Once the glider has been checked to ensure that it is airworthy (see Assisting the Pilot with Pre-Flight Preparations) and has been positioned for takeoff (see Positioning the Glider for Takeoff), the pilot and passenger(s) must enter the glider, make any necessary cockpit preparations and carry out the pre-takeoff checks before the towline is attached. The wing runner may be required to assist the pilot in some or all of these tasks. The following sections discuss typical tasks that may require help from the wing runner.


The wing runner should ask the pilot what assistance he or she requires. If unfamiliar with the task, ask the pilot and get whatever information is required before assisting.


If a parachute is to be used, the pilot normally puts it on before getting in the glider. This substantially reduces the risk of getting the parachute straps tangled with the seat belts. The pilot will usually stand well clear of the glider when donning the parachute to prevent the parachute strap buckles from inadvertently hitting the glider. The wing runner may be asked to assist the pilot in donning the parachute.

The parachute container (with canopy inside) is normally put on much like a sleeveless coat with the arms going through the harness armholes. The top of the harness goes over the pilot’s shoulders. The wing runner may be required to help the pilot ‘get into’ the harness, usually by holding it up so that the pilot’s arms can be placed through the armholes.

Once the pilot has put on the harness, the parachute straps will need to be secured and adjusted. Different models of parachutes may have multiple straps that are required to be attached. Almost without exception, these include two straps attached to the lower back of the harness, which require to be passed through between the pilot’s legs and attached around the thighs or elsewhere to the front of the harness. The wing runner may be required to locate these straps, pass them to the pilot, or attach them for the pilot. It may also be necessary to assist in adjusting the straps so the harness fits snugly.

Preparation for Entering the Glider

To enable the pilot to be properly seated in the glider, the seating area needs to be free of objects (e.g., maps) that the pilot would sit on if not removed. In particular, the seat belts should be moved clear of the seat pan. The wing runner can assist the pilot in these tasks and, if necessary, hold the seat belts clear while the pilot enters the cockpit.

Entering the Glider

Some models of glider (usually those which have a nose wheel or skid resting on the ground when the pilot is aboard but rest with the tail on the ground when unoccupied) may tip forward as the pilot enters the cockpit. In these cases it is customary to lower the nose until it rests on the ground before the pilot gets in, thus preventing the nose from striking the ground and possibly damaging the airframe. The wing runner may be asked to assist by holding down on the nose of the glider or at some other point on the airframe (if safe to do so) until the pilot has entered the cockpit. The two-place Schweizer 2-33 has a telescopic metal handle fitted in the extreme nose. This can be extended and used as a lever to push and hold the nose down. If unfamiliar with the specific model of glider, it is important to determine the proper places to push on the airframe. The pilot-in-command will be able to provide this information.

In the Glider

Once the pilot is seated in the glider, the wing runner can assist by positioning seat belts and shoulder harness. Assistance may also be provided in helping the pilot get organized in the cockpit – positioning and securing maps, water bottles, oxygen masks and other items. Once the pilot and passengers have their seat belts attached and adjusted and the cockpit is properly organized, the pre-takeoff checklist will be initiated.

Pre-Takeoff Checklist

It is important that the pilot is not distracted or interrupted while conducting the pre-takeoff checklist. The wing runner should not talk, nor be talking to the pilot while the checklist is being conducted. However, the pilot may require assistance to conduct these checks properly. The wing runner may be asked to assist in checking the following items:


The pilot will check the glider’s controls for proper operation (i.e. ensuring that the control surfaces move in the correct direction in response to control movements in the cockpit). If the pilot cannot see the control surface being checked from his or her position in the cockpit, the wing runner may be asked to report to the pilot the position of the control surface. For example, if the pilot cannot see the ailerons at the wingtips, he or she will move the control stick to one side and state the proper positions of the control surfaces. The wing runner should look at the control surface and verify its position. This will be repeated for each control surface: the ailerons, rudder, and elevator. Additional checks may be required for the secondary controls surfaces including the trim, spoilers, and flaps if installed.

The pilot is relying on the wing runner to observe and report any abnormalities. Should the control surface not move, or if it moves in an unusual or improper way, the wing runner should immediately report this observation this to the pilot.

When checking the flaps, it is important to check that the surfaces on each side move together and with the same amount of travel. Airbrakes/spoilers should also move in a uniform manner. In the case of spoilers (which are hinged at and pivot around their front edge) the wing runner may need to look from the side, along the wing, to see that the surfaces remain in line. Once the airbrake/spoiler check has been completed (unless the pilot indicates differently) they should also be checked to ensure they are closed and flush with the wing surface. Every year, glider incidents and accidents occur because the pilot has failed to lock the airbrakes closed prior to flight. You can help prevent this by making this check.


One important item of the pre-takeoff checklist is the canopy. If the canopy is detached from the glider, the wing runner will need to pick it up (carefully, only handling the frame) and, with the pilot’s assistance, correctly place it over the cockpit. In every case the canopy needs to be locked in position by the pilot. It may be necessary for some pressure to be applied to the canopy frame while the pilot secures it.

Some gliders have locking handles/levers that are visible from outside the canopy. It is important to be familiar with these to be able to make a visual check to ensure the canopy is locked once it has been closed. Gliders have been destroyed and the occupants fatally injured as a result of the pilot failing to properly secure the canopy before flight. The wing runner can be instrumental in helping to prevent accidents by making this visual check and advising the pilot if the canopy is not locked.


The wing runner will be responsible for attaching the towline to the glider (see Connecting the Towline). The towline should not be attached, nor offered to the pilot for attachment, until the pre-takeoff checks have been completed.


  • Ask the pilot what assistance is required.
  • If unfamiliar with a particular glider or procedure, always ask the pilot in command before assisting.
  • Be able to identify each of the glider’s control surfaces and know its correct movement/position.
  • Handle the canopy with care using the frame, not the Plexiglas®.
  • Allow the pilot to control the pace of the operation, particularly by waiting for the pre-takeoff checks to be completed before attaching the towline.