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The Women's World Gliding Championships 2022
Episode 416th August 2022 • CAA on General Aviation • UK Civil Aviation Authority
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The CAA spent a day at the Women's World Gliding Championships 2022.

We spoke with Liz Sparrow, Director of the Championships and Pete Stratten, CEO of the British Gliding Association learning about how the event came to be in the UK and learning more about the scrutineer process behind competition gliding.

We also spoke with Simon Smith, the Chief Tug pilot at The Gliding Centre, at Husband’s Bosworth airfield talking about the safety factors associated with tugging gliders.

Women are underrepresented in aviation generally with only 6-7% of glider pilots being female. The championships was an opportunity to reach beyond the parameter of the event and aim to engage with the community and actively encourage more women and young people to consider gliding as a route into aviation.

You can learn more about the WWGC 2022 and all the associated events taking place.

WWGC2022 The Womens World Gliding Championships 2022

Video about the Championships

The British Gliding Association

For more information on the work of CAA and STEM visit:

STEM | Opportunities in Aviation (


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Voiceover 0:12

Welcome to the general aviation podcast from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Alex Blomley 0:21

Hello, and we are here today at the start of the Women's World gliding championships being held at the gliding Centre, at husbands Bosworth airfield, we are going to be having a chat with Liz Sparrow, the event organizer who's been working diligently behind the scenes for a number of months leading up to this occasion pulling all of this together. We're also going to be having a chat with Pete Stratton from the Biritish Gkiding Association and also taking a look at the scrutineering process that takes place when the gliders are preparing to take part in the competition, as well as having a little chat with all the competitors and all the different ground support people who are here to make this fabulous event take place. I'm joined by Simon Hello, Simon.

Simon Smith 0:58

Hi, Alex. I'm Simon Smith. I'm the chief tug pilot here. I'm also Deputy Chairman of the gliding centre, at Husbands Bosworth airfield.

Alex Blomley 1:05

Fantastic. Thank you Simon. And so you tug here with the chipmunk, which is very exciting. So we're here with a chipmunk. Could you tell us a bit more about it?

Simon Smith 1:12

Yeah, actually, it's a Supermunk. So what we've done is we've removed the original gypsy engine and put in a Lycoming engine, which gives us an extra 50 horsepower for the towing makes it non aerobatic, which is great. It gives us more fatigue life on the components. This one was first built in '53. We changed the engines over other than that it's just like a normal chipmunk.

Alex Blomley 1:31

So when you're getting ready to go off and start tugging gliders, what are the sorts of things that you have to check on the aircraft?

Simon Smith 1:36

Okay, so each morning, we do a normal Check A as you do with all GA aircraft, and there's a couple of things we have to look at on top of that. So there's the condition of the rope, we have two weak links built into the rope as well, which will snap, so we can't overstrain the aircraft. So we check the weak links. And we also check that the release systems working. So if we need to, we can release the glider. So we checked that that goes Other than that, that it's just a standard Check A walk around,

Alex Blomley 1:59

can I just ask you quickly about the rope that you use. So does it have to be a standard length for gliding

Simon Smith 2:04

doesn't have to be but the recommended length is 50 meters 180 feet is perfect any shorter than that. And effect of the glider pulling on the back of the aircraft gets more extreme any longer and it's just too long, it's a bit too cumbersome and it takes makes takeoff so much longer. So yeah, but I mean each end, we have a weak link. So we have a weak link system built in this is the tow end. And you can see there's a split system in there that will just break so it can't overstrained anything, we just run through the ropes, make sure there's no knots or any damage to the ropes all the way through to the other end where there's another weak link, slightly weaker, weak link. So it will snap at the glider end first if it needs to. So it says just it's just like a just a three strand, right? Just the standard route. We've tried all sorts of different ropes really, these are really good, do the job really well and pretty abrasion resistant, which is good when we're operating off the hard runway.

Alex Blomley 2:56

Fantastic. So I'm also I noticed when you came into land that it just flies behind you freely is that do you have to worry about that? Do you have to compensate for that.

