Dartmoor Gliding Society

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Learning to Fly and Obtaining a Glider Pilot Licence

At Dartmoor Gliding we would be delighted to welcome you to train to be glider pilot with us. You will, no doubt, have lots of questions. Don Puttock, our Chief Flying instructor has supplied answers to some of these questions listed below. Please click the questions to see his answers.

Afterwards why not explore the “Visitors” section of this website for more information. You are, of course, welcome to browse the rest of the site. Please Contact Us for more information.


Why Glide?

Who can glide?

What do I need to know before I fly?

What is the happens during the first flight?

Learning to glide. What is the process?

What is the badge system?

After solo how do I obtain my Pilot’s Licence?

And the Cross Country Endorsement?


Why glide

Gliding is different things to different people. Some use it as an introduction into aviation and subsequently take up flying as a career. Others are fascinated by our interaction with nature and how we can stay airborne for hours. Again others enjoy the social side of belonging to a club and becoming a member of a team, and yet again others enjoy competing with fellow pilots.

Whatever attracts you, you will discover you are embarking on a lifetime of learning and fun. You will learn to make decisions in the air, become curious about the sky and the many ways it appears to us, learn how to stay safe and yet explore the air in a way very few people even dream of. Your life will change for ever.

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Who Can Glide

As a general rule, gliding is fairly unrestrictive in who can fly. If you aren’t sure, then the best thing to do is to come and ask. The instructors will be able to advise you. Below are some guidelines.


The only age limit today is that you must be 14 to go solo.

If you are below that minimum age you may still train with an instructor, many trainees go solo on their 14th birthday.

There is no upper age limit; however you must be able to meet the medical requirements. Many pilots learn to fly after they have retired!

As a general rule there isn’t much point trying to learn too soon before being able to go solo. Youngsters often get frustrated when they can’t progress further. With younger children, there is also a size problem-it is essential that the straps fit securely, and its also very helpful if you are big enough to reach the rudder pedals.


Being small is often not an issue, as you can be fitted in with the use of special cushions, although if you are less than 5 foot, you may find reaching some of the controls difficult. If you are over 6 foot 4 inches, then you may only be able to fit into certain gliders. Again come and get some advice if you are unsure.


As a rule of thumb, if you are fit enough to drive a car, you are fit enough to fly a glider. Before you fly you will need to sign a medical declaration and, before you fly solo, you will need to get your GP to certify that you meet the same standards you must meet to drive a car. The medical forms may be obtained from the British Gliding Association website

Gliding is also suitable for people with a range of disabilities---for more information go to the British Gliding Association Website


Again, as with fitness if you can drive a car, you can easily fly a glider. The skill level is similar, and some would even say its easier!

Try it out

Before committing yourself you should take a trial flight to see what it is like. Ask at the club and this will be arranged for you. If possible take a series of 2 or 3 flights. You will then understand much better what is involved, you will also meet fellow club members and join in with the team. Learning to fly involves learning how to operate the various parts of the airfield as well as physically handling the aircraft in the air.

Take advantage of schemes like the fixed price to solo package and so on, if you in full time education, there are often concessions and sometimes grants are available. Ask for information from the club instructor.

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Before Flying

In the winter, it is important to keep warm and dry, and in the summer to keep cool and hydrated. Airfields are flat open spaces, so it often feels colder and windier than elsewhere. Although you don’t need any special clothing (but no skirts please), it is advisable to make sure you have an extra jumper with you, when flying your hat should not have a large peak because it restricts your upward vision. Sunglasses, drinking water, sun screen are particularly important personal kit during the summer months.

You will normally find it warmer in the cockpit because the Perspex canopy behaves a little like a greenhouse; indeed overheating and de-hydration are important concerns for a glider pilot.

When you first arrive on the airfield, you will need to complete the relevant paperwork. This involves a temporary membership form and a simple medical declaration. After doing this you will meet your instructor.

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First Flights

Before flying, the pilot will give you a briefing on what the controls do, what the instruments do, and what to expect during the flight. Sometimes this will be done in the clubhouse, and sometimes when you are sitting in the glider. You may not take it all in right away, but things will become clearer once in the air. If you are unsure of anything, either on the ground or in the air, be sure to ask questions – the pilot is there to help.

