Since gliders don't have engines, is it possible for them to go around? Are there any extra features on a glider to try to prevent that situation from happening?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm not a glider pilot, but I've seen them fly the entire length of a runway at around 10 feet up, then pull up, do a 180 and land. It was always a planned maneuver as I understand it. It's a matter of energy management, obviously. $\endgroup$
    – Terry
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 2:22
  • $\begingroup$ Some gliders do have engines. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ @DJClayworth: you learn something every day! didn't know that, thanks :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 14:27
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @DJClayworth Well, that would be a motorglider! $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 3:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Terry I think of those as a glider military break. They can be done at 1000agl as well. $\endgroup$
    – rbp
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 13:46

4 Answers 4


No. A (pure) glider cannot make a go-around in the way a powered machine can. The glide path can be influenced by airbrakes, flaps, chutes or slipping, but mostly those are for reducing your L/D, i.e., steepening the approach (you win again, gravity!).

Gaining height without updraft is only possible by converting kinetic energy (speed), and that gain is limited by the stall speed. So while you can rise a few meters when you pull up from landing airspeed, you will find yourself way too high above the runway at minimum speed and hoping for the best.

The highly enjoyable* spectacle of a low fly-by of a glider is achieved by starting with really high (unlandable) speed which is then converted into height and shortly followed by the inevitable landing**. For some older (mostly wooden) gliders, even this is not a very good idea because they combine a lower VNE with lower L/D ratios, leaving you low and slow after pulling up from redline speeds.

In a glider, you get one chance for a smooth landing (freak thermals excluding). But a properly trained pilot gets used to this very quickly. A proper landing procedure together with brakes, flaps, etc. will bring you down safely.

*but not necessarily safe or recommended

** unless you catch a proper thermal or dynamic updraft.

  • $\begingroup$ video link broken; can you help? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 0:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexandria pity the original video got removed. Updated with a fly-by compilation. $\endgroup$
    – yankeekilo
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 7:39
  • $\begingroup$ The gees must be super awesome! $\endgroup$
    – yo'
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 15:31

No, a glider can't make a go around, but if they are going fast enough they can make a low pass (which looks like a go around), but that generally means that they won't be in a position to actually land even if they wanted to. The key to safely managing and landing a glider is energy management. When coming in to land it can't be too slow and low OR too high and fast (only one factor can be adjusted by trading altitude for airspeed or vice-versa).

Most gliders have airbrakes or spoilers which are used to bleed off excess energy. A typical approach will have them deployed about half way when on final to land so that they can be used like a throttle in an airplane. If they get low or slow, the airbrakes can be stowed in order to increase the glide ratio (just like adding power in an airplane). If they get high or fast the airbrakes can be extended further and/or the glider can be slipped in order to decrease the glide ratio (just like reducing power in an airplane).

Other than the very high glide ratio and no engine to go around with, they land very similar too an airplane. If you've never flown one, I would highly recommend it. Not only is it fun, it will make you a better overall pilot!

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    $\begingroup$ My answer is mostly redundant, but more answer are good for the beta in any case. Uh, and +1 for recommending soaring for becoming a better pilot :D $\endgroup$
    – yankeekilo
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ It's worded a little differently and I think that it adds to the question! :) The funny thing is that I was coming to the site to add a link to a video of a glider fly-by this morning, but you already provided one so I don't have to look one up! $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 13:47
  • $\begingroup$ One cannot have enough Überflüge - add away! $\endgroup$
    – yankeekilo
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 13:53

Yes,there is one scenario when they can. At our club we are on the top of a hill and if the ridge is working you can abort the approach close the airbrakes and run over the threshold onto the ridge. In fact our low cable break briefing is land straight ahead or takeoff.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Nice (esp. the last sentence) ! Care to add some photos or video? $\endgroup$
    – yankeekilo
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, please add a video or pic ;) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ I have also heard of glider ports at the top of hills and one can go around by landing at a different runway at the base of the hill. $\endgroup$
    – rbp
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ I have heard of someone doing this at The Mynd :) $\endgroup$
    – webdevduck
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 22:37

Here's a forced example:

In 2006, I asked a CFIG what he would do if the rope release failed for both the glider and the emergency release on the tow plane.

He suggested we try the exercise of seeing what it would take to land on tow. (It turns out, it is REALLY easy to overrun the tow plane when on descent).

So, technically, I have 3 glider touch-and-goes logged in my logbook.

  • $\begingroup$ In Germany in the 90s, such a “Schlepplandung“ used to be a regular part of the tow training, not sure if this is still the case. $\endgroup$
    – yankeekilo
    Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ Very cool. In actuality, I would break he rope rather than land behind the tow plane. $\endgroup$
    – rbp
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ Having done it, I think I'd rather just land. But if I hadn't had the practice, then I'd rather break the rope too. $\endgroup$
    – thams
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 0:03

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