Combat Gliders

Geek Culture

While Chris is building an auto-drone, we are still smashing RC planes. The curse of these lightweight birds is that they injure all too easily. Flight simulation software like Real Flight helps instill the correct instincts, but still…. things come down with a bump. To remedy that "bug," the other day my son and I went over to watch the combat gliders.

At the hang-glide landing above the sea cliffs at Fort Funston in Daly City, the combat renegades hang out. When the winds are not quite right for hang gliding they are often perfect for dog fights with huge RC sail planes. We made sure no paragliders were about and headed to the landing’s edge. The renegades had dashed out to throw their sail planes off into the wind. These puppies are huge, with 9 foot wingspans. They are about the size of albatrosses.


Combat gliders have no motors, no self-power, and only two simple controls: one flap on each wing. They are made of bamboo sticks, plastic bottles noses, foam board wings and duct tape. They are virtually indestructable, which is good, because the object of their existence is to knock other planes out of the sky.



Once in the wind, these large planes zoom slow and wide. They are powered by the constant uplight from the sea cliffs and can stay in the air indefinitely — that is if it weren’t for the three or four other combat gliders trying to take you down. When you are hit you plane dives into the sandy hill below. The planes are rough and rugged. I realized that almost anything will fly in a steady breeze if it is only approximately in the shape of an airplane and you can control its wings. The crude nature of their construction lends a lot of charm; they literally are kept together with duct tape and bunjee cords.




A quick googling showed that there are combat glider clubs in Hong Kong, San Diego, along the cliffs of England and Australia — wherever the winds blow steady. Of course you could just sail them peacefully, but what is the point of that?


For those in the Bay Area who want to see these for themselves, here is a Google Map link to the area. There’s no club, no regular hours. Head to the bushes where the hang gliders are parked.

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