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Why do we volunteer to become instructors? The ever informative BGA website sums it up well: ‘Instructors are a very important part of any gliding club. Instructing can be highly rewarding, great fun, and is great way of putting something back into gliding.’ Well, you can’t say fairer than that.

In my case, I have been flying power since 1988 – but have fallen in love with gliding since taking it up properly at SGC in 2008. Apart from the sheer cost, I got stuck in a rut with power flying – and cling on to my PPL more out of a sense of grim determination not to let go than anything else. Gliding, on the other hand, has been a real voyage of discovery. There is always something new to learn and the more you learn, the more you appreciate that there are a host of skills out there that you have barely begun to master. This means that learning and personal development are fundamental to gliding. Having flown for over 30 years, I have found that it is all too easy to run on autopilot - flying on instinct and trusting too much to habit and feel. That kind of approach can lead to complacency – never a good flying trait – which, aside from being potentially dangerous, is itself a bar to learning.

At SGC, we are operating in an environment where mastery of best practice is essential not only to our proficiency as pilots, but to our safety and the safety of others. For us all to succeed, we must have instructors to pass on precious knowledge and experience. But my reasons for doing the AssCat course were not driven purely by a sense that it was important ‘to do the right thing’. I suspected that whether or not I passed the course, I would learn a lot – and so it proved. The BGA are also right that instructing is personally rewarding, not to mention fun – even if ‘Bloggs is out to get you’….

I did my BI rating in 2014 – and have loved the experience of introducing people to the joys of gliding. I think the love of passing on gliding knowledge is the thread that unites all instructors. Teaching is, in any event, hard to avoid in my family. My wife is a teacher, my mother was a teacher, my father was a management trainer, my aunt was a teacher and one of my cousins was a teacher. There is probably a genetic message lurking there somewhere.

And so, to the course. In a model of disingenuous brevity, Mike Fox summarises the modular system that makes up the AssCat course here:

To paraphrase: there are four modules A, B, C and D. B naturally starts before A, but may not finish until after C. C is nevertheless important, because it will determine whether you go on to module D. Er, that’s it. Except, of course, it isn’t. The video sneakily fails to point out that after D comes a final test with an independent examiner, followed by an acceptance check with your CFI, followed by a period on probation…..I do hope that’s clear.

Joking aside, there is actually a massive amount of information on the BGA website that explains what the process entails. We are told that BGA Assistant Instructor courses ‘are facilitated by the BGA and delivered at gliding clubs. A significant amount of the training can be carried out at the candidate’s home club over whatever time period the candidate chooses’. In my case, I began in late January and finished with my CFI acceptance check in October.

Becoming an AssCat

By Nick Busvine