Even on the first flight you are part of the flight crew, the pilot will ask you to keep a good lookout and point out other aircraft as you spot them.

Once you have completed the first flights the pilot will be able to advise you, if you wish, on how to go about getting your licence.

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Learning to Glide, the route

Skills training

First you will learn how to fly the aircraft, the instructor will guide you as you gain proficiency. You will gain confidence in the glider and its capabilities.

Judgement training

You will then learn how to assess your progress through the air. You will learn how to judge accurate approaches for accurate landings, and how to judge a good, safe circuit to land.

Dealing with eventualities

Using the principles of Threat and Error Management, you will learn to anticipate difficult or awkward situations and deal with them in a safe and routine manner.

Theory training

To fly safely, you will be taught the fundamentals of air law, local airspace and good airmanship. This is generally taught on the ground, in the clubhouse over coffee and cakes.

Although learning to glide primarily involves getting airborne, there is inevitably some ground based theoretical knowledge involved. Although it is certainly not mandatory, the BGA has identified that many pilots find that the book “From passenger to pilot” by Steve Longland, the author of the BGA instructors manual, provides a suitable level of information that satisfies most newcomers to the sport and provides a step onto a development pathway beyond solo.

The Dartmoor gliding Society web site contains training materials as does the web site run by Tim Allen “solo2silver”

Many people will choose a certain day to turn up on to ensure they fly regularly and preferably with the same instructor (although this is not essential) Others just turn up and put their name on the flying list.Do make a point of turning up on non flyable days, this is when the ground school often happens.


Courses are a truly fantastic way to learn gliding. The more intense the more effective they are. Keep your eyes open and join in with a course if you can.

First Solo

What a momentous occasion, when both you and your instructor are satisfied, you will fly your first solo flights. A day never to be forgotten, a day you become one of the lucky few who can claim they did it.

The main aims of going solo are to make sure you are safe to fly alone, and also to make sure you have completed certain exercises to a good standard so that you are able to cope with any potential problems. To achieve this you will follow a training syllabus.

The minimum for going solo is 20 flights (BGA requirement), although this is rarely achieved. A more realistic aim is 40-100 flights, and it will depend on many factors including how good you are, how fast you learn, and how regularly you fly. Other things that help are just being around the airfield, watching other people, listening to the numerous lectures and chatting with instructors- remember instructors are there to help.

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The Badge System

After solo you are able to claim the FAI A badge, and become registered with the British Gliding Association as a Solo glider pilot. The claim form can be found on the BGA Website

It is sensible to carry the Bronze C claim form and the Cross country endorsement claim form with your logbook. The tasks set within the forms will not be achieved in one single day, and you will find yourself regularly referring to them and getting sections signed off by the examining instructors.

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 of each of the badges.

After diamond there is a UK750Km diploma and the FAI issues diplomas for flights of 1000Km or more in increments of 250 Km.


Minimum requirements




Must be over 14 years old,

20 flights with an instructor

I successful solo flight

Show reasonable knowledge of rules of the air, including local airspace.

Shows a standard of proficiency reached

20 flight minimum may be waived if a PPL or CPL is held or if you are a qualified services pilot.


Completed A badge requirements

Soaring flight of at least 5 minutes at or above previous low point after release.

Successful landing.

Show reasonable knowledge of rules of the air, including local airspace

Shows a standard of proficiency reached


Bronze “C”

50 solo flights or 20 solo flights and 10 solo hours.

At least 3 check flights in a dual controlled glider with a Full rated instructor.

Pass multiple choice written air law and general papers (on airmanship meteorology, principles of flight, radio telephony, navigation)


Flying and ground tests must be completed within the 12 months prior to the application

UK Cross country endorsement

Must have a bronze badge and approval of the CFI.

Two soaring flights of at least 1 hour and one flight of 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, motor glider or light aircraft)

With the bronze badge allows you to fly cross country, and also allows you to apply for the Glider Pilots licence (not essential)

All must be completed within 12 months of the 2nd soaring flight.