Simon Smith 3:04

Obviously, when we're coming in, we've got an access road, we've got trees, we know it's 180 feet behind us, it doesn't actually hang down, it flies behind us. So we need to make sure there's always plenty of clearance coming in, which means we can't land particularly short, which is difficult. We've got a grid right at the back of the field. It involves with us having to turn around do more backtracking. So that's a balance we have to work out from a risk assessment point of view, especially with strong winds. We don't want to be doing lots of turning in a taildragger and and taxiing downwind, particularly so we need to think about where we put the launch point to keep it safe.

Alex Blomley 3:30

Is there anything you think it's worth adding to people about mindful of safety with gliders or anything like that if you had the opportunity to say anything?

Simon Smith 3:36

I think we need to talk to each other a lot more. I've done some things here. I've invited some general GA clubs to come along and have a go at it. And I think what surprises them often is they don't realize the speeds that gliders fly at the distance they fly the heights they fly out there's this perception often that they just stay very close to the airfield and you know, float around. It's not like that when we've got a big comp on here, the comp we had running three weeks ago. We were launching 75 gliders in 90 minutes. They all stay fairly local till they open the start line. So a lot of gliders and then the racing so it'd be good if people came along and had a go at it and got more involved in it.

Alex Blomley 4:09

So I get the impression that husband bosworth is is a pretty busy gliding hub, in a sense with lots of different things going on.

Simon Smith 4:15

It is it is and all Joe welcome here. Anybody wants to get PPR just give us a call. We'll brief you on what you need to do. You're very welcome. We just don't want any overhead joins. We got cables and stuff but we can talk you through all that.

Alex Blomley 4:26

Wonderful. Thanks for your time Simon. Thank you. We're now going to have a chat with Liz Sparrow.. Liz has been the Pioneer behind the women while gliding championships here at the husbands Bosworth airfield. Liz, lovely to see you today. Could you share with us all your role in putting this event together?

Liz Sparrow 4:41

Yes, absolutely. So I'm the championship director, which means that during the competition, I'm sort of sat at the top of the wobbly pile of jelly, but also I've been one of the lead people in the project actually doing it and it was myself and some others in the British gliding team, the women's team who a couple of competitions ago said, do you know we should bid to hold a comp in the UK and the reason we should do it is a) because other people have held comps for us. But more broadly, because at the moment, women are horribly underrepresented in gliding, and in aviation more generally and in STEM, and

Alex Blomley 5:16

you pulled it off. So we're here. And so there are 12 national teams here.

Liz Sparrow 5:21

Yeah, so we've got 12 teams, but obviously from the home team, were one of the things we did was we set up a squad in the UK and trained up or brought on the skills of a whole load more pilots. And so we've got as big a team as we've ever had more people qualified. But it's really nice to see a bigger team. And that's had a knock on down through sport in the UK already, we're seeing many more women competing. So the work we've put in over the last three or four years between the competition and our support network, women gliding that's really paying off. So British team and a number from all over Europe. And also we have Argentina here as well. I'm particularly though particularly delighted that we've got two pilots from Ukraine here for the competition. And when it all happened, let's put it that way. I knew a Ukraine pilot, and we made contact with a couple of them, and said, you're probably not really thinking about this. But if you could come over and compete brilliant, or if you just wanted to come over and be among your friends come over. And so we've got two of them over here competing, we did a crowdfunding exercise which has enabled us to cover their cash expenses, two pilots have lent their gliders for them, a number of our sponsors have provided other bits of equipment. So they've got all they need here from you know, tents, radios, you name it. So we're just so pleased. And it's just so great to see them. Because one of the really good things about gliding, it's a brilliant community it's sort of a team sport, you can't really take off on your own. And so you get to know the people around you. And particularly with Internationals, which happen, usually every couple of years, you get to meet some new people, some of the same people, and they become friends, which is just lovely. So for me, it's sort of magic to see, all my friends have come to see my show. It's It's so good.

Alex Blomley 7:15

And it's fantastic atmosphere, we've been able to have a chat with some of the pilots as well, when they've been preparing their gliders, and they were all very excited. It's really nice, as you say, sort of community spirits, which I think is probably quite unique to gliding in some ways.

