Sailplane Pilot Licence Conversion

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 including powered sailplanes including TMGs are currently exempt from the requirement to hold an SPL to fly Part-21 sailplanes until the 30th September 2025 (The Aviation Safety (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2021 Chapter 8 plus associated exemptions and Statutory Instruments 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. Over 2000 licences have been issued through this process. The process is described below.

When should I convert?

Please submit your application in good time for the regulatory change.

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, 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.

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

Applying for an FRTOL at the same time as applying to convert to an SPL

How to converting to an SPL is described above. Some applicants may wish to apply for FRTOL privileges at the same time as applying for an SPL. The CAA process is somewhat complex. So the BGA has developed and verified guidance to assist applicants which is detailed in one of the two pdf documents available at ‘Applying for your FRTOL at the same time as your SPL’. The other of the two pdf documents at that link is a ‘placeholder’, which is referred to in the detailed guidance.

For anyone who having read the guidance needs to complete a CAA Form 5003, the form is available here.

If I do not meet the conversion requirement or do not apply for an SPL in time, 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 the regulatory change, 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 the regulatory change. BGA rules continue to apply to all sailplane pilots who are flying G-registered sailplanes until then.

Sailplane pilots who choose to use SPL privileges or who are flying non-UK registered sailplanes 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 the regulatory change – 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  regulatory change, 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. 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 manage recency requirements?

The SPL is a lifetime licence. The privileges of an SPL including instructing can be exercised as long as the recency requirements have been met. Rolling recency guidance including for FI(S) holders is available here.

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.