Maintaining safe airspace
Situational awareness comes from developed airmanship and is an important part of threat and error management. The following guidance aims to support pilots with maintaining safe airspace for all.
Lookout – supported by use of radio & electronic conspicuity
Lookout is the primary method of collision avoidance in class G airspace. It’s important to recognise that effective lookout requires technique supported by other attributes available to pilots including technology.
When a pilot feels that the proximity of another aircraft was in their view unsafe, they can submit an Airprox report. Airprox reports are investigated and given a risk category. You can learn more on the Airprox website, which includes their published Airprox investigation reports.
An altimeter is a device used to measure the vertical distance between the instrument and a datum pressure level. The datum pressure level can be adjusted by the pilot. It is really important that pilots understand which setting is required to obtain the correct information. Produced by Dartmoor GC, this set of ‘Altimetry’ briefing slides is a great refresher for any glider pilot.
Infringements, ie entering controlled, danger, restricted or prohibited airspace without the authority to do so, are potentially dangerous and disruptive, and ultimately result in the curtailment of the freedoms to fly that all pilots need and enjoy. A 2016 analysis of over 500 infringements identified that around 90% of the GA pilots who infringed were not using a GPS or GPS moving map.
Glider pilots use the 1:500 000 chart that is designed for use in visual navigation. The charts are regularly updated. Out of date charts should be discarded. VFR chart information, including a list of stockists, is available on the NATS AIS website. Radio frequency cards are available on the NATS website.
A gliding frequency reference card has been produced by Paul Ruskin, and is available as part of the Airfields and Outlandings distribution available here.
D&D – getting help
The military Distress and Diversion Cell is manned 24 hours to provide an emergency and fixer (location) service for all military and civil aircraft. Read more here.
GPS and moving maps
Global Position Satellite navigation is used extensively in aviation. Most cross-country glider pilots use GPS to assist with navigation and to help avoid airspace restrictions. A number of freeware and commercial software options are available that take much of the load that otherwise would distract from flying the glider and looking out.
Controlled airspace changes every now and again. The 1/2 million hard copy chart is updated annually. It’s very important that GPS data files are also updated. Pilots should note that they should take great care when programming their GPS before flight, and must always maintain situational awareness in flight through using visual navigation techniques and a current chart. This final point is nothing to do with ‘old school’ – it’s simply an important aspect of threat and error management, ie cross checking and being prepared for equipment failure or pilot ‘finger trouble’.
Where there is a need and the related risks can be managed appropriately, it is possible to establish letters of agreement between airspace controlling authorities and operators. Sometimes these are national arrangements. In other cases these are local arrangements. Some LoA’s are legally binding. Others are voluntary in nature. In all cases, pilots must understand and comply FULLY with the detail within the LoA. If in doubt, ask. Do not assume.
Some clubs have a local agreement with NATS on flexible use of airspace. The ongoing success of the agreement between London GC and NATS is reliant on pilots receiving a specific, face to face briefing by the London GC. Unless that LoA briefing has taken place and pilots are briefed on the operating protocols in place on the day, pilots may not use the LoA. The LoA is not published on this website. Contact the London GC for further details. The challenges of maintaining mutual awareness between busy flying operations is in part being addressed around Cambridge airport using protocols described in a Cambridge LoA that all glider pilots who are likely to operate in the Cambridge area are requested to comply with.
View the published Letters of Agreement here. If a pilot or club identifies any changes or errors with published LoA’s, please contact the Airspace Committee via the BGA office.
All pilots are expected to check NOTAMs (Notices to Aviation) before flight. Learning how to access NOTAMs forms a part of glider pilot training. Any pilot who is unsure about how to check NOTAMs is advised to discuss the matter with his or her CFI or with another experienced pilot. There are several excellent software tools available that help pilots easily interpret NOTAM information, including Skydemon.
Airspace is a major consideration when task setting. Learn more about task setting here.
Winch launch overflights
Overflights of winch launches by aircraft are potentially hazardous. Pilots should report any overflight of a winch launch that they believe had the potential to endanger a glider during a winch launch. The BGA uses the information to educate others.
Visual Reporting Points at major airports should be treated with caution due to possible conflicts with powered traffic that is more than likely engrossed with the radio.