WHO CAN GLIDE
Gliding is an exiting and rewarding support for people of all age groups and requires no great physical strength so is equally available to everyone. Provided you are reasonably fit, no medical certificate is required. There are no great physical requirements and people with a variety of disabilities have found it possible to take up gliding. Whether you come alone or with a friend, as a couple or as a group, the team spirit which is gliding will ensure that you quickly make friends and have tremendous fun.
It is an advantage to start young and, although the minimum age for going solo is 14, younger members are welcome. There is no maximum age and many members have started gliding after retirement and have gone onto become successful solo pilots.
There are some basic medical requirements to fly solo but most don't apply when you're flying with an instructor. If you have any concerns due to a medical condition or disability we do ask that you let us know beforehand so we can advise you of any possible problems.
The main aims of going solo are to make sure that you are safe to fly alone. To do this you must complete a range of exercises to the appropriate standard to demonstrate you can cope with any potential problems. The number of flights it takes to go solo will depend on many factors including how good you are, how fast you learn and how regularly you fly.
Other things that help are being around the airfield, watching other people and chatting with instructors - remember, instructors are there to help! Many people will choose a certain day to turn up on to ensure they fly regularly and preferably with the same instructors (although this is not essential). Others just turn up when they can, and put their name on the "flying list".
Of course, gliding doesn't just stop when you go solo. Most would even say that you never stop learning! Further training is available for almost as far as you wish to go. Immediately after solo, you will still need check flights each time you turn up, until you build up more experience. Some people say that you never stop learning about gliding. There is always more to find out about the way a glider flies or how the sky works!
After going solo, the next big step is the Bronze Endorsement, which is the equivalent of the Private Pilot's Licence. The exact requirements are listed in the next section but basically this gets you to a standard where you are capable of flying cross-country. Many clubs will have their own syllabus to complement the badge system, and to take account of any local factors.
What do you want to do?
From here, it's really a matter of what you want to do with gliding! Many pilots just like to stay local to the airfield for their soaring. Others learn cross-country flying or aerobatics. Many even become instructors!
Courses aren't just for beginners. "Advanced courses" are available at many clubs for cross-country training, aerobatic training or just to help you progress and polish your flying after solo! The British Gliding Association does not do training for beginners, but it does do soaring courses for those wishing to learn or improve their cross-country flying, and also instructor courses. These take place with the National Coaches. See the BGA web site at http://www.gliding.co.uk/ for more details.
THE BADGE SYSTEM
There are essentially two parts to the badge system. The 'A','B' and Bronze Badges (and also the Cross-Country Endorsement and UK 100km Diploma) are UK recognised qualifications, whereas the Silver, Gold and Diamond Badges are internationally recognised qualifications. The table below outlines the requirements and privileges for each of the badges. In the case of privileges, it should be noted that these are ultimately at the discretion of the Chief Flying Instructor of the site where you are flying.
Must be over 14 years old
Must demonstrate appropriate skills & knowledge following dual training and show reasonable knowledge of the rules of the air, including local airspace rules
Shows a standard of proficiency reached.
Must be over 16 years old
Must have completed the training syllabus including solo flying requirement
Pass a flying skills test
Pass multiple choice written Air Law and General papers (on airmanship, meteorology, principles of flight, radiotelephony, navigation, etc)
Must have Bronze Badge and approval of the CFI.
Two soaring flights of at least 1 hour and one flight of at least 2 hours.
Field selection flight.
At least 2 successful approaches into fields.
Plan and fly a triangular task of at least 100km (in a glider, motorglider or light aircraft).
With the Bronze Badge, allows you to fly cross-country, and also allows you to apply for the Glider pilot's licence (not essential).
Height - a gain of height of 1000 metres (3281 feet) or more.
Distance - a flight on a straight course of 50km or more.
Duration - a flight of 5 hours or more.
Minimum requirement to fly in a competition (for which an FAI sporting licence is needed).
UK 100km Diploma
Part 1: A pre-declared 100km triangle or out-and-return flight.
Part 2: Same as part 1, but with a handicapped speed of 65kph.
Height - a gain of height of 3000 metres (9843 feet) or more.
Distance - a flight of 300km or more.
Duration - a flight of 5 hours or more
Height - a gain of height of 5000 metres (16405 feet)
Goal - a goal flight of 300km or more over an out-and-return or triangular course
Distance - a flight of at least 500km