Training & Expectations

Elsewhere in the magazine I address the topic of conversion training for airline pilots. Quite a few experienced pilots join the club in a burst of enthusiasm to dispense with the engine, but not many actually stick it out to become glider pilots. I opine that it may be the pace of training that is a problem, but of course it may be other issues such as adjusting to the club culture, or rostering or not being able to find the time to attend. I will let others speculate on such matters.


It’s not just commercial pilots who fall by the wayside during the training phase. There are also lots more ab-initios who start the training than finish it. I think it takes ab-initios about 50 flights to train to solo if they are young and keen. Older pupils take longer to learn new skills, so they need a lot more flights. Pupils who only manage a modest number of flights each year will take 2 steps forward and 1 step back, so will take longer. After soloing, there is the period while you are on-checks when you need to take at least 2 flights a day to progress. Getting to bronze standard after soloing is probably going to take another 50 flights.


On a normal club day, the expectation is that a pupil will have one aerotow flight. If the pupil comes to one club day a week they could theoretically do 50 flights in a year. However, should they decide to go on a family holiday, or should the weather turn unfavourable, the realistic number would be a lot lower. The latest club currency statistics show that only 12 out of 52 pupils who flew managed to have 12 flights or more in the last 12 weeks. One pupil managed an average of 4 flights per week! How do you achieve this kind of pace at our club?

First, you need to come to the club quite often.   Joining an evening course is a good option. You are guaranteed at least one flight and don’t need to spend all day at the club to get it. It is a good place to learn how we operate the field, and you are likely to make friends with others at the same stage of training as you. You will see the same instructors each time so they know what you need to learn next. Second, you will need to try and get to a club day once a week as well. Third, you will probably find it useful to go on a mini-course. Fourth, you will find the Winch Days useful when you get to the stage of practising circuits and landings. You may not be able to make that kind of commitment to gliding training, (you might be a normal person with a life), so what then?

If you enjoy the training, then I suppose it doesn’t matter how long it takes. But, if you ever get frustrated, then you are unlikely to persist. Is there any way the club could organise things differently to help accelerate the number of flights trainees get each day?


Perhaps the instructor/pupil ratio should only ever be 1:2, i.e. one instructor spends all day with 2 trainees. Mini-courses are currently scheduled with a ratio of 1:3, perhaps we should reduce that. The ratio on club days, is 2 instructors to however many pupils turn up. Some days that might be 8 pupils and others it may be zero.

The only way to manage the ratio would be to book training slots in advance, and it might become difficult to get slots.   

Perhaps the motor glider could be used more. The main problem here is a shortage of qualified instructors. But, perhaps an improved planning system could be used to guide pupils to a few motor glider lessons in the early stages.

We’ve been a 3 day a week, all-volunteer club with a flying list started on the day for a long time. Changing could be hard.  And as Homer Simpson said, “If something is hard to do, it’s just not worth doing”.

Words from our CFI Duncan Stewart