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Gliders are often launched using a stationary ground-based winch mounted on a heavy vehicle. This method is widely used at many European clubs, often in addition to an aerotow service. The engine is usually a large diesel, though hydraulic fluid engines and electrical motors are also used. The winch pulls in a 1,000 to 1,600-metre (3,000 to 5,500 ft) cable, made of high-tensile steel wire or a synthetic fiber, attached to the glider. The cable is released at a height of about 400 to 700 metres (1,300 to 2,200 ft) after a short, steep ride.
Winch launches are cheaper than aerotows and have the advantage that many members of a club can be taught to operate the equipment. A winch may also be used at sites where an aerotow could not operate, because of the shape of the field or because of noise restrictions. The height gained from a winch is usually less than from an aerotow so pilots need to find a source of lift soon after releasing from the cable, otherwise the flight will be short. A break in the cable of the weak link during a winch launch is a possibility for which pilots are trained.
== Aerotowing ==