Ever wonder what is considered a glider aircraft? Glider aircraft do not utilize an engine and instead are supported only by the reaction of air against its lifting surfaces. They typically take advantage of naturally occurring elements to obtain lift, but some models may use engines to take off (known as motor-gliders).

Primarily used for recreation, notably in competition gliding, the term “glider” encompasses a wide range of aircraft, including large motor-gliders, hang-gliders, and even paper airplanes! Gliders are also commonly referred to as “sailplanes.”

Anatomy of the Glider Aircraft

Barring the lack of an engine, a glider is very similar in structure to a traditional airplane but with significant differences due to the altered functionality.


Gliders must be as efficient as possible regarding size and weight and are built only to carry their intended cargo, usually one or two people. Typically, the pilot must sit on a reclined angle with legs stretched forward to save space in the cockpit.


Like most other types of aircraft, Gliders are designed to have skin as smooth as possible for minimal drag. However, the rivets and seams on traditional aluminum aircraft skin can generate unwanted drag, so many modern glider manufacturers opt for construction using fiberglass and carbon fiber materials.


The wing size of a glider aircraft may be their most immediately noticeable difference from traditional airplanes. Glider wings are much longer, narrower, and slenderer than typical airplanes. Because glider wings are so long and thin, they experience very little drag for the lift they generate. `

Control surfaces

Control surfaces are the moveable sections of planes that allow pilots to change direction.

Landing gear

Landing gears on gliders are simplified to account for size and weight. Gliders typically only use a single wheel under the cockpit as their only landing gear, although certain manufacturers opt to add other apparatus like a tailwheel or wingtip wheels.

How Does a Glider Attain Flight?

As a glider has no engine, it faces the hurdle of getting off the ground and generating lift. In the same way that a paper airplane needs an initial throw to fly, larger non-motorized gliders rely on an initial burst of velocity for takeoff. One common method of getting a glider into the air is through an aerotow. This process involves a traditional powered aircraft towing the glider into the sky using a long tether. Once the vehicles are at an acceptable height, the tether will release, and the glider and tow plane fly in opposite directions.

Once gliders are in the air, their design allows them to be very efficient and descend incredibly slowly. Gliders can also utilize updrafts, pockets of rising air, to rise mid-flight.

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