Managing Flying Risk – Preparation for flight

Shortcomings in a pilot preparing their glider for flight can be lethal and are completely avoidable. Preparation for flight includes assembling the aircraft for flight and carrying out a daily inspection, checking for correct weight and balance, threat and error management, and pre-flight checks.

Is the glider legally airworthy?

Before flying an aircraft it is important to ensure it is airworthy. “Airworthy” means that the aircraft conforms to the appropriate legal and technical requirements for safe flight. That includes a current ARC certificate (or equivalent for non-Part21 aircraft), that the annual maintenance is current, and that the aircraft is insured.

Rigging and Daily Inspection

Many privately-owned gliders are assembled before flight. The assembly of a glider including the associated control connections is known as “rigging”. A glider should be rigged and a daily inspection carried out in accordance with the instructions provided in the Flight Manual or similar document. Rigging can take time and can involve a number of people. Distraction is a common cause of error when rigging gliders. Please ensure:

Rigging is directed by a person experienced on the type, in accordance with the flight manual, without interruption or distraction.

The DI is conducted by a person experienced on the type, without interruption or distraction.

The pilot carries out proper pre-flight checks, again without interruption or distraction.

Weight and Balance

Glider loading limitations should be clear from a cockpit placard. Lighter pilots must use ballast to comply with the aircraft placard and to ensure safe flight. It is further recommended that when an additional margin of safety is required, eg during type conversion and for inexperienced pilots, an effective cockpit load of at least 15kgs (33lbs) in excess of the placard minimum should be established, again using ballast if necessary. In all cases, additional ballast should be mounted in an appropriate installation, secured in the aircraft so that it cannot move, even under extreme attitudes or accelerations.

Pilots flying gliders capable of carrying water-ballast should ensure that the aircraft weight and balance is within limits as described in the Aircraft Flight Manual and aircraft placard.

Threat and Error Management

The pilot in command must reasonably ensure that the intended flight can be completed safely.

Pilots are taught about Threat and Error Management (TEM). This is all about thinking ahead about what might go wrong and anticipating it before it does.

Read more about Threat and Error Management in gliding here.

TEM considerations ahead of launching can include;


Carrying out a walk around a glider before flight is an opportunity to check that there are no obvious defects and that there is nothing that will obviously affect the performance or C of G, including water on the flying surfaces, or a tail dolly fitted.

Potential Mid-Air Conflict

Thinking about the amount of airborne activity likely to be experienced during the flight as well as any in-flight visibility or distraction issues can help the pilot think about mitigations, including use of FLARM to assist lookout, avoiding areas of poor visibility, or avoiding known busy areas of sky.

Recency / Currency

Beyond any legally established minima, CFIs may decide what additional level of recency (or currency) is appropriate to any given situation at their site. All pilots should think about their recency/currency in light of the conditions on the day. The ‘Pilot Currency Barometer’ on the BGA website is helpful. The ’90-day rule’ for pilots who are flying passengers is an important consideration, ie. in order to carry passengers, you must have completed within the previous 90 days, three take-offs and landings as sole manipulator of the controls in the same type or class used for the flight, eg a glider, or a TMG, or a single engine aeroplane.


Pilots are advised to think carefully about the weather conditions before and during flight. If in doubt, seek advice. Perceived operational pressure has led to flying taking place in unsuitable weather conditions. Access to a suitable weather forecast, advised minimum last landing times, and a wind sock mounted on a pole can help pilots make the right decisions.

Water, Frost and Snow

Even small amounts of roughness on the wing can have a disastrous effect on efficiency and the stalling speed. Water, frost and snow should be removed before flying from the wing and tail-plane surfaces.

Airfield Activity

Pre-flight Checks

Pre-flight cockpit checks should be carried out carefully using an established checklist. Distraction is a common cause of error when carrying out pre-flight checks. Rushing due to time pressure is also a common cause of error. Both of those causal factors can be addressed to reduce the risk. If the pre-flight checks are interrupted for any reason, the checks should be restarted and completed with care. The BGA recommended cockpit pre-flight checklist is:

C         CONTROLS working fully and freely and in the correct sense

B          BALLAST securely fastened; correct cockpit load

S          STRAPS for all occupants correctly locked and tight

I           INSTRUMENTS appear serviceable and set as required

F          FLAPS check operation and set for take-off

T          TRIM check operation and set for take-off

B          BRAKES check operation, closed and locked

E          EVENTUALITIES consider launch failure and other options

C         CANOPY closed, locked and doesn’t open with applied pressure

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