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How do I Become a Pilot?

Gliding is a practical sport. Most emphasis is put on how you control the glider in normal flight and how you cope safely with unexpected problems. Only a small amount of theoretical learning is needed so that you can understand why and how the controls work and what the limitations of the glider are, and before you fly solo it's important to know the rules of the air and the law so far as it affects you as a pilot. This is generally covered in talks by instructors during the odd unflyable times so it's important to be around the club even when the weather is poor.

Walking on Air is affiliated to the British Gliding Association (as indeed are virtually all gliding operations in the UK) and there is a BGA-approved training syllabus which all instructors follow. Right at the beginning of your flying training you will be issued with a card listing all of the capabilities you will need to learn before being signed-off to solo. As you progress, your instructor(s) will initial these to acknowledge that you have been shown each manoeuvre in turn and that you have achieved a certain level of competence in it. If you are flying with different instructors the card will show them what level of competence you have achieved so that nothing is missed and the same ground is not covered unnecessarily. Depending on your natural ability and coordination you will progress until the whole card is signed off as competent. During the later stages of training the instructor will manoeuvre you into awkward situations to see how you cope. This might be a bit alarming the first few times but once you are solo you will need to have the confidence to get yourself out of any sticky situation you find yourself in. These will include things like running short of height, stalling and practice emergencies like the cable breaking while you are launching.

Gliding is different from power flying in that there is no formal 'test' before you can fly solo (this is true in the UK at any rate). Your instructor will monitor both your skill level and your self-confidence and judgment to decide when you are ready to go solo and one good flying day when the conditions are favourable and you seem to be on top form the question will come "do you fancy trying that again on your own this time?". That's it - you're a solo pilot.