Height.-a gain of height of 1000m(3281ft) 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

Bronze badge and cross country endorsement are needed before attempting the distance component.

UK 100Km diploma

Part 1 A pre declared 100km triangle or out and return flight.

Part 2 As part 1 but with a handicapped speed of 65kph


Bronze badge and Cross country endorsement are needed first.


Height A gain of height of 3000m or more

Distance A flight of 300km or more

Duration A flight of 5 hours or more




Height-A gain of height of 5000m or more

Goal - a goal flight of 300km or more over an out and return or triangular course

Distance –A flight of at least 500km



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Solo to Licence

Once solo you will be able to gain confidence and build solo experience. You are considered to be a solo pilot under supervision; you will have routine check flights with an instructor before flying solo.

As a pre-licence pilot you are restricted to flying when both you and the instructor consider you are able to handle the prevailing conditions. You must not fly more than 5 nautical miles from the site and must remain in gliding range at all times.

Learning to soar

Up to now you will have been concentrating on learning to fly. Now the instructors will be keen to teach you how to stay aloft. Part of he Cross Country Endorsement requirement are some soaring flights. These should to be signed off by an instructor or an official observer ON THE DAY, which means you should carry the form with you if you want to claim a solo soaring flight.

Improving your Flying Skills general flying test (GFT)

Your instructor will advise you on what you need to do in order to reach a standard that meets the GFT requirements. You will need to know how to prepare your aircraft, prepare for flight, including NOTAMs and interpreting the weather. When you are ready the instructor will put you forward for test with a full rated instructor or examiner. The test details are shown on the form.


Flying experience is simply measured as hours (or launches) flown solo. When ready the instructor will check your logbook and sign it off.

Theoretical knowledge

The examination is a multiple choice paper covering a total of 7 subjects. These include Air law, Human Factors, Meteorology, Navigation part 1, Navigation part 2, Principles of Flight, and radio. Regular talks (particularly on non flying days) are available, which you can support with your own reading. The instructors are always pleased to assist by answering any questions or explaining the parts you don’t understand.

The exam questions are chosen at random from a standard question bank. The club CD rom also contains a useful cloud base quiz to help you prepare.

The club has several instructors authorised to supervise the examination. If you don’t pass, well you can try again no problem----after a little more study perhaps.

Oral Examination

These are explained on the BGA form, and can be conducted by arrangement with the examining instructor. These are hugely practical, and simply confirm you really understand the procedures we need to follow if we are to keep safe.

Field Landings

These exercises are undertaken for the bronze and for the cross country endorsement. The cross country endorsement(CCE) must be completed in a motor glider with an examiner. The CCE qualifies for both, but for the bronze C test can be flown in a glider into an unusual part of the field. Completing the test separately gives you the opportunity to prepare better for the CCE test.

Bronze Complete

One last signature, the CFI checks everything is in order and approves your application. Another milestone behind you well done.

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Completing the Cross Country Endorsement, the final step for the licence.

Soaring Flights

2 solo soaring flights are required one of 2 hours and another of one hour. These will probably be flown on different days and should be signed off on the day, so carry that form with you.

Navigation Exercise

Your instructor will have prepared you for a practical navigation test, the examiner will task you with planning (including weather and NOTAM) a cross country flight. By now you will be able to read a chart and hopefully not get lost. This is normally done in a motor glider.

Field selection

During the flight the examiner will ask you to select field and explain your choice. Your instructors will have prepared you for this, a huge amount of common sense comes into play

Field landing

This is always done in a motor glider, the examiner will want to see you plan a sensible circuit and make an approach that would end with a safe landing. Your examiner will not actually land, in the normal course of events anyway, but he will want both you and he to see the approach was going to be a success

Oral exam

By now you will be used to these, and it will seem like “the same old stuff”----all you need now is the signature of the CFI and you can send off for your licence.

The end of a very interesting road, and the beginning of the next----YOUR FIRST SOLO CROSS COUNTRY -----YIPEEE

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Dartmoor Gliding Society, Burnford Common, Brentor, Tavistock, Devon PL19 0LB