Managing Flying Risk – Culture and Safety Management System


The most effective and strategic way to maintain a reasonable level of risk is to ensure that the Association has a positive safety culture. Safety culture is the “way of operating” within the organisation that influences safe behaviours and consists of shared beliefs, practices and attitudes. The ultimate ambition is for everyone in the organisation to feel responsible for helping to avoid unsafe practices, and to consider the impact on safety of their own activities. Instructors, introductory flight pilots, inspectors, and others in key positions need to ensure their decisions are made with an awareness of the safety implications.

By changing a way of operating, it may be possible to avoid a hazard becoming an accident. A positive safety culture is generated from the “top down”and relies on a high degree of trust, respect and communication between all elements of the organisation. Everyone involved must believe without doubt that they will be supported in any reasonable decisions made in the interests of safety.

Safety Management System

By adopting a holistic Safety Management System that meets the needs of the sport, clubs, pilots and aircraft operators, the BGA aims to move beyond the traditional reactive systems to try to anticipate areas of exposure and change ways of working to reduce the frequency of particular kinds of accident. The ‘BGA Safety Management System Manual’ is available here.

Pilot Training

Pilot training is carried out by trained and monitored instructors to a common syllabus that has been and continues to be developed by the BGA Training Standards Manager and Instructing and Examining Committee. Instructors are supported by club Chief Flying Instructors and Regional Examiners and Coaches. Recognition of risk and how to manage it are key elements of ‘Threat and Error Management’ that is taught during gliding training.


Airworthiness is the responsibility of owners and achieved through compliance and support by the BGA airworthiness system which includes BGA inspectors who are guided and supported by the BGA Chief Technical Officer and Technical Committee. Inspectors certify maintenance and repairs beyond that which a pilot/owner is permitted to carry out.

Pilot Responsibility 

Pilots under training are supervised and supported by instructors. Qualified pilots, ie pilots who hold a valid licence or BGA Bronze Endorsement with Cross Country Endorsement, are responsible for managing their own exposure to risk, subject to club requirements. If the pilot is carrying a passenger, the pilot’s responsibility extends to the passenger.

Pilots are encouraged to seek advice from their CFI or another senior instructor. Periodic refresher training is an excellent method of confirming that appropriate skills remain in place, for example “spinning”, or “field landing” refresher training in a motor glider. Pilots should note that two instructional flights in 24 months form part of the SPL recency requirement.

There are very few new hazards in gliding. It is possible to suggest a prescription for a safe glider pilot:

  • prepares carefully before flight
  • never endangers others
  • keeps an effective lookout
  • can cope with winch emergencies
  • does not cause tug upsets
  • does not inadvertently stall/spin
  • can land in the chosen place
  • picks a field early
  • takes care on the ground
  • and, if an instructor, takes control promptly when the student makes a potentially dangerous error

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