The journey from your first instructional flight, to the first time you fly (and land!) a glider on your own is an extremely personal and individual one. In practice, how many flights, and over what time period, your training will entail, will depend on a number of factors – including your age, aptitude, confidence, previous experience, and time between training sessions. For this reason, it is impossible to predict in advance how long it will take any given individual to become a glider pilot. The best way to find out, is to start training! Once you begin a series of instructional flights (which you can book online in advance), you will form a better idea of what timeline to expect.
How training is provided
Training is provided in modern two seat gliders by a team of instructors. The training gliders have tandem seating which means one seat is in front of the other – the student pilot sits in the front seat with the instructor in the rear. There are full controls and instruments available in both cockpits. Student pilots will be taken through a standard syllabus established by the British Gliding Association. Progress is continually monitored and logged in the student’s logbook and training record. When a pilot demonstrates proficiency in a particular exercise it is ‘signed off’ by an instructor. A pilot will not be sent solo until all exercises have been ‘signed off’ and the pilot can demonstrate that they are capable of controlling the glider in a safe and efficient manner.
Initial solo flights take place in the two-seater training glider in which the pilot has been trained and these are closely monitored. The ‘new’ solo pilot must complete a check flight with an instructor each day they wish to fly during this initial period. Following successful completion of this stage the pilot is transferred to the club single seater glider where they are expected to fly reasonably frequently to maintain and hone their skills. A pilot is free to ask for a dual instruction flight at any time that they wish to brush up on a particular exercise or aspect of their flying.
Becoming a solo glider pilot is not the end, but only the beginning of what you can hope to accomplish in the sport of gliding. Once you go solo, you can take further steps to develop your skills and qualifications.
FURTHER TRAINING TO SAILPLANE PILOT’S LICENCE (SPL)
To qualify for the Sailplane Pilot’s Licence (SPL) the applicant must demonstrate an adequate level of theoretical knowledge, gliding experience, safe piloting skills and airmanship. The applicant has also to demonstrate his or her ability to soar, to navigate effectively, and to select and fly an approach into a suitable field away from our home airfield.
The Silver badge is an important landmark for all glider pilots. With the Silver badge, a pilot is able to fly without checks on any day, provided they are current. It is also the minimum requirement for getting a competition license and entering gliding competitions. The Silver badge consists of three parts:
Distance: A flight of 50km from your home field.
Height: A height gain of 1000m in flight (3300ft).
Duration: A flight of 5 hours duration.
The Gold badge marks the pilot with a higher level of experience and consists of three parts:
Distance: A flight of 300km or more from your home field over a declared course.
Height: A height gain of 3000m in flight (10,000ft).
Duration: A flight of 5 hours duration (can be the same flight as for Silver).
Finally, the Diamond badge is the highest level of qualification a gliding pilot can attain. It consists of three parts:
Goal: A flight of 300km or more over a declared triangular course.
Distance: A flight of 500km or more over a declared course.
Height: A height gain of 5000m in flight (16,000ft).
Aerobatics are an established and growing part of gliding. Almost all gliders are certified for aerobatic flight of some description and many pilots enjoy carrying out simple manoeuvres having completed any necessary training. There are gliders that have been specifically designed to carry out aerobatics, including two seat gliders such as the MDM Fox. Aerobatics are an excellent means of improving pilot skills and developing pilot confidence. Many glider pilots go on to gain an aerobatics badge, a BGA and British Aerobatic Association award that recognises increasingly skilled levels of achievement from standard through to unlimited. If you want to learn how to fly aerobatics, please talk to the club CFI.
For further information on endorsements and badges please refer to the official BGA website – www.gliding.co.uk.