Glider Launch Operations


Pilots wishing to be towed will bring their glider towards the GOA and queue in a reasonably organized manner. The order of launch will be determined by the Duty Officer, based primarily on a first come, first served basis.

Once your glider is in position, please finish your preflight checks and board the glider. Your ground crew should remain nearby in case there is a problem or in case the GOA needs to be evacuated.

Once a Tow Plane is ready, it will taxi into position. A Safety Officer will inspect the tow hook and rope, and then use the following procedures.

  1. The Safety Officer will display the end of the Tow Rope to the glider pilot, who will confirm the correct type of tow-ring.  If the ring is correct, the glider pilot will respond with a thumbs-up.
  2. A Safety Officer will attach the rope, using the “open hand” or “fist” signal to  open or close the tow hook as needed.  When the ring is inserted, the Safety Officer will pull on the rope and ask the pilot to test the release.
  3. After a successful release test, the Safety Officer will then re-insert the ring, apply tension and verify the security of rope.
  4. Once the rope is attached to the glider, the Safety Officer will move outside the wingspan of the glider, ensure that all personnel are outside the operations area, and monitor for potential landing gliders.
  5. Once the glider pilot is prepared for launch, he or she will give the Safety Officer a “thumbs up” signal.  The Safety Officer will raise the glider wing and signal the tow pilot to begin taking up slack.
  6. The Safety Officer will use the “swinging arm” signal to the tow pilot to take up slack. When slack is removed, the Safety Officer will raise his/her arm directly overhead to signal the tow pilot to stop.
  7. The glider pilot will waggle the glider rudder to confirm launch readiness.  If/when the area is clear, the Safety Officer will give the “windmill” launch signal for the tow pilot to depart. There may be some delay due to traffic considerations.
  8. If at any point after the wings are leveled, the glider pilot decides that he/she is not ready to takeoff, he/she will give a “thumbs-down” signal to the Safety Officer, make a “Stop Tow” call on the CTAF frequency  and/or release the tow hook. (Keep in mind that the Safety Officer will be primarily looking for traffic)
  9. If at any point after the wings are leveled, the Safety Officer sees an unsafe condition he or she will place the wing back on the ground as an abort signal.  The tow pilot should never proceed while the glider wing is lowered.  Nonetheless, all should be prepared for any eventuality in case the tow pilot has not seen the abort signal.  In addition to traffic concerns or tow plane issues, an open canopy, open dive brakes, or inattention of the glider pilot are all cases for the Safety Officer to abort and lower the wing.

Note that one signal we will NOT be using  is the tow plane rudder wag signal  during launch and climb (defined by the national soaring association) as an indication of the glider having dive brakes open.  This signal has caused confusion and incorrect early releases by glider pilots, so is under review.  In our club, the only towplane signal to the glider pilot is the wing rock which means immediate release.

It is primarily the duty of the Safety Officer(s) to ensure that any traffic conflicts are resolved. However, the glider pilot should also be actively looking for traffic, and react appropriately if other traffic is observed.

(Back to the Table of Contents)