Pilot Licencing (Glider Pilots)

Do I need a licence to fly a glider?

In the UK

Through exemption from European Law, there is currently no requirement in the UK to hold a glider pilot licence. The BGA certifies pilots under the long standing and very successful BGA Gliding Certificate and Endorsements.

Outside the UK

Pilots need to comply with the licensing requirements in the country in which they are flying. All European countries recognise the EASA LAPL(S) and SPL. 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, eg South Africa, recognise BGA pilot qualifications.  If in doubt, contact the CAA in the country in which you plan to fly.

EASA pilot licencing – optional in UK until April 2018, and later for sailplane and balloon pilots

Under European regulation, any pilot flying an EASA aircraft (including a glider, which under EASA is known as a sailplane) is required to hold an appropriate EASA licence and EASA medical certificate. Full details are contained in EASA’s ‘Aircrew Regulation’, which is interpreted by the CAA in CAP804. Separate licences are required for sailplanes, aeroplanes, helicopters and balloons.

However, there is a UK exemption published in the CAA’s Official Records Series 4 that describes how under an existing temporary opt-out from the EASA regulation, a pilot can choose to operate in the UK using national, BGA, or EASA licence privileges. For sailplanes and balloon pilots only, EASA is expected to extend the end of the opt-out from 8 Apr 2018 to 8 Apr 2020. To quote the UK CAA (source: CAA website Sep 2017);

To fly any EASA certified aircraft, from 8 April 2018 you will need to hold an EASA licence. There are two exceptions: the deadline for sailplane and balloon licences under EASA SPL, BPL, LAPL(s) or LAPL(B) is 8 April 2020 (mandatory conversion is not required prior to this date)..

Glider pilots – including those who have converted to hold an EASA licence – can choose to operate as they always have done, including using BGA medical requirements. Please note that if a pilot chooses to exercise his or her EASA licence privileges, he or she must of course comply with the relevant EASA licencing and medical requirements.

The licence conversion process and lots more detail including FAQ’s are described on the EASA licence conversion webpage.

Flying motor gliders

Please read our guidance which describes how to qualify to fly motor gliders and should assist any BGA certified or SPL/LAPL(S) holding pilot who is contemplating self-launch training. The guidance is available here.

Microlight Self-Launching Sailplanes

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.