Thermal Soaring is the core activity within Auckland Soar. Pure thermal soarer’s have no motor, and are launched with a bungee (for smaller models), or a winch. Built up balsa wood 2 meter models (e.g. Gentle Lady, Spirit, Chrysalis) are a good starting point. These tend to have only a few controls – typically rudder, elevator, and sometimes spoilers to aid in landing. Once these are mastered you can move on to more advanced and high performance models with “full house” controls – costs range from a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousand, and the models are typically brought in from overseas. Carbon fibre composite thermal soarers like the Supra and Maxa, with wingspans up to 4m can cost upwards of $2,000, but provide the ultimate in performance.
Electric Soaring (using an electric motor rather than a bungee or winch to get you to starting altitude) has become very
popular – especially with the advent of modern lithium polymer batteries and brushless motors, which have replaced the heavy inefficient electric systems of a few years ago. Most thermal models can be fitted with a motor, and a range of dedicated electric soarers (e.g. the Radian) is available. For contests, we use a small electric “altitude limiter” device, that automatically switches the motor off once the launch height has been reached – that way all contestants start out on an even playing field.
Discus Launched Gliders.
With the advent of modern composite construction, high performance hand launched thermal soaring has become reality. This is the ultimate “pure” form of soaring – just the pilot and the model. It is incredibly satisfying to hand throw a model, catch a low level thermal, and then “speck it out”. Because these models are very fragile, we recommend that you get yourself proficient in flying before moving on to your first DLG. Good entry level models include the “Topsky” series.
Many new comers are put-off by the idea of flying in contests, but they provide a fun avenue to improve your flying, and engage in a bit of friendly competition at the same time. Having a task to complete (e.g. fly 10 minutes off a single launch or motor run, then do a spot landing) rather than just “flying around” gives you a reason to hone your skills – e.g. learning to read and use the thermal lift, or landing on a spot. AucklandSoar runs regular club competitions, including the annual “Soarfest”, and the NZMAA Soaring Special Interest Group also runs various events during the year. You can make contest flying as “serious” as you want it to be. New Zealand regularly sends teams to the F3J (Thermal Soaring) and F3K (DLG) World Championships, and we have historically done incredibly well at these.
Although AucklandSoar is primarily a soaring club, most members also have electric non-glider models. These are fine to fly at Ambury provided they are not too noisy or fast so as to annoy the stock, other park users, or neighbouring residents. “Pusher type” models like the AXN, Bixler, or electric flying wings are not suitable because of the amount of noise they make.
When it is too windy for soaring off the flat field, it’s time to go Slope Soaring.
Prevailing wind strikes the slope and as it cannot pass through the slope, is then
forced up and over.
It is in this section of upward moving air that lift is produced. The amount of lift produced is dependent on certain factors, such as wind speed, shape of the slope and air temperature. A slope where the wind strikes dead-on (perpendicular to the slope) is ideal, as a side-on wind will greatly reduce the amount of lift produced by the slope. Costal sites tend to have very good, smooth lift even off small slopes. A slope with a concave "bowl" will compress the wind as it is funnelled up the slope and create even better lift. The lift-band can extend away from the slope for several hundred metres and way up above the top of the slope. This makes for a large flying area. As the wind recedes, the lift will start to drop-off and then it is time to head back to land on top of the slope.
Slope soaring is perhaps the cheapest form of soaring with almost indestructible ‘foamie’ models available for around the $150.00 mark. They also only require a ‘basic’ 2 channel radio set. If you are starting out, suitable models include the Foamworks Fusion (), and the Windrider Bee series ( – also sometimes available from NZ shops). Slope Soaring is also ideal for those wanting to design and build their own
models - almost anything will fly on the slope provided the balance is correct. Keep an eye out for second hand bargains on sites such as TradeMe – a second hand basic 2 channel foamie model can often be purchased for less
Light models (including Thermal Soarers) are suitable for sloping in light winds, stronger winds require heavier models or addition of ballast to penetrate forward into the wind. For the more advanced, composite construction slope soarers again provide the ultimate in performance. A variant of slope soaring called Dynamic Soaring, which utilises the air currents on the leeward side of the slope, provides the ultimate thrill for “speed junkies”.
Some Sites in Auckland for Slope Soaring:
Duders Regional Park
North East – South East Winds:
Shakespear Regional Park (Easterly only)
Shakespear Regional Park
Mt Wellington (But caution with the tall trees)
South West Winds:
Mt Wellington (but caution with the tall trees)
Maori Bay (Muriwai) – not suitable for beginners
Westerly – North Westerly Winds:
Musick Point (Westerly only)
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