Sailplane - Markings


To distinguish gliders in flight, very large numbers/letters are sometimes displayed on the fin and wings. Registrations on narrow fuselages are difficult to read. These numbers were first added for use by ground-based observers in competitions, and are therefore known as "competition numbers" or "contest IDs". They are unrelated to the glider's registration number, and are assigned by national gliding associations. They are useful in radio communications between gliders, so glider pilots often use their competition number as their call signs.

Fibreglass gliders are white in color after manufacture. Since fibreglass resin softens at high temperatures, white is used almost universally to reduce temperature rise due to solar heating. Color is not used except for a few small bright patches on the wing tips; these patches (typically bright red) improve gliders' visibility to other aircraft while in flight (and are a requirement for mountain flying in France). Non-fibreglass gliders (those made of aluminum and wood) are not subject to the temperature-weakening problem of fibreglass, and can be painted any color at the owner's choosing; they are often quite brightly painted.

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