In its simplest form, a glider is an unpowered aircraft, an airplane without a motor. While many of the same design, aerodynamic and piloting factors that apply to powered airplanes also apply to gliders, that lack of a motor changes a lot about how gliders work. Gliders are amazing and graceful machines, and are about as close as humans can get to soaring like birds.

If you enjoy aviation sports, then you should check out the paragliding article, video and images at Discovery’s Fearless Planet to learn more.

From paper airplanes to the space shuttle during re-entry, there are many types of gl­iders. In this article, we will focus on the most common type of glider, often referred to as a sailplane.