Liz Sparrow 7:27

Yes, probably so. And one thing I'd like to emphasize is that everybody involved in this is a volunteer, without exception. And we've got volunteers from all I started off saying all across the UK, but actually, yes, all across the UK. But literally all around the world. One of our volunteers is a Kiwi so you can't come from any further away than that. So they're all volunteers. They're all giving up their time, they all wanted to be part of this, we all wanted to be part of this, this great event. And one of the things we've done that hasn't as far as we know ever been done at a gliding competition before, we're making it a public event. So we have the opening ceremony is in the local town Market Harborough and Lutterworth on Saturday. And those are public events, everybody can come. And then we start racing from Sunday through to the Friday week. But the middle weekend on the 20th and the 21st. We have made a public open weekend, and the racing will be going on weather permitting. And alongside that we have an exhibition where we have two themes. One is Women in Aviation, and STEM more generally. And the other is sustainability. And we've got just a number of so we have some electric aircraft. And I'm so looking forward we've got one that's actually being built here and people get a chance to to build a team called nuncats who are making an electric plane for government use, nongovernmental organization use, in third world countries that solar charge and everything. We can help build that How good is that is amazing for kids of all ages, and I am one of them for sure.

So obviously this is a public event, as you've said, with, I guess lots of support from the local community and local organizations?

Yes, I mean, one of the things we've done is really worked hard to and we've had a brilliant events manager who's liaised with the local areas. And so we've been working with the local authority with local businesses and indeed national businesses to help support this and we've got a lot of partners who have helped make this possible, you know, for which we say thank you.

Alex Blomley 9:28

Thank you, Liz. Thanks for your time and good luck. Hope it all goes well.

Liz Sparrow 9:30

Thank you very much. And lovely to see you here today. Our friends at the CAA one of our supportive partners who provided the air maps for all of the competitors

Voiceover 9:41

you're listening to the general aviation podcast from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Alex Blomley 9:49

So we're just going to say hello to

Christina (Danish team) 9:51

Christina, i'm Christina Solberg Hansen.

Alex Blomley 9:53

Hi, Christina. And which country do you represent?

Christina (Danish team) 9:56

Well, I'm from Denmark, me and Julia, who's also at scrutineering here are from Denmark we are the Danish team.

Alex Blomley:

Fantastic. And so this is your first big competition?

Christina (Danish team):

It's my first international competition. I was at the Danish nationals and also a competition called the Sun air cup in Denmark many times, but first time outside of Denmark,

Alex Blomley:

fantastic and how are you finding the UK so far?

Christina (Danish team):

I love it. I absolutely love it. We were here for a training week, like two months ago. And we just had so much fun the guys here they're so they're so polite, and funny and everything. Only thing, which is really weird, and also from a civil aviation standpoint is that all the signals, hand signals and stuff are completely opposite than what we do in Denmark. So whenever people are or the person standing at the wing is doing a signal, it's opposite, and it's like cut the rope, but they mean like pulling the slack. And we're like, you know, your brain just gets done with that.

Alex Blomley:

So lots of sort of retraining as it were a little bit.

Christina (Danish team):

Yeah, lots of retraining and you know, getting adjusted to this. But you know, as long as you're sitting in the plane, that's the same plane, you're the same thing. You can still fly it so

Alex Blomley:

Fantastic. So if you brought your own glider over from Denmark, then?

Christina (Danish team):

Yes, this is my own glider.

Alex Blomley:

Fantastic. Thank you. Thanks for talking to us. Good luck!

Christina (Danish team):

Yeah, thank you so much.

Alex Blomley:

We're joined now with Pete Stratton, who's CEO of the British Gliding Association. Hello, Pete. Nice to see you.

Pete Stratton (BGA):

Hi. Good to see you too.

Alex Blomley:

So we're here at husband's bosworth for the Women's World Gliding Championsips. Fantastic spectacle. I guess you're thrilled to be here?

Pete Stratton (BGA):

Oh, very excited. I happen to be here this week, volunteering, helping out with some scrutineering. But yeah, this is gonna be a fantastic couple of weeks.

Alex Blomley:

Brilliant. And so a sport like this is really important, I suppose for really showing the world how great gliding is as a sport, but also the accessibility of it for people possibly interested in getting involved in aviation.

