Cross-Country Program

Last revised – 11 AM 2/28/19     This page will soon be deleted. It will be copied by WSC staff over to the web site.  It will not remain as a VSA page.  It is a draft, created to serve as a page listed under …

Here at Williams Soaring Center we are committed to the growing sport of Soaring.  As a family (this includes the entire staff) we are keenly motivated to support everyone who also enjoys this unique sport.   This program, called the “Cross-Country Program” is for pilots who are highly motivated to fly cross-country in gliders.  Candidates must hold at least a private pilot certificate with a glider rating.  Since you have your rating, you have already met the FAA established standards to fly cross country (see the Navigation section of FAA-H-8083-258, on page 1-22 to review these standards).  The challenge that has always confronted pilots is how to safely acquire the needed experience that will allow you to confidently venture outside of the gliding range of the home field.  In past generations, pilots would find themselves in difficult situations after venturing far from the field and all too often terminate in unfavorable situations.  Jumping into the deep end of the pool is not the safest approach to learning how to swim.  Acquiring the skill and expertise to fly cross country is recognized as one of the ultimate goals of every glider pilot, but if you are training yourself, you will have difficulty in determining what you are doing wrong and what you are doing right.  Spending time with an instructor in a structured environment will undoubtedly be more efficient and will result in better progress with a safer outcome.

This new program is structured to support your goals and expectations, and the subject mater will be designed personally for you.  Since we have the experience and expertise, we encourage you to investigate this valuable resource.  The program is not a re-test or re-certification of your glider license.  You have already earned that certificate.  After extensive training, both on the ground and in the air, you will be encouraged to demonstrate your abilities to safely fly solo on cross country tasks of your own choosing, and you will then be publicly recognized for you accomplishments.

The four parts to this Cross-Country Program are:   The Introductory Period, Ground School, Dual Flights and Solo Flights.


Introductory Period

In order to design a program that is personally designed for each candidate there is a two-step process.  First, an assessment session and shortly thereafter, a program overview session.


The instructor does not know what you already know about cross-country flying and he is not aware of the level of your flying skills.   To get started, simply sign up for an assessment session with the instructor of your choice here at WSC.  The assessment will be a about one hour of classroom time (discussing subjects such as noted in foot note *1 below) and about one hour of dual flying time.  The instructor will gather enough information to determine your strengths in both your knowledge and your flying as it relates to accomplishing cross-country flying.

It may take a few days, but the instructor will then devise a program, tailored to your level of experience, designed to meet your expectations that will allow you to accomplish cross country flights on your own.   Although standard rates for rentals, tows and instruction will apply during the assessment session, the cross country  program will be conducted at reduced rates, which will be discussed in the next meeting with the instructor.

Program Overview

This will be your second meeting with the instructor. This will effectively be a debriefing of the assessment session and is held several days later.  The Instructor will provide you with an overview of the program he has designed specially for you.  The program structure will be flexible, since every pilot progresses at varying speeds, but the end result will remain unchanged.  The program will allow you to safely meet your goals and to achieve the standards that are needed for safe cross-country soaring. He will outline the ground school, and the flying phases of both dual and solo flying.  The reduced cost structure of the program will be fully explained.  If you choose to enter the program there will be ground school, followed by dual flights and solo flights. You and the instructor will mutually agree on a set of goals that you are expecting  to achieve in this program.  However, at this point if you choose not to proceed with the program, that is not a problem.  The assessment session will have served you well, and you will now be more knowledgeable about your existing knowledge levels and skills.  Hopefully you will proceed with caution as you attempt cross country soaring on your own.


Ground School

Undoubtedly you already know a lot about cross-country, so let’s start with a review of your level of knowledge and improve where necessary.  Let’s face it, you are going to learn the book knowledge on your own time and you don’t need to pay an instructor to read the books to you, but it will be helpful if you are guided in your studies.  In this first ground school session, it will be a lot of give and take.  The instructor will address various subject areas and discuss them with you, and you will share what you know about each area.  Take notes during the discussion as you go along.  Then, go home and learn more about the areas that need more study.  There will be follow-on ground school sessions as needed before the first dual flight.  It is a statement of fact that an airplane cockpit serves as a very poor classroom.  Certainly, maneuvers must be demonstrated and practiced in flight, but a person cannot be expected to discuss concepts while in the air – distracted by flying the machine. Thus, we’ll be sure we have a good understanding of the basics before the first dual training flight.  The instructor will continue to meet with you to discuss cross country subject matter.  When an adequate level of knowledge has been achieved the candidate will then proceed to the flight phase.


Dual Flight Phase


Three to five dual flights will be used to demonstrate and practice the basics that are needed in cross country soaring.  The purpose is to eliminate deficiencies, if any – such as difficulty in entering and in centering in thermals, inconsistent or incorrect airspeed control while circling or not properly adjusting speeds while cruising in sinking or rising air, etc..  At the completion of this dual flight phase, the candidate is ready to fly tasks.

Completing Tasks

Two to three dual flights will be used to complete short tasks multiple times to improve efficiency.  The necessary depth of knowledge will have been acquired, as well as having practiced and demonstrated the various flying techniques necessary that are needed for completing tasks.  All of these flights should demonstrate the capability of a flight to always remain within glide range of landable fields.  At the completion of this phase, you will have demonstrated your skill at choosing and applying the best courses of action for various situations, while completing various tasks. You will now proceed to the final phase of the program – planning and completing tasks while flying solo.


Solo Flight Phase and Completion

You will fly several solo flights, planning and attempting tasks.  If you are fortunate enough to already have your glider, you may use your ship during this phase of the program.  During the classroom session after each solo flight all aspects of each solo flight will be reviewed – see Footnote *2 below.  When you and the instructor agree that you have achieved the goals that you and the instructor had mutually set at the beginning of this program, he will prepare the Completion Certificate and it will be formally presented to you.  See sample certificate in Appendix C below.



