Managing Flying Risk – Supervision

What is supervision?

Supervision is about making sure something is done correctly. In a sport gliding context, that means providing support and oversight to ensure safe, productive and enjoyable flying. That’s largely achieved by ensuring the club’s and any other rules are followed and that taught good practice and standards are maintained. The BGA Instructor Manual notes:

‘Gliding’s culture of supervision is unique in aviation, and it is important that instructors carry it out in a very positive way, with the aim, in all cases, of safe, fun flying.’

Supervision is about being organised; knowing who needs what kind of help, and when, and being the eyes and ears for all pilots operating from the airfield. Early solo, and even quite experienced pilots, will often be focussing on the mechanics of flying and fail to notice other issues that may be gradually creeping up on them. These issues may include things like personal fatigue, worsening weather, dehydration, trying to take off with the tail dolly still on, or even getting closer and closer to the fence on each approach. It is the supervising instructor’s job to take these pilots out of their ‘bubble’ and point out the unseen problems…

Supervision should be approached positively and in a way that benefits the supervised. Quietly eliciting the relevant information from the pilot who is being supervised rather than telling them can be most instructive. Shouting is a last resort to get the attention needed to avoid an imminent risk of injury or damage. A significant positive impact can result from making sure there are no opportunities for distraction during vital actions eg during rigging, DI and pre-flight checks.

Although qualified pilots are responsible for managing their own risk, the BGA is aware that different gliding sites, meteorological conditions and other factors will influence the minimum level of experience appropriate to flying on any given day. Clubs should ensure that adequate guidance is in place to meet those circumstances.

Who needs supervision?

Unqualified pilots

An unqualified glider pilot is a pilot who does not hold the BGA Bronze and Cross-Country Endorsements or a LAPL(S) or SPL. Any glider pilot who has yet to demonstrate the knowledge, skill and judgement required of a qualified glider pilot will need a level of decision-making support by a more experienced pilot. An unqualified pilot cannot be reasonably expected to fly without an appropriate level of supervision. Flying by unqualified pilots must be supervised by a suitably experienced instructor.

Young solo pilots

Pilots under the age of 18 may have exemplary handling skills but a different attitude to risk and little experience of taking important decisions. Below the age of 16, children are told what to do both at home and at school. It would be rare for any such person to have experience of taking decisions with severe adverse personal consequences if the decision were wrong. But taking such decisions is an intrinsic part of flying a glider. Individual supervision including briefing is crucial for the safety of young pilots.

Individual supervision for young pilots can be achieved in several ways including;

  • Use of an instructor mentor who monitors and advises on all flying by a young pilot
  • Requiring young pilots seek authorisation from an instructor before flying solo
  • The authorising instructor signing the log sheet entry confirming the young pilot may fly solo

Visiting pilots

The culture of gliding is changing. There are fewer club expeditions to other club sites but the number of such visits by individual pilots or informal groups of pilots is increasing.

If the host CFI has no advance information about the capabilities of a visiting pilot who is not part of a club expedition, it is unreasonable and impracticable to provide proper supervision. Under those circumstances, the host club CFI should require each visitor to provide the following information in advance, unless the visitor has much relevant experience or is known personally by the host CFI.

Item Notes
Qualifications Bronze and Cross-country endorsements, Silver
Gliding experience Total hours as P1 and experience in similar conditions to those at the host site
Currency Recent launches/hours, and currency on the visiting site launch method(s)
Ambitions First steps in hill or wave soaring, cross country in mountains, etc.
Glider equipment GPS moving-map? Oxygen? FLARM? Transponder? PLB/ELT?
Local safety guidance Confirm familiarity with published host site safety guidance
Home club CFI input 1) confirm parental permission if under 18

2) indicate appropriate pilot privileges and degree of supervision at the host site

In the absence of such information, the host CFI should impose restrictions on the privileges of a visiting pilot, which could include not providing a launch. Guidance relating to the supervision of unqualified and young pilots also applies.

First Cross-Country Flights.

A pilot intent on setting off on an early cross-country flight should be individually briefed by a suitably experienced instructor. The pilot should “brief” the instructor on at least the likely route with airspace and navigation being of primary interest. The weather for setting off and the state of the fields should be thoroughly reviewed.

Although navigation training should ensure that pilots become skilled in basic map and compass navigation techniques, it is recommended that when inexperienced pilots are flying cross-country they are equipped with a suitable GPS moving map. If the pilot intends to make use of GPS as a navigation aid (which must be in conjunction with a current chart), his or her understanding of the system should be established

Qualified pilots

Pilots may need an element of supervision depending on a variety of factors, eg pilot recency, experience/familiarity in the environment or on type, or perhaps human factors issues where an external intervention can often help. The level of supervision needed for qualified pilots varies from complete oversight, eg a pilot’s first solo cross-country, to none with experienced and current pilots who are expected to keep an eye on each other.

Introductory flights and trial lessons

Please ensure the first flight guidelines published here are always followed when introductory flights or trial lessons are taking place.

Type conversion

Many gliders only have one seat. This means that a pilots’ first flight on type is often solo. Supervision at this time is very important to minimise the workload imposed on the pilot during these first flights on type. It’s important to focus on important differences between what the pilot has flown in the past and the new type. If the supervisor and pilot perceive that the pilot will be too overloaded (too many differences), further training should be considered. The BGA instructor manual section 6-22 includes helpful information and there is a video here.

Who can supervise?

If the pilot being supervised is unqualified, ie does not yet hold the Bronze and Cross Country Endorsements, an assistant or full rated instructor is required. All instructors are also qualified and trained to assist qualified pilots with flying standards and threat and error (airmanship) issues.

Most clubs have very experienced pilots who are not instructors. A club CFI may choose to utlise such an individual to help with general supervision and launch point management under the delegation of an instructor who is present on the day.

What does good supervision look like?

In a club with a healthy approach to supervision, those that need to seek advice before flying know who they are, and those who are expected to actively supervise know that’s the case as well as who to keep an eye on. Everyone quietly gets on with it, accepting that supervision is a positive element of gliding. Any flying standards issues are addressed equitably and promptly.

Bigger clubs, where not everyone knows each other, might publish a list of authorised supervisors so that everyone can identify who the CFI expects to actively supervise when they are at the airfield.

The CFI might establish a process that ensures individual pilots are aware of what supervision they need to seek before flying; that might be a card system or one-to-one advice.

Effective supervision undoubtedly makes a positive contribution to a club’s safety performance and to the capability and competence of its pilots.

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