our aircraft are unique in their own way. The gliders are the very best aerobatic machines in the world used by all the top pilots in aerobatic competition. Our trusty Piper Pawnee tow-plane is the only one of it’s kind fitted with a smoke system and adapted to tow banners.
The MDM-1 Fox is the two-seat big sister of the S-1 Swift. Like the earlier S-1 Swift, it’s construction is largely composite keeping the weight down while retaining unparalleled strength. The design work on the Fox design was started in November 1992 and the first prototype was flown on 9th July 1993. The Fox made it’s debut at the 1993 Glider Aerobatic Championships at Venlo, Netherlands, where Jerzy Makula took Gold flying the prototype. The strength of the design is the second seat, so it is perfect for training and sharing the thrill of glider aerobatics and flying displays. The team’s aircraft, G-IIFX, was imported into the UK by Guy Westgate in 2011 having been the German agents demonstrator (D-4034) and then based in Switzerland with SkyAdventure. (HB-3298)
- Wingspan – 14m
- Manoeuvre Limits +9/-6 g
- VNE – 151 kts
- Roll rate – 70 deg/sec
Only 35 Swift gliders were produced in Poland between 1992 and 1997 and they remain the strongest, most aerobatic glider ever built, with an unparalleled roll rate and immensely strong but slender composite wings. The prototype Swift first flew in August 1991 and has dominated competition aerobatics ever since. The Swift is capable of rolls, flick rolls, loops, outside loops, tailslides and tumbles.
- Wingspan – 12.67m
- Manoeuvre Limits – +10/-7.5 g
- VNE – 155 Kts
- Roll rate – 80 deg/sec
Piper PA25 Pawnee
The Piper PA-25 was designed to be a rugged and easy to maintain agricultural aircraft. When combined with the powerful Lycoming O-540 engine the aircraft has proved to be a useful glider tugging aircraft and is in use around the world. Pawnee G-BDPJ was part of the Royal Air Force Gliding and Soaring Association’s fleet based at RAF Halton. It is unique amongst Pawnees in the UK as it’s fitted with an engine exhaust smoke system for flying displays.
- Wingspan – 11.02m
- Power – 250hp
- VNE – 135kts
[fts_facebook type=page id=188730070527 access_token=EAAP9hArvboQBAIAXszyfe4VEdhB6rg9adm96bZAro6DXKCCZBVfvuwmpNUWLQkb9uVM2P9Qde8bYW9K0ZAHe7DI45cD9z67M8xZCqbiDiDZAld0lZASpZCVrFmWzMZBUwg03eu1GVsuZB2jDGWDHbBXu4gD5tElaF9ACqQHqD49N7AFNbvmtNipMj0iLSGvRxAB4ZD posts=3 height=500px description=no posts_displayed=page_only]
How do I book a display?
You can book a display at any time, although the UK airshow season starts taking shape over the winter months, with most big shows booking their acts between Jan and March for the following summer. Generally British flying displays take place from May to October when the weather and light are more favourable for flying displays.
Smaller venues can often be fitted in enroute to other shows, and we regularly fly several displays in a day at venues as far away as Scotland, Cornwall and Central Europe. It is preferable to have a 300-400m long landing area for the glider adjacent to the display area, but not essential. We have pioneered a glider display we call our Â‘seaside profileÂ’, first flown at Bournemouth in 2008, the glider staying on aerotow for the whole flight. We have now performed this display at venues as diverse as the Windermere (Lake District), Sunderland, Eastbourne, Lowestoft, Southend and Barcelona (Spain).
For smaller venues, once you have expressed an interest in our display, our first task is to look at the display location and determine if any previous permissions have been granted. The CAA need to know details of the planned crowd position and public areas, car parks, the flying display area and also local contacts for the emergency services. Repeating a previous application is much easier than starting from scratch, which may require a site visit.
Once satisfied, the CAA will issue a permission to perform a public flying display. Included is often an exemption from the low flying rules, to permit the display nearer and lower than would otherwise be allowed. The CAA fee for a small event is currently £185 and the process takes a minimum of 28 days, sometimes longer. Regrettably this fee is not refundable.
If your event is a wedding, private party or event that is not open to the public then it is not always necessary to gain a permission from the CAA, if that is the case then there is then no CAA fee.
