When flying light aircraft, we use headsets which include ear protection from the noise of the fan. Being that unpowered gliders are presumably much quieter, are the same headsets used?

My assumption is that gliders are radio equipped, and pilots are still talking to ATC or their airfield traffic information. If this is not the case, are headsets still used for intra-cockpit communications or are they really quiet enough to talk normally?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I have never seen any glider pilot with a headset (unless it is a motor glider, and then only on TMGs, which are basically normal light aircraft with longer wings). The noise in the cockpit stems only from the airflow, and at cruise speeds around 100km/h, you don't have any problems. Think about the noise in a car at motorway speeds. $\endgroup$
    – Monolo
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Monolo so at a busy airfield with other GA traffic, surely they must still be at very least monitoring the radio for traffic? Wouldnt they use the same circuit for landing? $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 8:09
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, yes they do monitor the frequency, they just don't need a headset - the loudspeakers in the cockpit are sufficient for that. Remember, the noise is no more than what you experience in a car. Whether they use the same circuit depends. In some cases the powered planes use one circuit (e.g., the right-hand one) and the gliders the other (the left-hand one, in this example). $\endgroup$
    – Monolo
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 9:59
  • $\begingroup$ Not all gliders are radio equipped (at least in the UK), especially older Annex 2 gliders $\endgroup$
    – falcs
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 11:36
  • $\begingroup$ Headsets are not "required" for any aircraft, powered or not. Headset use is a personal preference which has become more popular in recent years. I learned to fly in the 1970's and we only used the aircraft speaker and lots of yelling. Later I flew a Cessna 414 that had a boom mic attached to the aircraft for hands free, without a headset. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 13:46

2 Answers 2


No, but a hat to protect the head from the sun. You may call this the glider pilot's headset ;-)

Glider pilot with hat

Glider pilot with hat (picture source)

The flight noise is just a faint hissing sound, and the most noise is either produced by the electrical variometer or the radio. On a busy day and with everyone on the same frequency, I often switched the radio silent when high up. When you receive transmissions from tens of kilometers away, you often receive parallel transmissions, which result in a very loud and annoying crackling in the radio.

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    $\begingroup$ So, what a handheld mic and cockpit speakers then? $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 8:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Jamiec Cockpit speakers and a gooseneck microphone or even better a panel mount microphone (e.g. shop.segelflugbedarf24.de/Flugzeugausstattung/Funkgeraete/…). Gliders are really quiet and you don't have to be kissing your micro, 0.5m between your face and the panel microphone are enough. $\endgroup$
    – Gypaets
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 9:36

In the UK, I've never known a headset used except in motorgliders. Apart from being unecessary, you want to hear the vario and more importantly the airflow (it will generally go quiet close to the stall).

I've flown gliders that don't even have radios on board, where a hand held is used, where there is a fitted radio with handheld mic, and fitted radio with bendy mic thing and a button on the stick. The last is the most useful - I've been asked to call final at a towered airfield before and heldhelds aren't good for that (with one hand on the stick and the other on the airbrake) - without a third hand you have to call early on base.

I'd concur with Peter that the narrow-brimmed hat is standard equipment. In some ways its probably a more important piece of safety gear than the parachute! :)


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