Operations Rules

DG dusk 2

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.

Additional highly relevant safety and other guidance relating to gliding operations is also described on the website under Safety and under Pilot Resources.

The BGA Motor Glider Handbook is recommended reading for all motor glider pilots.

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, which are currently subject to national law pending new sailplane operations rules. Simplified and risk based operations rules specifically for sailplanes including powered sailplanes including TMGs have been developed and will apply from July 2019.

EASA’s easy access Operations Rules are available here.

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


  • SPO

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 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;

BGA NCO SPEC sailplane towing generic risk assessment and checklist

BGA Aerotow Performance Safety Leaflet


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.