Managing Flying Risk – Flying with other pilots

Pilots flying together in private or club two-seat gliders is increasingly popular. Some prefer that to single seat flying. Two-seater flying is great fun, but once the dynamic of two people in the cockpit is introduced, there are a few traps that can catch the unaware. These traps can be managed if they are thought about before getting airborne; they usually revolve around how the crew resource (ie both pilots) manage themselves.

During airborne instruction, it’s very clear who is in charge and who will take over in the event that the flight takes a less than smooth course. Even in this situation though, it’s good to have an atmosphere which promotes active involvement by the student. A comment from the student pilot about a nearby aircraft could save the day.

When two similarly qualified pilots are flying cross-country in a two-seater the situation is often less clear cut. The potential for confusion increases the risk. Who is in charge? Are both willing to speak up they are concerned? It may be that a very experienced instructor (but unfamiliar with the type) is flying with a low-hours owner in his own, very familiar two seat glider. In that case, who is P1? Who will fly when the going gets tough? Are both pilots familiar with the tried and tested “You have control”, “I have control” protocol

Before flying with another pilot (also known as mutual flying), always consider the following:

  • The pilot in command must be at least 16 years of age, current, and qualified, i.e. hold a BGA Cross-Country endorsement or LAPL(S)/SPL.
  • Who is best placed to be pilot in command of the flight – then agree that between both pilots.
  • Are both pilots briefed to speak up if they don’t like something? The pilot in command should ensure that they are. A simple briefing will help to clarify the situation, eg; “Obviously I will be P1 on this flight but despite my experience I am perfectly capable of making mistakes. If there is anything that you are unhappy about, or if you think that you may have seen something that I may have missed please tell me immediately.”
  • Who will do what during the flight – bearing in mind the pilot in command has been decided before flight
  • Are both pilots briefed to hand over / take over control using the tried and tested protocol? The pilot in command should ensure that they are.

If during a flight there is any doubt about who should be in control, the pilot in command must fly the aircraft.

Occasionally pilots may have medical issues or may exhibit issues with appropriate or timely decision making. Commonly, but not exclusively, these issues are associated with advancing years.

The medically limited qualified pilot

An ‘operational safety pilot limitation’ is added to a medical certificate when a pilot is considered to be at increased risk of incapacitation compared to his/her peer group. In that case, the holder of the medical certificate is precluded from solo flying and must always fly with what is formally described as a ‘safety pilot’. The CAA publishes guidance that can be downloaded from their website.

Other limited qualified pilots

Where a qualified pilot is deemed by the club to be unsafe to fly alone for reasons other than those associated with an operational safety pilot limitation described above, the pilot has options; fly as a passenger with another qualified pilot in command, or fly as pilot under training with an instructor as pilot in command.

The qualified pilot in command must hold at least a BGA Cross-Country endorsement or SPL within any required recency including launch method. If not current on type, then the type should be within their demonstrated capability (eg, pilots whose only experience is flying unpowered standard class gliders should not be flying more complex types, eg Nimbus 3dt). The pilot should also be experienced with and current on the type of flying planned. 

Both pilots must be willing and confident to speak up if they are at all concerned – however, the decision making and safe conduct of the flight is the responsibility of the Pilot in Command. That responsibility and authority should be discussed, understood and accepted before flight.

Which seat should the pilot in command occupy when flying dual if not instructing?

The Sailplane Air Operations (SAO) rules apply and do not specify which seat. However, SAO rules note in SAO.GEN.130 (j) (2) that access is required to all controls and in SAO.IDE.100 (c) that access to instruments is required. The Aircraft Flight Manual may provide additional direction.

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