Training Area

Ab-Inito and Early Solo Flying Training

The basic flying training that you receive has been designed by the British Gliding Association (BGA) and is based on many years of experience. All of your flying training will be delivered  by BGA qualified instructors, of which there are three types: Basic, Assistant and Full Category all of whom  work under the auspices of the Clubs Chief Flying Instructor (CFI). In outline, Basic instructors teach primary effects of controls above 500’, Assistant and Full instructors teach the full ab-initio syllabus as well as handling check flights and site briefings and Full Category instructors also exam for the Bronze and Cross-Country Endorsement badges.

The instructors will very much manage and lead you through the ab-initio syllabus. Your principle responsibilities are to:

  •  Turn up routinely enough to ensure continuity of training
  •  Make sure you are ready to go when your turn on the flying list arrives – so ready and available, log book to hand, refreshed and warmed up if necessary (a quick cup of tea on a cold winters day does wonders) and bladder suitably empty!
  •  Ensure that the instructor makes an entry in your log book at the end of the day to record progress.
  •  Work as part of the team to make the operation as efficient as possible so that training value is maximised on the day
  • Your progress through this stage of your flying career will be recorded within your log book and also on a training record card. The syllabus that you will cover will include:
  •  Pre-flight checks
  •  Look out
  •  Primary effect of controls
  •  Secondary effect of controls
  •  Basic handling (look out, attitude and speed control, trimming, co-ordinated turns, turning onto a heading)
  •  Straight Glide and maintaining a heading
  •  Scan Cycle
  •  Symptoms of the stall and recovery
  •  Winch launching
  •  Approach control
  •  Circuit planning/flying
  •  Landing
  •  Advanced stalling
  •  Spinning, spiral dives and advanced spinning
  •  Launch failures

As well as the hands on control training, the instructors will provide subject briefings, pre-flight and post flight briefings. Some of these require a whiteboard – and therefore by definition a cup of tea. So the invite from an instructor to come and have a cup of tea in the club house is definitely not a precursor to criticism!

When you joined the club you will have received in your welcome pack an A5 book called ‘Elementary Soaring’. It’s an excellent read both to prepare yourself ahead of a flying day and also well worth reading in the evening as a refresh on what you have done.

The instructional team will also guide you through the early solo flying that you do, including check flights before solo launches and conversion to the single seat K8 and Skylark aircraft.


  •  BGA Instructors
  •  Books:
  •  Elementary Gliding (A5 booklet provided to you when you joined the club)
  •  Beginning Gliding, Derek Piggot: Very much the ‘classic text’ the style is definitely looking dated but the contents accuracy and relevance are very largely unchanged
  •  Consider purchasing a copy of the BGA Instructors Manual – it’s not a secret and could even get you one step ahead of the evil one in the back seat…. (seriously, it’s well written and although much is aimed at the instructor there is much of interest and relevance for the ab-initio in here as well)
If you'd like to read more on further training, please have a look at these articles: 

Learning to fly a glider and indeed becoming a competent soaring pilot requires commitment. Not only in terms of time on the airfield and in the class room, but also in terms of resilience. There is no doubt that learning to fly for many of us is/was a little bit of an emotional roller coaster experience, including those days when after 5 attempts at the same thing you put your head in yours hands and think ‘I’ll never get this’. You will – it tends to suddenly click and 2 flights later you wonder why it was ever an issue!

Generally speaking no one flying exercise is that difficult; if we had to pick two that are likely to take more time and effort than others to completely nail then they would be 1) the straight glide (maintaining a heading, wings level and performing good look out using the scan cycle), and, 2) achieving a fully held off landing. Neither are actually that difficult but they do requires lots of practice.

All this leads to the title above – a sense of humour really helps including the ability to laugh at yourself (anybody who has ever learnt to ski will understand immediately). One other aspect that really helps is being able to compare notes with fellow club members who are at about the same place in the training syllabus as you. If nothing else you can always gang up against the old hands….

There are many similarities between learning to fly and driving a car; do you recall the first time somebody asked you to turn a corner whilst changing gear, indicating and looking where you were going? To learn complex new skills that not only have many parts to them but also require us to have sufficient spare thinking capacity to be able to handle new information (‘Am I in lift?’ is a question most car drivers never have to answer whilst turning right and doing all that indicating, steering and gear mangling) means that we have to break the entire exercise down into individual skills that we learn and file away. Once we have cracked one we can move onto and layer on top the next skill.

There is a host of research behind how our brains learn new skills – including how we retain and retrieve them. Some references for these are given below, including the four stages of competence that are recognised in learning a new skill:

  •  Unconscious incompetence
  •  Conscious incompetence
  •  Conscious competence
  •  Unconscious competence.

Ring any bells?

Unfortunately the gliding movement loses many members during the initial training phase for ab-initio and early solo pilots. Although we can’t absolutely say why this is we do know that two common cited causes are the feeling of ‘never going to get it’ or frustration and perceived lack of speed of progress (value for time is another way of putting it). Understanding how you learn, having the support of club members and your own commitment can really help you get through the training programme. To this add some background study, nothing major, on the flying exercises you are undertaking using the reading material within the flying training section of the web site and you will find that not only do you make much better progress but will also get a great deal more satisfaction from your growing abilities.


  •  The New Zealand Part 1 Instructors training manual contains some fascinating, if slightly heavy going, material on how our brains learn, store and retrieve the information and skills that we use. It really helps to understand how your brain does these things.
  •  Wikipedia article on the four stages of competence…and an informal and potential fifth one of complacency!
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