At the launch point about four or five years ago I was talking to a guy who was involved in sourcing young people for airline pilot training and what he had to say was very interesting.
I was already aware that high GCSE grades in English, Maths and Science were needed (plus fluent English, good health, a passport and an acceptable height) but I was not prepared for the revelation that an impressive gliding record is regarded very highly!
The earliest age at which airline pilot training begins is 18. A PPL can be obtained at 17. However, in the UK, it is possible to solo in a glider at age 14 with many hours of P2 flying before that.
Furthermore, for young minds, flying gliders can enhance discipline, prioritisation, teamwork, judgement, decision making and self-control.
So, are there any other reasons airlines attach so much importance to an applicant being a young, experienced glider pilot? Well, there are quite a few:
No Engine - without an engine there is just the one opportunity to make a safe circuit and landing. There is no second chance.
Weather – with XC flying, or just local soaring, for a glider pilot a good understanding of the weather is all important to maximise the possibilities for gaining and maintaining height and achieving long distance flights.
Navigation – Assuming airspace allows, to get from A to B, a power pilot can usually fly in a straight line. However, a glider pilot will undoubtedly have to zigzag to take advantage of thermals, hill lift, wave etc whilst always being aware of his/her location and the direction to head for B. GPS is a great asset until it fails! So glider pilots have unique navigation skills.
TEM – Threat and Error Management is particularly important in gliding when the unexpected happens and having no engine to help manage and solve the threat or correct the error.
Club Member – As an active club member you not only fly but you are also helping the club to function efficiently and safely – getting gliders out of the hangar, DIs, towing to the launch point, all ground aspects of safe launching, attending to Trial Lesson guests, airfield security etc – yes, just like the teamwork in an airline crew!
So, where is this article heading?
I guess most, if not all, of you have seen the film “Sully: Miracle on the Hudson” – if you have not, I urge you to do so as it is an excellent film which substantially sticks to the facts of the events.
In the film there is a flashback to where Sully is a youngster in Texas learning to fly in a biplane and there is a memorable piece of advice from his instructor “In an emergency, when everything else is going haywire, the most important thing is FLY THE AIRPLANE!”
AN AIRBUS GLIDER? – WHAT A SULLY IDEA!
By Richard Bryant
Photo by By Greg L