Pete Stratton (BGA):

So one of the things about the Women's World Championships that's really important to us is that women are underrepresented in aviation, generally. And in gliding, it's about six or 7%, which I think is the same as wider aviation. And it's really important to us that we try and do something about that. So we're using this championships to reach beyond what a championships would normally do, to try and engage with the community and get more women interested in flying. We think it's really, really important.

Alex Blomley:

So I know that you can start gliding quite young. So you have the junior gliding clubs, I suppose you're hoping lots of new faces to perhaps come and find out more about gliding?

Pete Stratton (BGA):

We've got quite a few youngsters flying with us. We have an organization called UK Junior gliding, we have Junior gliding centers, which are some of our gliding clubs have that facility. And absolutely later this month, we've got our junior national championships with a sort of training piece attached to that. And once again, we're hoping it's going to inspire the next generation of pilots.

Alex Blomley:

So the CAA helped support this event. So one of the things they did was a licence exemption, I guess that's quite important to ensure that all the different nationalities could attend this event?

Pete Stratton (BGA):

Yeah, it's been great. So everybody's pulled together to support this event, including the CAA. So yes, the CAA have helped us because our pilots have come from EU or further afield to make sure they didn't run into any administrative problems with their licences and medicals, that's all been sorted. So yeah, we're grateful for all that help.

Alex Blomley:

Brilliant. Thank you, Pete. And now I'm just going to hand over to my colleague Nathan Lovett, who's going to have a chat with one of our CAA colleagues, Penny on radios. Thanks, Nathan, over to you.

Nathan Lovett (CAA):

Thanks, Alex. So the CAA has undertaken a number of different activities to support the Women's World gliding championships, we've talked about the exemption put in place to support third country licences. So we thought we would have a chat with one of our CAA colleagues, Penny Adams on her role and how she has supported this event. So Penny, welcome. And can you talk us through your role at the CAA, please?

Penny Adams (CAA):

Yes, of course, my role mainly revolves around issuing air navigation order approvals for ground station radios. So that's for air ground units, recreational and offshore holideck services, and also for special events, such as air shows, and in this case, of course, gliding competitions.

Nathan Lovett (CAA):

Thank you, so in the case of this event, there are a number of very specific requirements that we needed to undertake. Can you share what those were please?

Penny Adams (CAA):

Yes, that's right. applications are submitted to ofcom initially. And they forward the applications on to us at the CAA. And for this gliding competition, we worked with the organizers to ensure their application was correct, and that we had all the information required to enable us to process the application. And then each team was issued with a frequency unique to them to allow communications to take place between the ground station radio and the gliders. And for my part, I have to ensure that the ground radios to be used by the teams meet the requirements of ICAO and also the ITU which is the International Telecommunication Union, and the requirements for ground station radios and airborne radios are quite different. For ground station radios. The frequency is required to be considerably more stable than that of an airborne radio. Then once we're satisfied that the team's ground station radios were compliant with the regulations, the frequencies were notified to Ofcom and that then enables them to issue a wireless telegraphy act radio licence. One of my colleagues issues, the frequencies. And I very much look at the radios that are to be used on the ground for communications with the gliders.

Nathan Lovett (CAA):

So there are 12 teams competing in this event. Does this mean that a frequency has been created for each one of the teams?

Penny Adams (CAA):

Yes, exactly. Yes, there's one frequency for each team. So my colleague has had to manage that through his frequency management program to make sure they don't interfere with each other.

Nathan Lovett (CAA):

Thank you very much for your time Penny, where can people go to find more information about this?

Penny Adams (CAA):

The first stage of the process is with Ofcom so anyone wishing to establish a ground station Radio can find all the information they need including the application form on Ofcoms website under aeronautical licensing.


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Alex Blomley:

Okay, so we're here joined now by

Kinga (Polish team):

Kinga Tchorz

Alex Blomley:

And Which team do you represent Kinga?

Kinga (Polish team):

We are from Poland.

Alex Blomley:

From Poland; Fantastic. And so how are you finding the championship so far? I know we're in practice days at the moment.

Kinga (Polish team):

We are here for a second day. And we were flying yesterday it was our first flight here in United Kingdom. And the weather it's amazing.

Alex Blomley:

Have you done international gliding competitions before or is this your first one?