This program was structured to support your goals and expectations.  Since we have the experience and expertise, we were able to help you to achieve those goals. The program was not a re-test or re-certification of your glider license.  You earned that certificate earlier.  You are now encouraged to enjoy practicing the greatest aspect of glider flying – Cross-Country.



Footnote *1
The Instructor will discuss many of the following with you as well as other material during the assessment period.

  • personal prep, for first X-C, including:
    • weather analysis for the day,
    • detailed flight plan for the day including details for each leg:
      •  distances and expected enroute times and number of thermals.
      • expected glide ratios between turn points
      • expected amount of time between turn points
  • Weather forecasting
  • Glide ratios
  • Glide distance per 1,000 ft in varying winds and ships
  • Proper flying speeds
  • MacCready setting
  • Use of electronic and manual computers
  • Safe altitudes
  • Task planning
  • Off-field landings
    •  Selecting a suitable field, Walking the selected field to validate suitability, Approach and landing methods.
  • Planned goal arrival altitudes for each turn point, including landing at the finish.
  • Prep before flight to include:
    • the cockpit, instruments, and note cards to be carried
    • Trailer prep
    • Tow vehicle prep


Footnote 2*
Solo flights should be patterned after the dual flights that had been completed.  All flights should be well planned, to include: Takeoff time, tow release location and altitude, details of proposed task, planned landing time.  If the soaring forecast does not support a X-C flight on the scheduled day, the candidate should coordinate alternate plans with the instructor.

The critical review of each flight will include:

  • a review of the RASP forecast for that day (candidate should provide a folder of the RASP forecast maps that were current on the day of the flight.)
  • a review of the entire GPS flight recording, to include takeoff to landing
  • staying within glide distance of usable runways
  • efficient thermalling and appropriate inter-thermal speeds
  • excessive delays enroute
  • safe altitudes maintained
  • proper deviation or reasonable adherence to the flight plan
  • etc.



Appendix A

Soaring Seasons

Although the spring time is often regarded as the optimum time for cross country flights, this program may be started at any time of the year.  Generally speaking, there are four soaring seasons here in Williams California. Select each to see more.

Appendix B

Self-study and Reference material

Besides the needed flying skills, you must acquire a knowledge base.  There is no single text book, document or syllabus that adequately encompasses all of the knowledge that you as a pilot need to have to fly cross country.  Techniques are numerous, and every aspect of the flight is laden with subtle cues that you may either heed or ignore, depending on each situation.   Situations are seemingly unique, yet surprisingly similar.  There are right and wrong courses of action that should be taken, given the circumstances at any given moment, but every situation changes moment by moment based on your perception, and what is right for one pilot may not be right for another pilot.  The point is, you will get the most from this program, if you put the effort into self-study, take the time that is needed to prepare as best as you are able to do.   The instructor will be listening carefully to you and will assist you in learning subject areas that need additional study.

Read as many of the web pages and articles, documents, and publications on this subject that you may have access to.  Assimilate the book knowledge and also consider the advice that other pilots may offer to you.  The following is a list of some readily available material.  Get your brain in sync with thinking x-c.  Read and study on your own.  Form your own opinions and make your own plans.  Study the RASP weather forecasts (be sure to save them in a folder with the date so you can review the weather and match it up with any flight that may be shared for that day on the WSC Forum).    Compare the weather forecast to a flight track made by a fellow pilot. Analyze the thermals, see the source of the thermals, see the wind.  Study the glide ratios.  A lot can be learned by such analysis.


Some of the Links on the Internet

Cross-country soaring Hardcover – 1978
by Helmut Reichmann (Author)

As extracted from Amazon web page:
Book is considered the standard for intermediate and advanced sailplane pilots. From contents: Slope Soaring; Thermal Soaring; Inversion and Shear Waves; Lee Waves; Dynamic Soaring; Navigation; Landing Out; Speed To Fly; Competition Tactics; Training and Conditioning; Equipment; Theoretical Meteorology; Speed; Equipment; Photographs.


Cross-country Techniques.  Read it all the way through. See slide 23 for rules of thumb.


Glider Flight Handbook, FAA Publication, with two chapters especially significant to this program.

Chapter 11, Cross-Country Soaring

Chapter 5, Glider Performance


Soaring in Ontario Canada


Kai Gersten created a short compilation of the practical aspects of cross-country soaring.


Less complicated presentation are available, such as


You will find dozens of cross country videos on line.  Some may prove to be instructional as well as motivational.

Here is an example by “Wolf the Aviator”.  Introduction in Cross Country Soaring with Paul S and DG505 – YouTube


G Dale books, such as

“The Soaring Engine, volume one”

“The Soaring Engine, volume two”


Flying Faster in the UK


Presentation here at Williams Soaring Center 2017 by John Cochrane


Motivational posting about Hollister cross country flying 


Research the names of well known glider pilots and review some of their many publications that may aid you:

Paul MacCready , Ed Byars, Wil Schuemann, George Moffat, Ben Greene, Dick Johnson, Soaring Symposia, A.J. Smith, Jim D. Burch, John H. Cochrane, and many others who are easily found on the internet.

Although it is time consuming, you should be reading postings by other pilots about soaring experiences.  A few of the popular web sites and forums to read are:!forum/rec.aviation.soaring

Monthly Greatest Posts

Rafting the Hiwassee

and many more..


SSA webanars

The wings and wheels Monthly newsletters  – they can be signed up for on the wings and wheels web sight and are archived on the site as well, so you can look back on past topics.


Appendix C

The Graduation Certificate

Appendix D

The FAA standards as stated on page 1-22 of the PTS



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