Once we have agreed which of our display profiles suits your event, we can confirm the booking with a 10% deposit.
Some useful documents are here:
- CAP403 – Flying Displays and Special Events
- SRG 1303: Flying Display Notification Form
- SRG 1304: Special Events and Unusual Aerial Activity – Application Form
- The CAA charges are listed here
If having read all about it, you would still like to make an enquiry, Email Us.
How much does it cost?
Regrettably we cannot provide free displays, however displays start from as little as £400 + VAT.
Many charity events and shows only survive with the goodwill of volunteers, and we like to think we can do our bit, by offering a unique aerial spectacle at a very competitive rate.
We have a pedigree of innovative and flexible solutions to most problems and have occasionally used local aircraft to reduce costs.
Do you need a special licence to do what you do?
Yes – Our pilots hold flying licenses, medicals and a license from the CAA to perform public displays, called a Display Authorization (DA).
The DA describes what aircraft and what manoeuvres are authorised.
The aircraft must also be insured for airshow flying, and we have 3rd party liability cover for £7,500,000.
Tell me about NOTAMS
NOTAM is an acronym of ‘Notice To Airmen’, a weekly list of unusual flying activity across the country produced by the CAA. Its just one way we keep safer as other pilots can avoid displays or events.
NOTAMs are issued for airshows and displays as part of the CAA application procedure by the Aerospace Utilisation Section (AUS). Their telephone number is 020 7453-6582.
The Red Arrows are unique and set up protective airspace around their display venues. Pilots who wander into the TRA (Temporary Restricted Airspace) are regularly prosecuted.
Some excellent independent websites now offer a map of current NOTAMs and protected airspace:
The Red Arrows have a Freephone hotline for their movements: 0500 354 802
NATS own NOTAM plotting application by Skydemon is here.
Is it dangerous?
All flying carries a risk, and airshow flying has many different risks to other forms of flying. Our job is to understand the threats and risks and balance the performance with the dangers to deliver a safe but dazzling display.
It’s a well know motto amongst the airshow veterans that you don’t try anything new at airshows. The art of a good display is to keep the aircraft in front of the crowd, to fly with confidence and not to attempt the impossible.
Most of the dangers come not from the display but the transit to and from the venue. European weather can be fickle, and long distance journeys almost inevitably find bad weather, with low cloud, storms and rain all posing significant risks to our operation.
Where does the glider land?
For airshows based on airfields or airports we normally land on the main runway, although we have also used aprons, taxiways and grass strips in the past. The glider is fairly manoeuvrable on the ground, and can usually vacate to ensure minimum runway occupancy time to keep the show schedule running smoothly.
For other venues, we can be as imaginative as you like and have landed in many fields, on sandy beaches, parkland and even a horserace track and motor-race circuit. The glider can be de-rigged into a trailer, so it is not necessary to be able to re-launch from the landing site.
If there is no safe place to land, then we can perform our acclaimed ‘seaside profile’, the glider performing the entire display on aerotow.
How do I learn aerobatics?
Most pilots will learn some aerobatic manoeuvres as part of their basic training, both in gliders and powered aircraft. Aerobatics can be fun, but it is also important to be able to walk before you try and run. With this in mind, we do not recommend that you concentrate on aerobatics until at least solo. Learning aerobatics can be expensive, and it is important that a student can learn as much as possible with every flight with out getting bogged down in learning the basic flying skills.
Any British Gliding Association (BGA) instructor should be able to demonstrate the basic aerobatic manoeuvres in a glider. There is also an advanced instructor rating for those teaching manoeuvres like rolling and inverted flight.
Many display pilots have a grounding in competition flying. This teaches a disciplined approach to flying and will hone aerobatic flying skills, particularly the key skills of precision, repeatability and positioning. In many ways a small group of judges are just like a large crowd. They like to be wowed but not frightened, they recognize and reward confidant and accurate flying and prefer to see the aircraft nicely in front of them and never behind.
The British Aerobatic Association (BAeA) runs all aerobatic competitions in UK and is the envy of the World for its very structured approach to running events and developing pilots skills and confidence with mentors across the country.
Is it hard to roll-on-tow?
