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Is it fairly common for student glider pilots to have wing tip strikes, especially in gusty cross wind conditions?

I understand gliders are landed level, slow down and then the wing drops onto a wing tip wheel or skid plate when coming to a stop.

Which begs the question, are gliders more prone to wing strikes by student pilots prior to or after landing due to the mono wheel arrangement and low wing tip clearance, or have poor cross wind landing ability in gusty conditions (say 10-15mph gusts above the headwind) when compared to a tail dragger or tricycle wheel arrangement?

Yet thousands of gliders around the world are used every week with the mono wheel arrangement, with a mid wing arrangement that is only 2-3' off the ground.

My gut feeling says no, as gliders have been around probably for 100+ years and they would have changed from mono wheel to a tail dragger, at least on the trainers by now if wing strikes were common among student glider pilots. This is probably due to the lateral stability of a long wingspan and the mid wing arrangement means the glider is landing in a nice stable pillow of air in ground effect.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't know this for a fact, but I wonder if the change on the Lazair was more to improve taxing or takeoff, rather than actual landing? Actually are you sure that was "Lazair"-- when I google it I see a high-wing ultralight that seems unsuitable for a single main wheel. I do however see a reference to widening the track of the conventional (tailwheel) gear here wiki2.org/en/Ultraflight_Lazair $\endgroup$ Jan 18 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ For some reason I thought I saw a prototype with a mono wheel, but now i can't find it. Maybe I was wrong. I'll change my post. Some land on a mono float though. I know the track was widened from 26" to 46", the original needed a wing walker over 7mph cross wind. Source: wiki $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Jan 18 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ No it never had a mono wheel. I taxied one around in Port Colbourne in 1979, although I didn't fly it and almost bought a kit. All the same, you wouldn't want to take the thing out in 15-20 mph winds. Like most ultralights, they are "calm weather" airplanes. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jan 18 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ Training gliders like the Swietzer 2-33 often have small wheels on the wing tips: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schweizer_SGS_2-33 I would imagine most either have wheels or some sort of skid, because as you come to a stop, one wingtip or the other is going to drag on the runway. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Feb 18 at 4:03
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Most gliders have dihedral, giving more wingtip clearance than you probably are envisioning. Many glider pilots routinely use the wing-down (slipping) method of crosswind correction.

As far as general handling while landing in gusty crosswind conditions, most tailwheel airplanes sit in a much more nose-high attitude than most gliders, and have the landing gear much further forward ahead of the CG, and therefore are much more prone to ground-looping. And groundloops often involve wingtip contact with the ground-- on the downwind side.

On the whole the crosswind limits below which a safe landing without damage to the aircraft can reasonably be expected, are likely higher for most gliders than for most tailwheel light airplanes.

As for the part of your question contained in the actual title-- no, it is not common for student glider pilots to strike the wingtip into the ground before the main wheel touches.

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  • $\begingroup$ Is it fairly common for glider students to have a wing strike just after they have landed, when in gusty or cross wind conditions: 1. without a ground loop, 2. in a ground loop? $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Jan 18 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ Not really. The training gliders students typically learn in have more tip clearance than "regular" gliders so there is more tolerance for mistakes, and the instructor normally catches things before it gets out of hand. And a student won't be allowed to fly in crosswind conditions that are beyond their ability to cope, and they soon are able to cope. It only takes a degree or two of lowered wing to generate enough slip, so it's not as obvious a problem as it seems. Power pilots have a misconception that gliders are barely able to cope with xwinds but when you fly them, it's not so hard at all. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jan 18 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, the biggest hazard in crosswinds is getting caught by the wind gradient several feet off the ground as you start to put in slip. If you are at 10 ft agl and allow the upwind wing to come up from a gust say, the upward wing moves into the faster moving crosswind flow due to the wind gradient, and it starts to try to tip you over to the downwind side. This is a bigger hazard than tip strikes while landing. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jan 18 at 17:10

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