Becoming a Glider Pilot
Flight instruction in gliding follows a syllabus laid down by the British Gliding Association. Instruction is free of charge (you pay for the launch and soaring fees) and you will fly with fully qualified BGA rated instructors in dual-control two seat gliders, all the way from your first trial lesson up to your first solo flight. From that stage your training is a mixture of supervised solo flying in club single seat gliders and dual flying to develop your skills and check your progress. Your training can be loosely broken down into the stages below, and can takes you from initial trial lesson to cross-country "pundit".
Your first ever flight will take the form of a 'Trial Lesson' using an Aerotow launch (i.e. the glider is towed into the air by a powered aircraft). During this first 15-20 minute flight you will be shown how the controls and instruments function. The instructor will handle the takeoff and demonstrate how to fly the glider straight and level and in turns, and then you will be given the controls to see how it feels for yourself under supervision. The instructor will carry out the approach and landing and de-brief you on the flight afterwards, answering any questions you have. This flight will be the first (hopefully of many) in your logbook.
Training to Solo
On subsequent lessons you will learn about many aspects of flying gliders soaring. All BGA clubs follow a strict learning syllabus that will take you right from the earliest stages through to becoming a fully qualified glider pilot. We provide training free of charge with fully qualified BGA instructors and your first target will be to fly solo. Don’t worry – you will only do this when your instructors are certain that you have all the necessary skills to safely take-off, fly and land the glider. There are no hard and fast rules as to how many launches are needed before going solo, most people take between 50 and 100 flights (a mix of winch and aerotow launches). You will also learn some of theory of flight, airmanship skills such as navigation and weather interpretation and the laws and rules of the air.
You will need to get to meet some basic medical standards before flying solo. Gliding medical standards are based on those used by the DVLA for driving - so in most cases if you can drive a car you are fit to fly solo. The BGA website gives the full details here.
There comes a point when your instructor knows you're ready to fly by your self. This, your first solo flight, on your own in one of our two-seat gliders, will be one of the most memorable experiences of your life. We send many pilots on their first solo flight every year, with ages ranging from 14 years (the minimum age you can legally fly solo) to well over state retirement age.
Going solo marks the start of the second phase of learning to become a soaring pilot
After you’ve successfully flown solo you will progress to flying single seat gliders. You can continue your training to become a fully qualified glider pilot by completing the syllabus to achieve your Bronze Certificate and Cross-Country endorsements (or the newer EASA LAPL(s) sailplane pilots licence). Our specialist training will equip you with the skills to make informed decisions about your planned flying, navigate cross country and deal with unusual situations, such as landing off-site in a farmer’s field.
Once you are a fully licensed pilot, qualified to fly anywhere in Europe, the sky really is the limit and, depending on your personal aspirations, you can decide to take advantage of further specialised coaching to develop, for example, into cross-country flying, competition flying, or even glider aerobatics. You can even become an instructor who will train the next generation of pilots.