Managing Flying Risk – In flight equipment including radio

Audio Variometers

To assist pilots in maintaining effective lookout, gliders operating from BGA sites should be equipped with audio variometers and the pilots trained in their use.


Cushions should be energy absorbent – conventional soft foam actually stores energy and can be dangerous in an accident. The cushions should have attachments compatible with the glider for which they are provided and be secured so that they cannot move or foul any controls, even under extreme attitudes or accelerations.

GPS Moving Maps

Infringements of controlled airspace are potentially dangerous and disruptive, and ultimately result in curtailment of the freedoms to fly that all pilots need and enjoy. Use of GPS moving maps is encouraged, particularly where flying cross country in areas of complex airspace. Pilots should ensure they use up to date map software and learn how to use the device on the ground. Navigation training and testing is detailed on the BGA Bronze and Cross-Country Endorsements webpage.


Atmospheric pressure reduces with altitude; halving every 18,000 ft. Healthy humans can compensate for some lack of oxygen but only down to 150 hPa partial pressure of oxygen which is reached at 10,000 ft.  Symptoms of hypoxia are similar to those of alcohol and may include a dangerous overconfidence.  Performance is degraded; consciousness may be lost above 15,000 ft; and without warning above 25,000 ft. Because of how oxygen is transferred in the body, attempts to over-breathe both precipitate the problem and give optimistic readings with oximeters. At altitude the necessary water vapour and exhaled carbon dioxide take an increasing share of the pressure available.  The partial pressure of oxygen can be maintained by adding supplementary oxygen, but increasing amounts are required with altitude and even with pure oxygen the ground level equivalent is reached by 30,000 ft and the limit of compensation at 40,000 ft. The elderly and those with lung damage will suffer adverse effects at much lower levels. Any ill effects at altitude should be assumed to be hypoxia and require an emergency descent to below 10,000 ft.

The Sailplane Air Operations rule (SAO.OP.150) requires that the pilot in command shall ensure all persons on board use supplemental oxygen whenever he or she determines at the altitude of the intended flight, lack of oxygen may result in impairment. The related AMC notes that if the pilot in command cannot determine how the lack of oxygen will affect those on board, he or she should ensure all occupants use supplemental oxygen above 10,000 ft.


Most glider pilots fly with an emergency parachute. As gliders tend to fly close to other gliders, that’s a reasonable precaution. Parachutes have saved glider pilot’s lives.

The regulatory position is clear; emergency parachutes are not subject to regulation. Emergency parachutes are neither installed on aircraft as a component nor are they required by the UK ANO or the retained EU Sailplane Air Operations rules. Emergency parachutes are not subject of retained EU Part-ML maintenance rules. There is a BGA Operational Regulation that requires glider occupants to carry emergency parachutes when flying in cloud.

Prior to flight, the pilot and second seat occupant should ensure that they know how to fit the parachute harness correctly and how to operate the parachute. Detailed guidance on how to control and land with a parachute can be obtained from any British Skydiving school.

It is recommended that an owner of an emergency parachute, ie the person responsible for keeping the emergency parachute in a proper condition, maintains the parachute in accordance with the approved instructions published by the manufacturer. Common sense suggests that parachutes should be kept dry and clean and that advice should be sought from an expert if a parachute becomes wet or contaminated.


The radio can be a very helpful situational awareness tool if used correctly. Planning ahead in terms of frequency selection and the message, using the correct call signs, and using clear, normal language all help to reduce the potential stress and distraction that can be associated with airborne use of radio.

Emergency Frequency:

The UK Distress and Diversion cell monitors channel 121.500. A position fixing service is available to any pilot who is lost or unsure of their position. Pilots are strongly advised to make themselves aware of how to get help from D&D. An FRTOL is not required to use this frequency.


The SafetyCom channel, 135.480, is available to assist pilots to avoid potential collisions between arriving and departing aircraft where no airfield frequency is in use. Pilots may use this frequency to broadcast their intentions for safety purposes only.


Gliders should use “Glider” plus registration letters (where a glider is registered with the UK CAA); or “Glider” plus competition alpha-numeric or tri-graph

Vehicles should use either the suffix “mobile”, or “retrieve”

Portables should use the suffix “mobile”, “winch”, “launch” or “launch point”

Fixed should either use the suffix “base” or “glider base”

Situational awareness calls (eg “joining” or “downwind”) to other gliders in the air should be made with the suffix “traffic” (eg “Anytown Traffic, Glider AB downwind runway 23”)

Gliding Channels:

The following table outlines the Primary and Secondary uses of the various channel assignments as determined by the BGA and agreed with the CAA and Ofcom. The alternative “Secondary Use” frequencies should only be used when the “Primary Use” channels are very busy. An FRTOL is not required provided that these channels are used for their intended purpose.

Channel Primary Use Secondary Use Notes
129.905 Ground Retrieval Parachute/Hang-glider Shared channel
129.980 Common Glider Field Frequency within 10NM radius and up to a height of 3000ft above certain approved airfields   No secondary use
118.685 Common Glider Field Frequency within 10NM radius and up to a height of 3000ft above certain approved airfields   No secondary use
130.105 In-flight Situational Awareness  No secondary use
130.130 In-flight Situational Awareness  No secondary use
130.535 Cloud Flying In-flight Situational Awareness
129.890 Competition Coaching
130.405 Competition Coaching

Electronic conspicuity and collision warning systems

The BGA encourages the widespread use of electronic conspicuity and collision-warning systems in gliders, motor gliders and tugs. FLARM is an increasingly popular system. Pilots should make their own decision on equipage based on compatibility with other systems and as to whether such a system is appropriate for their particular operation. Pilots are reminded that whilst electronic collision warning equipment can enhance pilots awareness by providing most useful warnings, such equipment cannot and must not replace a good systematic visual lookout scan, and that it is necessary to avoid any in-cockpit equipment from distracting from the visual lookout scan.

Undercarriage Warnings

Fitting of undercarriage warning systems is not recommended because they may lead the pilot to lower the undercarriage during the final stage of landing resulting in an accident. For the same reason, if a glider is seen wheel-up on the approach, no attempt should be made to warn that pilot.

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