Sailplane Pilot Licence

The Sailplane Pilot Licence (SPL) is an ICAO compliant licence (ICAO compliance depends on the type of medical held by the pilot) that can be obtained from the BGA by converting from BGA qualifications.

Pilots of Part-21 sailplanes (formerly described as EASA sailplanes) including powered sailplanes including TMGs are currently exempt from the requirement to hold an SPL to fly Part-21 sailplanes until 8th December 2023 (The Aviation Safety (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2021 Chapter 8 plus the associated ORS4 1518 exemption apply).

Meanwhile, BGA and national pilot certification/licensing rules continue to apply to pilots of Part-21 and non-Part 21 sailplanes.

Sailplane pilots who choose to convert are directly supported through the conversion process by the BGA. The licence conversion requirements are based on the UK Conversion Report modified to reflect SFCL changes.

To ensure that all pilots will eventually have the correct sailplane licence, ratings and certificates, the BGA has agreed with the CAA that the BGA will handle the application and checking process and make recommendations for licence issue to the CAA under a Qualified Entity approval. By June 2021, over 1900 licences have been issued through this process. The process is described below.

Please note that an SPL issued by the CAA after 1 Jan 21 will be a UK SPL (rather than issued as an EU SPL, as is the case prior to 1 Jan 21). A CAA-issued EU SPL and a UK SPL have the same privileges in the UK and the EU.

When should I convert?

Please submit your application in good time for the 8th December 2023.

Is there a minimum age to hold an SPL?

Yes. Applicants for an SPL must be at least 16 years old.

An SPL holder under the age of 18 can carry a passenger (providing they meet all other requirements)

An SPL holder cannot exercise instructor privileges until reaching the age of 18.

Do I need a CAA medical certificate to convert to an SPL?

For conversion from a BGA gliding certificate to an SPL (including all privileges eg instructing), one of the following is required;

CAA Pilot Medical Declaration, or

LAPL medical certificate, or

Class 2 medical certificate

More detail about medicals including the CAA Pilot Medical Declaration is available here.

As the UK is now a third-country, SPL holders flying sailplanes outside the UK including in the EU need to hold a class 2 medical certificate to establish ICAO compliance.

Applying to convert to a Sailplane Pilot Licence (SPL) – step by step

  1. Consider whether you need to obtain a medical certificate, or qualify further under the BGA system before converting.
  2. Decide what additional qualifications you are going to apply for. The application form guidance is very helpful.
  3. Print, read, and complete the application form and guidance available at this link.
  4. Check that your application is complete, including certified and clearly readable copies of documents where required.
  5. Send your complete application including including certified and clearly readable copies of documents where required by post BGA, 8 Merus Court, Meridian Business Park, Leicester, LE19 1RJ, or email lizzie@gliding.co.uk

If I do not meet the conversion requirement or do not apply for an SPL by 8 Dec 23, how can I continue to fly as pilot in command of a Part21 sailplane?

By flying as student pilot. The SFCL rules note that “a student pilot shall not fly solo unless authorised to do so and supervised by an Flight Instructor (Sailplanes)”.

After 8th December 2023, on completion of the SPL syllabus (previous BGA training can be recognised), a student pilot can take an assessment of competence with a Flight Examiner (Sailplanes), following which an SPL can be issued. It is therefore recommended that any pilot who can do so should obtain an SPL through the conversion process.

Do I have to use an SPL once converted?

Not until 8th December 2023. BGA and national rules continue to apply to all sailplane pilots until 8 Dec 23.

Sailplane pilots who choose to use SPL privileges are required to comply with the SPL recency and other Sailplane Flight Crew Licensing (SFCL) requirements.

All gliding instructing at BGA clubs continues under BGA requirements until December 2023 – therefore all gliding instructors even if they hold an FI(S) certificate must hold a valid BGA instructor rating.

How can I add a privilege after the licence has been issued?

During the conversion period only ie prior to the 8th December 2023, it should be possible to add some privileges by qualifying under BGA/national requirements or SFCL requirements and then adding the privilege to your SPL. The step by step process is;

  1. Consider which Part-SFCL privileges you believe you want to add.
  2. Refer to the SPL conversion guidance and ensure that you meet the requirements.
  3. Complete this ‘adding a privilege’ application form.
  4. Check that your application is complete, including certified or original and clearly readable copies of documents where required
  5. Send your application to; BGA 8 Merus Court, Meridian Business Park, Leicester, LE19 1RJ
  6. CAA should replace your existing licence with an SFCL SPL.

Are there any additional requirements if I want to train for an SPL additional privilege?

If training for an SPL additional privilege, eg TMG, the training needs to take place under the DTO rules. That includes the need for the DTO declaration to list the specific course of training, eg in this example, the SPL TMG extension course.

If training under BGA rules for a BGA privilege to be used to add an SPL additional privilege, there are no additional requirements.

If I have a LAPL(S), do I need to exchange it for an SPL?

No. A Part-FCL LAPL(S) and a Part-FCL SPL are both automatically deemed to be an SFCL SPL with effect from 8 April 2020. When the CAA reissues a licence for administrative reasons or upon application by licence holders, the CAA will replace Part-FCL sailplane licence for an SFCL SPL.

