Pilot Licencing and Training
Do I need a licence to fly a sailplane?
In the UK
No. Through exemption from European Law, there is currently no requirement in the UK to hold a sailplane pilot licence.
Outside the UK
Usually yes. Pilots need to comply with the licensing requirements in the country in which they are flying. All European countries recognise the EASA SPL and LAPL(S). Countries outside Europe will recognise an SPL. Note that the USA has verification requirements. And note that because the LAPL medical is not ICAO compliant, many non-European countries will not necessarily recognise a LAPL(S). Some countries recognise BGA pilot qualifications. If in doubt, contact the CAA in the country in which you plan to fly.
Glider pilot training
BGA glider pilot training is delivered at gliding clubs by BGA approved instructors operating under the supervision of the clubs Chief Flying Instructor (CFI). The BGA employs a training standards manager, who is responsible for overall instructor standards, and utilises highly qualified instructor coaches to train new instructors on BGA approved instructor courses. The gliding clubs, instructors and supporting organisation are collectively known as the ‘BGA training organisation’.
The qualifying requirements at each stage of pilot training through the Solo, Bronze and other endorsements are described in the publication ‘BGA Gliding Certificate and Endorsements’.
Pilot flight training at clubs is guided by a syllabus and is structured to support the individual needs of the trainee pilot.
Training is recorded on a simple training record card that is reviewed each time the trainee pilot takes a lesson.
Ground training is important. The BGA offers a ground training record card that clubs can modify as required.
Most trainee pilots learn faster by reading up on some theory between flying lessons. The BGA recommends the publication ‘Passenger to Pilot‘, which includes easy to absorb text and diagrams and was written by the author of the BGA instructors manual. As a pilot progresses in training beyond solo, the BGA recommended publication is ‘Bronze and Beyond‘, which was written by and is periodically updated by an experienced gliding instructor. Other publications by a variety of authors are available.
Solo – a milestone towards becoming a qualified pilot!
The first major milestone during glider pilot training is the first solo flight – that’s a great achievement!
Bronze & Cross Country Endorsements
Further training then fully prepares the newly solo pilot for the Bronze endorsement and Cross Country endorsement, which include practical and theoretical knowledge assessments. Self-study and club-based lectures help with the Bronze theoretical knowledge (refer to the Bronze study guide). Successful completion of these Bronze and Cross Country endorsements results in qualification as a Glider Pilot.
Before considering training to be cleared for passenger carrying, please read and understand the detail on our Passenger Carrying webpage.
Other Flight Training and Coaching
Clubs can supply qualified glider pilots with a variety of optional further flight training opportunities, including soaring, aerobatics, cloud flying, cross-country racing, instructing, competition preparation and glider towing.The requirements for various BGA qualifications are described on the Laws and Rules webpage.
The ‘Aim Higher’ initiative encourages pilots to push themselves that bit further in the sport. It’s amazing what can be achieved with some coaching, support and application!
EASA pilot licencing
The UK is currently opting out from EASA pilot licencing rules for sailplane pilots. Please refer to our pilot licence conversion webpage for the latest detail.
Do I need a licence to fly a motor glider?
Yes. Either a UK PPL with SLMG privileges, or an EASA licence with self-launching privileges, or for TMGs, a TMG privilege.
EASA Self-Launch Privilege Training
Our guidance should assist any SPL/LAPL(S) holding pilot who is contemplating self-launch training. The guidance is available here.
NPPL SLMG Training
NPPL SLMG training is not classed as ‘aerial work’ or ‘commercial operations’ providing it is taking place within a not for profit club environment. Any club that has concerns can contact the BGA office for guidance.
NPPL SLMG course details are available on the NPPL website.
If your club cannot offer you NPPL SLMG training, we recommend that you consider one of the SLMG training operations that offer part-time or full-time tailored SLMG training. These include;
Do I need a licence to fly microlight self-launching sailplanes?
Yes. Either an NPPL microlight or an SPL or LAPL(S) with self-launch privileges.
The following explanation may be helpful.
Non-EASA aircraft are flown in the UK under UK national requirements, ie the ANO 2016.
‘SLMG’ as referred to in the ANO 2016 includes both EASA and non-EASA examples of the same unless otherwise stated, and that when an aircraft meets the SLMG definition, it is an SLMG.
‘Sailplane’ as defined by EASA includes powered sailplanes.
A ‘glider’ is a ‘sailplane’.
In 2014, the CAA was asked to interpret the law and noted in an information notice (IN 2014/139 which following the publication of the ANO 2016 was removed. However, the interpretation remains valid) that an SLMG is ‘an aircraft with the characteristics of a non-power driven glider, which is fitted with one or more power units and is designed or intended to take off under its own power’. An example noted by the CAA in 2014 is a self-launching microlight aircraft which meets the following criteria;
- 3 axis primary flying controls
- Wingspan of at least 11 metres
- Wing mounted airbrakes or spoilers
- Designed for soaring flight
An example is the Silent Electro.
The CAA noted in 2014 that a UK SLMG class rating is equivalent to a powered sailplane endorsement established under EU regulations. Therefore the LAPL(S) and SPL (with valid self-launch or TMG privileges) are valid for the equivalent UK SLMG. The CAA warned in 2014 that the LAPL(S) and SPL are not valid for microlight aircraft that are not SLMGs.
EASA FCL.035, which applies to the SPL and LAPL(S), notes that ‘unless otherwise specified in this Part, flight time to be credited for a licence, rating or certificate shall have been flown in the same category of aircraft for which the licence, rating or certificate is sought’.
When considering recency, pilots are advised that a microlight self launching motor glider as described above is, by definition, a self-launching sailplane.
Do I need a towing rating to tow a sailplane with a powered aircraft?
EASA pilot licencing regulation applicable in during 2018 will require tug pilots operating EASA aeroplanes to hold a sailplane towing rating on their EASA aeroplane licence. See the pilot licence conversion webpage for the latest information.
A towing rating is not required to tow with a non-EASA aircraft; the minimum licence privilege requirement is an NPPL SSEA.
Tug pilot training
Non-EASA aircraft tug pilot coaching is carried out at clubs by appropriately experienced pilots. To assist those carrying out tug pilot coaching or training, the BGA publishes a Recommended Syllabus for Sailplane Towing.
EASA tug pilot training is carried out in accordance with the relevant FCL rule and AMC at an ATO or DTO. The BGA will declare a sailplane towing course as soon as possible during 2018. An FI(A) or CRI(A) is required to teach sailplane towing in EASA aeroplanes.
NPPL SSEA training
There are a number of suitably qualified instructors who make themselves available to BGA club members who wish to convert from SLMG to SSEA, including;
- Paul Whitehead Yorkshire GC
- Derren Francis – Bicester GC
- Andrew Roch – London GC
- Jonathan May – MotorGlide/Cotswold GC
- (Please contact the BGA office if you are an FI(A) or CRI(A) and wish to add your name)