Glider Take-offs: Positive Rate, Gear stays down

I was watching a Youtube video the other day and noticed the following newbie mistake when flying gliders.

What the YouTuber did after launching in the air, during an aero-tow, is to say “Positive Rate, Gear Up”, reached for the gear lever, and retracted the gear. This made me think, about how many newcomers to gliding are making this mistake.

Well in airliners, and turboprops this makes 100% sense because the gear causes a lot of drag. Cleaning up the gear makes sense because you are increasing performance. But reducing drag is not the only reason for this.

It also made me think that he did not fully understand what the speed V1 in an airliner is for. Calculating V1 is another story but once you reach the V1 speed, you’ve reached the last moment in the take-off where you could have stopped if you needed to. After V1 you become “Go-orientated” and since you are going anyway, retract the landing gear, you are not going to need it for a while longer once in the air.

Gliders on the other end are not so go-orientated. Lots can go wrong during the launch. Cable breaks. The tug can have an engine failure or a partial loss of engine power. This can happen fairly quickly and you need to act fast. Once something fails at low altitudes, you cannot go anymore and need to land quickly because you are running out of energy to go any further.

The glider’s undercarriage also has a very small front profile. It is not that critical to raise it after take-off due to drag. Well once in the air safely you do want to retract it to make the glider as streamlined as possible. The extra drag can cost you a few seconds in a competition and could be the difference between first or second place.

Raising the gear in a critical phase of flight is also dangerous because it is a distraction from a task that you really have to pay attention to.

The question then is when is the best time to retract the landing gear? My answer is after you released the cable.

Are there any other thoughts on this newbie mistake?

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As soon as I’m airbourne is when I do it. Doesn’t take very long to extend it again if needed, unlike an airliner

I found this in the FAA Glider handbook (Page 7-11):

"…retracting the gear on tow is not recommended until the aircraft is safely airborne and an immediate or emergency return is not necessary. "

Haven’t flown a glider irl, but did the training activities in the sim. It was emphasized that, if you are launching with a tow plane, you don’t want to be too much higher than the aircraft that’s pulling you (lest the upward force on that plane’s tail cause it to nose down). So, since raising the gear increases performance (albeit slightly) and could be a distraction from keeping the relative following altitude in check, I would think leaving it down until cable release (or at least a safe altitude) is logical.

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Everyone, for the love of all what is flying! Please never try to learn about gliding from any video from a YouTuber who isn’t a confirmed real life glider pilot, even if he is a RL powered plane pilot - you wouldn’t try to learn about yacht sailing from a motorboat driver, would you?

There are so many things, sometimes very subtle that are done in real life gliding, that are done mostly to save your precious single life you have in RL, that are totally unknown to armchair pilots, you can be assured all things you see on youtube video from take off to landing are done differently in RL!

I have nothing agains non RL glider videos - they are good for visuals and fun, but if you want to learn something real about gliding please seek videos that are done by confirmed, experienced RL glider pilots. As to not left you empty handed I can highly recommend you youtube channel of Ian Lewis b21-soaring - This guy is amazing as he is an accomplished RL glider pilot and also very engaged in MSFS gliding as he already implemented 3 gliders for MSFS: Ka7, Ls4 and AS33 even before the official ones and various tools like B21 Task Planner and still creates very high quality videos with RL gliding lore targeted as introductory material to help new people start using MSFS gliders!


Hi Blender,

I dont’ think it really matters in the context of the simulator. Old seasoned glider pilots like myself know the correct procedures and ab initio pilots get extensive training before they go solo. There are some seasoned pilots who seem to know better however, (there are old pilots and bold pilots but no old-bold pilots) I dont think this simulator is really going to create a safety issue for existing and aspiring glider pilots. Well observed, and thank you for sharing.



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Hi Charles,

Very true. Some of us are lucky to have flown the real thing and were instructed by an instructor.

It’s like watching a movie. Holywood never bothers to get the details right. People board a B727, then when they take off they show a B747. During the cruise, a DC10 is shown, and then when they land they are showing a B737.

Watching this first-time take-off by a simmer and handling the glider like an airliner, sorry I had to share this. Imagine the look in his eyes when the rope breaks and he forgot to lower the gear again. Made me think, where is the best place to retract the gear?


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Thanks for the Youtube recommendation of Ian’s channel. Gonna check it out definitely.

I like to follow RL channels as well and find both Bruno Vassel and Stefan Langer channels very entertaining and helpful.

The B21 Task Planner looks interesting. I got XCSoar going on a second PC last night. Would love to see how this fits into that.


Also note the tow connection on the glider can be in two different locations, nose hook or C.G. hook.

Nose hook at the front of the glider mostly used for aero tow.

C.G. hook under the fuselage used mostly for winch launch. This can be located on the landing gear itself, which makes retracting the gear during launch a no-no.

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