Once I have an SPL, how do I keep it valid?

The SPL is a lifetime licence. The privileges of an SPL can be exercised as long as the recency requirements have been met.

Where can I find details about SPL recency requirements?

The SPL recency requirements are laid out at SFCL.160 in the SFCL rules.

Please note that the two flights with an instructor (SFCL.160 (a) (1) (ii) ) can be flown with a BGA instructor until the conversion period ends, ie before the 8th December 2023.

Once I have FI(S) privileges, how do I keep them valid?

The FI(S) does not lapse, ie it does not need to be revalidated or renewed. FI(S) privileges can be exercised as long as the recency requirements have been met.

Where can I find details about FI(S) recency requirements?

The FI(S) recency requirements are laid out at SFCL.360 in the SFCL rules.

FI(S) recency requirement – 9-year demonstration of ability to instruct on sailplanes

‘SFCL.360 FI(S) Certificate recency requirements’ include a need to have within the last 9 years demonstrated ability to instruct on sailplanes to an FI(S) with FIC privileges (ie SFCL.315(a)(7) privileges). All BGA club CFI’s who hold the SFCL FIC privilege are authorised to deliver this recency requirement.  If a CFI does not hold the SFCL FIC privilege, please contact the BGA office for alternative arrangements.

A report form for use by the FIC during the demonstration of ability to instruct is available here.

The successful completion of the demonstration of ability to instruct should be recorded and signed in the FI(S) logbook – for example: “9-year demonstration of ability to instruct completed. FIC name, signature and date.”

How do I comply with the FI(S) recency requirements after conversion?

Some BGA instructors will hold an FI(S) certificate issued under the old FCL rules. Others will have converted more recently and will hold an FI(S) certificate issued under SFCL rules.

Those who hold an FI(S) certificate issued under the old FCL rules

SFCL Article 3b -Existing pilot licences and national medical certificates notes at 2 (c): Endorse the expiry date of a flight instructor certificate associated with a PartFCL licence into the pilot’s logbook or issue an equivalent document. After that expiry date, pilots shall exercise instructor privileges only when they comply with point SFCL.360 of PartSFCL.

Example – FI(S) certificate issued on 31 August 2019 under the old FCL 3-year validity rules expires on 31 August 2022. The FI(S) in this example needs to comply with the SFCL.360 FI(S) rolling recency requirements from 31 August 2022 and the first SFCL.360 9 year proficiency check requirement is ‘timed’ from 31 August 19.

Those who hold an FI(S) certificate issued under SFCL rules ie after April 2020

The UK SFCL Conversion report states “SFCL.360 Flight Instructor (Sailplanes) recency requirements. On conversion from BGA instructor to an SPL with FI(S) certificate, the pilot shall exercise instructor privileges of the FI(S) certificate after three years from the issue date of the BGA instructor rating only when they comply with SFCL.360 (a) (1) and when they have either completed a BGA instructor standardisation check in the previous nine years or comply with SFCL.360 (a) (2).

Example 1 – BGA instructor rating issued after April 2020, eg on the 30th July 2020. The instructor then converts to an SPL with FI(S) certificate under SFCL rules. The SFCL.360 first 9 year proficiency check requirement is ‘timed’ from 30th July 2020.

Example 2  – BGA instructor rating issued before April 2020, eg 20 years ago. The instructor converts to an SPL with FI(S) certificate under SFCL rules.  The SFCL.360 first 9 year proficiency check requirement is ‘timed’ from the last BGA 5-year refresher recorded in the pilots logbook.

If I complete an instructors course under SFCL rules, how do I apply the FI(S) recency requirements?

The rolling recency requirements apply immediately the FI(S) certificate is issued to the SPL holder. Rolling recency is addressed as the FI(S) certificate is issued following assessment by a Flight Examiner (Sailplanes) and the course content covers the refresher requirement.

Can I use Air Cadet experience to qualify towards an SPL privilege?

Unfortunately not. The principle means for crediting military flight experience towards civilian qualifications is the Military Accreditation Scheme (MAS). This is a jointly administered document between the 22 Group RAF and the CAA. The scheme does not currently include any credits for Air Cadet qualifications and experience toward civilian equivalents.

What further impact will Brexit have on the SPL?

The UK Government has retained EU law as UK law, including the Sailplane Flight Crew Licensing rules. Modifications to UK-SFCL and other retained EU law may become possible once UK legislative priorities are addressed in the coming years. The BGA is engaged with the DfT and CAA on that topic; the Jan 21 change in law to allow use of the Pilot Medical Declaration by SPL holders is an early example.

More Information

Clearly the first port of call for any licence conversion queries is the information published on this website. Where that doesn’t provide the answer, the BGA office staff are always happy to help.

The BGA office deals with sailplane pilot licence conversion applications as soon as they arrive. The entire process from receipt of application to CAA issue and delivery can take anything from three weeks for a straightforward application, to somewhat longer where the applicant is an examiner, in which case it gets a bit complicated at the CAA end.