Kinga (Polish team):

I also was in Australia. That was my first competition. And now I'm here with my second. But I'm first time flying here in the United Kingdom.

Alex Blomley:

How many are in your team?

Kinga (Polish team):


Alex Blomley:

Two of you in your team? Okay, fantastic. Hope it all goes well for you. Good luck.

Kinga (Polish team):

Thank you very much.

Alex Blomley:

And now we're going over to the airworthiness hangar, where each glider in turn is brought in and checked for various different elements to ensure that they're adhering to the various rules and regulations applied to competition gliding and we're joined by Georgia Schofield, who is a qualified glider pilot from New Zealand who is volunteering for the period of the championships. And she's going to take us through some of the key elements that they are checking for on each glider as it comes in.

Georgia Schofield:

Alrighty, so we're down here at scrutineering. This is the process when the stewards and volunteers weigh and measure the glider to make sure it's within safety parameters. So right now they're bringing an 18 metre glider into the hangar and this hanger is not quite big enough for them. So they have to do a little wiggle just to get it in. They have to balance it on the scales to get an average weight for the glider while it's set up for flying, so they'll take all the hitching equipment off it and put the pilot on the set of scales as well wearing their parachute. So the glider is all up weight for what it will be like when they're actually flying in the competition. This glider is an 18 metre ship, it has water ballast in the wings, so by weighing up the wings and getting the glider towards maximum weight, it allows you to shift the polar curve of the glider forward, which means at higher speeds, you're getting more glide performance. So go faster go further when you're in strong lift. Gliders have a manufacturer's max weight but for the sporting contest, they have a set weight, so that for the 18 metre glider is six hundred kgs. Although some of the gliders will be able to take more than that, this is a blanket rule to create fairness through the entire class for standard class, the 15 metre ships that is five hundred and twenty five kgs. And the club class is depends on type of glider because they vary a lot more in manufacturer standards. After getting the flying weight of the aircraft, they will put all the towing equipment back on the aircraft and the canopy covers and weigh the aircraft again in its tow out, set up. So each morning when the gliders get towed to the grid, which is their launching point on the airstrip. They will be weighed every single day. Just like in Formula One where the stewards weigh the cars before and after the race. Gliders get weighed every single day. This is to ensure fairness and safety standards among the entire competition. And the final part of the measuring parameters is the wingspan. So because this glider is an 18 metre class. They are measuring the wingspan to make sure it fits inside the class standards. So the final part of scrutineering is the key safety aspect. So they're going to roll the glider back out on the grass. And they're going to time Jane doing her bailout procedure.


Your listening to the general aviation podcast from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Alex Blomley:

We're now joined by

Olena (Ukrainian team):


Alex Blomley:

Which country are you representing today?

Olena (Ukrainian team):

I'm representing Ukraine.

Alex Blomley:

Fantastic. And so you've just landed as part of your practice at the Women's World Gliding Champs So how was it up there today?

Olena (Ukrainian team):

It was quite good, I would say. So there were a lot of thermals. Also, we have no cumulus it's just blue sky. So it is more difficult to find thermals. But the weather was good. And we didn't have a very long task. So it was a really good training day.

Alex Blomley:

Fantastic. Are you planning any more training before the championships start in a few days time?

Olena (Ukrainian team):

I believe we have one more training day tomorrow, and then we will have the opening ceremony. And then everything begins.

Alex Blomley:

Very exciting. And so how are you finding your time in the UK so far?

Olena (Ukrainian team):

i love it.

Alex Blomley:

Pleased to hear, thank you so much for your time. Good luck with the championships we hope it goes well for you.

Olena (Ukrainian team):

And thank you so much.

Alex Blomley:

And so that brings us to the end of our very exciting day here at the Women's World gliding championships hosted at the guiding centre at Husband Bosworth airfield. Its been great to have the opportunity to talk with the various different individuals who've helped bring this occasion together. The World Championships happens every four years. And the UK has been successful, obviously being able to host it this year, which has been a great effort for all involved. Thank you for listening to this podcast today. We've certainly enjoyed being able to get out and about and to engage with the glider pilots, with the event organisers and really see a full gliding competition in full swing. Thanks for listening.


Thanks for listening. This is the CAA general aviation podcast.




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