Sailplane Pilot Licence Conversion

Pilots of Part-21 sailplanes (formerly described as EASA sailplanes) including powered sailplanes including TMGs need to hold a Sailplane Pilot Licence (SPL) by 8 December 2021.

Meanwhile, BGA and national 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 March 21, over 1300 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?

There is no time like the present. You may wish to qualify for additional BGA privileges before converting. But as soon as you meet the conversion criteria that you are content with, it makes sense to avoid the rush ahead of 8th December.

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 type of licence and 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 21, 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, 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 strongly 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 2021. BGA and national rules continue to apply to all sailplane pilots until 8 Dec 21.

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 2021 – 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 2021, it should be possible to add some privileges by qualifying under BGA/national requirements and then adding the privilege to your SPL as a conversion. The step by step process is;

  1. Consider which Part-SFCL privileges you believe you want to add based on BGA/National privileges.
  2. Refer to the SPL conversion guidance to 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.

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.

The basic SPL recency requirement is 15 launches, 5hrs and two flights with an instructor in the previous 24 months. There are additional requirements for other SPL privileges.  The two flights with an instructor can be flown with a BGA instructor until the conversion period ends, ie before the 8th December 2021.

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.

The FI(S) recency requirements include 30 hours or 60 launches instructing experience and a refresher seminar in the previous 36 months, plus a proficiency check every 9 years. Where that 30 hours or 60 launches instructing experience is not met, an assessment by a Flight Examiner (Sailplanes) is required. For those converted from a BGA instructor rating, the first 9 year proficiency check requirement is ‘timed’ from the date of the last BGA instructor 3 or 5 year check (as recorded in the instructors logbook).

How do I comply with the FI(S) recency requirements immediately 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.

This means that where an old FCL FI(S) certificate is held, the SFCL.360 rolling recency requirements apply from the old FCL FI(S) certificate expiry date.

Example – FI(S) certificate issued under old FCL rules on 31 August 2019 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. The first 9 year proficiency check requirement is ‘timed’ from the date of the last BGA instructor 3 or 5 year check (as recorded in the instructors logbook). As an FCL FI(S) certificate is automatically deemed to be compliant with SFCL, there is no need to replace the FI(S) certificate.

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 – BGA instructor rating issued initially or by revalidation or renewal on the 30th October 2020 . The instructor converts to an SPL with FI(S) certificate after April 2020, ie under SFCL rules. The FI(S) in this example needs to comply with the SFCL.360 FI(S) rolling recency requirements from 30th October 2023. The first 9 year proficiency check requirement is ‘timed’ from the date of the last BGA instructor 3 or 5 year check (as recorded in the instructors 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.