What are ‘Operations’?
Operations as described here means carrying out gliding activity including powered gliding (which includes TMGs) and aerotowing.
What rules apply?
Self Regulation – BGA
Sailplane (gliding) operations are currently self-regulated under the BGA. BGA operational regulations, requirements and guidance designed to minimise risk in gliding operations, and in particular to protect third parties, are described under Laws and Rules on this website.
The UK Air Navigation Order
There are a few operations rules within the UK Air Navigation Order (ANO) applicable to gliding which primarily support the all-important requirement to protect third parties. These include rules for commercial activity and where gliding interacts with others.
EASA Non-Commercial Operations Rules
The EASA operations rule structure is complicated and includes thousands of pages – there’s an explanation here.
EASA Non-Commercial Operations (Part-NCO) rules apply to EASA aeroplanes including TMG’s and helicopters from 25th August 2016. Part NCO does not apply to EASA sailplanes including self launching sailplanes.
EASA Operations rules specifically for sailplanes including powered sailplanes are under development through what is called ‘EASA Rule Making Task 0698’ (the detail is described on the EASA website, but essentially the plan is to develop simplified and risk based rules for sailplanes). This rule making task is informed by gliding experts. EASA is expected to publish the new sailplane operations rules in 2018. Meanwhile, EASA has published Regulation 2016/1199 amending Regulation 965/2012 which, within Article 10, extends the period of opt-out from non-commercial operations regulations for sailplanes (including powered sailplanes) to 8 April 2019.
Part NCO can be viewed on the EASA website or in the helpful (but not amended) format as supplied by the CAA below:
- Part NCO Annex VII (ie non-commercial operations, eg gliding club operation of aeroplanes and TMGs)
- AMC and GM to Part NCO Annex VII (interpretation and guidance on how the rules should be applied)
The CAA has published some guidance on Part-NCO at CAA guide to Part-NCO
The CAA has published an Information Notice explaining which documents must be carried in the UK under Part NCO rules at CAA Information Notice re Carriage of Documents
EASA SPO and NCO SPEC
EASA Specialised Operations rules apply to commercial aeroplane and TMG operations from 21st April 2017. Glider towing within a BGA gliding club is not deemed to be a commercial operation and SPO does not apply.
Non-commercial specialised operations with aeroplanes and TMG’s, however, are covered by additional rules in a subpart of NCO, called NCO.SPEC.
- NCO SPEC
NCO.SPEC lists sailplane towing as a specialised operation. That assumption is being challenged with EASA. Meanwhile, the law does require those towing with an EASA aircraft to comply with the existing requirement.
NCO.SPEC includes a general requirement to conduct a risk assessment, assessing the complexity of the activity to determine the hazards and associated risks inherent in the operation and establish mitigating measures. The risk assessment does not need to be recorded, though there is a requirement that specialised operations are ‘performed in accordance with a checklist. Based on the risk assessment, the pilot-in-command shall establish such checklist appropriate to the specialised activity and aircraft used, taking account of any section of this subpart’.
The UK CAA agree that existing BGA sailplane towing guidance provides the necessary detail and that a generic checklist can satisfy the NCO SPEC requirement within BGA clubs. The following risk assessment and checklist has been developed using NCO SPEC Subpart E and is offered in support of BGA club sailplane towing operations;
Documents to be carried – do I need to carry lots of paperwork? – The rules allow many documents to be left at base. Please see the CAA’s October 2016 Information Notice. Required documents can be carried as electronic copies as long as they can be accessed if required.
ELT carriage – do I need to buy one? – The rules require an aeroplane or TMG to be fitted with an ELT or carry an ELT or PLB. See NCO.IDE.A.170.
The extinguisher requirement doesn’t apply to ELA 1 aeroplanes. But what is an ELA 1 aeroplane? – An aeroplane meets the ELA1 criteria if it is an aeroplane “with a Maximum Take Off Mass (MTOM) of less than 1200 kg that is not classified as a complex motor-powered aircraft” (most EASA tug aircraft and TMGs are ELA1).
Is a TMG assumed to be a powered EASA aeroplane or a powered sailplane? – NCO.GEN.102 ‘Touring motor gliders and powered sailplanes’ states;
(a) Touring motor gliders shall be operated following the requirements for:
(1) aeroplanes when they are power-driven by an engine; and
(2) sailplanes when operated without using an engine.
(b) Touring motor gliders shall be equipped in compliance with the requirements applicable to aeroplanes unless otherwise specified in Subpart D.
(c) Powered sailplanes, excluding touring motor gliders, shall be operated and equipped in compliance with the requirements applicable to sailplanes.
Is aerotowing a specialised operation? – Aerotowing with an EASA aeroplane or TMG within a non-commercial operation, ie a BGA club is not subject to SPO rules but is subject to NCO SPEC rules – see above.