Rolling gliders is a huge challenge. The long wingspan of most training gliders presents some unpleasant side effects of adverse yaw from the large ailerons and differential lift. A gliderÂ’s wing-section is optimised for soaring performance and this does not usually lend itself to working upside down for inverted flight.
The biggest difficulty to roll-on-aerotow is to keep the roll very smooth and the lateral movement of the glider to a minimum to not upset the tug and above all-else to keep the rope tight. It should go without saying that a very fast roll rate is necessary to make the roll-on-tow safe and repeatable, and we only use the Swift and Fox gliders for this manoeuvre.
The perfect technique took over 8 years to develop after trials with tow planes from Extra 300L to Supercub and a range of rope lengths. We found the secret to the manoeuvre is to limit the tow-speed and practice practice practice!
Is that a special aerotow rope?
We have spent several years developing the ideal aerotow rope for our displays. The rope needs to be strong, lightweight, and show good resistance to UV light, water and abrasion.
Dyneema is a Polyethylene fibre rope developed in the Netherlands for yacht rigging. On a weight for weight basis, it is 15 times stronger than steel wire but also too rigid to use on its own and needs a length of shock absorbing nylon rope at the glider end.
The length of the rope is also critical. Too short and the aerotow gets more difficult, too long and it is harder to maintain rope tension whilst rolling.
The rope does windup during our roll-on-tow, but 10-15 twists over 49m of rope does not cause any problems.
There are weak-links on both ends of the rope, designed to shear at a known load in order to protect the tug and glider.
The ropes get maintained regularly and we owe debt of gratitude to Roger Bray of Southdown Gliding Club for his innovative solutions to keep our ropes in tip-top condition.
How much ‘g’ do you pull? and how fast do you go?
Our gliders are capable of pulling up to 10g, a force equivalent to 10 x the force of gravity you will experience while watching us, with a top speed of 180mph. This is both uncomfortable and very inefficient. The drag on the glider will increase with greater speed and when a larger effort is required to create lift.
We try and fly a smooth and efficient display, and typically pull +5g/-3g and reach speeds up to 140mph (120kts).
What makes your wingtip smoke?
Piston powered aircraft like our Pawnee tug generate smoke by injecting smoke oil into a hot exhaust. In a similar way, Jets like the Red Arrows create coloured smoke by spraying a mix of azo dye and diesel into the hot exaust gasses. In both cases the heat must be sufficient to vaporise the liquid, but not so hot as to burn.
The glider has no heat source, so we have to resort to pyrotechnics. The wingtip smoke is from a special Â‘smoke candleÂ’. The chemical formula is designed for stability and safety for ground handling and gives very consistent burn rate to provide 3-4 minutes of dense coloured smoke.
The nightFX pyrotechnics are also a special formula and a closely guarded secret.
How do I join the team?
We are always pleased to hear from like-minded motivated individuals with above average flying skills and most importantly lots of spare time and a great sense of humour.
Airshows and display flying are not always glamorous, and there are many hours of work behind the scenes for every hour at an airshow.
I am building a model of an MDM Fox glider, can I copy your plane?
We have several requests a year to take photographs and measurements from our display gliders. We are always very pleased to help. You can find us during our display work-up and training sessions in the spring or at airshows through the summer.
The logos and livery are constantly changing as we support different organisations and sponsors come and go.
For detailed plans of the Swift and Fox, please contact the manufacturer, Marganski & Myslowski Zaklady Lotnicze (Marganski & Myslowski Aviation Works).
What music to you play at your displays?
We have an airband radio in the glider for communication, but cannot hear the PA system when we are flying.
We often leave the track selection up to the commentary team, but our favorite tracks over the years have been:
- ‘Shine on you Crazy Diamond’ by Pink Floyd (1975), made famous by the Skyhawks in the 80s
- Sleeping Satellite by Tasmin Archer (1992)
- The Theme from Harry’s Game by Clannad (1982)
- Ombre Mai Fu by Paul Schwartz (2005)
- And for pyro displays this year possibly Firework by Katie Perry (2010) – “you gotta ignite the light and let it shine, just own the night like the 4th July, ‘cause Baby you’re a firework” – a lyric with our name on it!