As many of you know, once you’ve gone solo, the next thing to aim for is the Bronze Badge. The Bronze Badge is what would currently be considered to be the equivalent of gaining your pilot’s license, and with a cross country endorsement added on, allows you to go off flying into the unknown of the British countryside. There are some important things that the solo pilot should know in order to go aiming for their Bronze Badge.
There are four main criteria you need to meet before attempting to claim your Bronze Badge. You must gain some solo flying experience, and complete an oral test, awritten test and a flying test.
Firstly, the experience. The BGA experience requirements aren’t too hard to meet as long as you go flying regularly, and make sure this includes some soaring as well as the classic “circuit bashing”. They ask for either 50 solo flights in a glider, or 20 solo flights with 10 solo hours. This is the minimum requirement however and you will usually need around 20 solo hours before you are experienced enough to complete the flying test.
Next, the oral test. The oral test is what it says on the tin. It’s a test, where you have a conversation with an examiner who will assess your knowledge of gliding. The examiner will ask you about the following topics:
-NOTAMs (Notifications to Airmen)
-Daily Inspections (usually of a K13)
-Rigging a glider (usually the Baby Grob as this is likely to be the aircraft of your first cross country flight)
-Understanding of the aircraft’s flight manual
Now, the written test. As well as an oral test, you will also have to complete a multiple choice exam paper. This exam paper will consist of questions on various topics, each with four possible answers. The paper is split into sections and you need 70% of the total marks available to pass each section. You pass and fail each section individually rather than the paper as a whole so if you fail one or two, you will only need to retake these, not the whole thing. The topics are the following:
-Principles of Flight
-Aircraft General Knowledge
-Navigation Part 1 (Theoretical)
-Navigation Part 2 (Practical route planning)
Finally, the flying test. At last you get to do some flying! In this test, you will do a series of flights with an examiner who will assess your flying ability. This will usually consists of a couple of winch launches and an aerotow. You will be tested on your ability to handle the aircraft safely and with a reasonable degree of accuracy so that “the successful completion of a maneuver is never seriously in doubt” – as the BGA put it.
The instructor will also expect you to be able to tell him some information about the aircraft you are flying (the K13), such as flight limitations (Vne, maximum manoeuvring speed, etc). You will need to read the flight manual and ensure you have a reasonable knowledge of all of the restrictions of the aircraft. You will also need to be able to pick out the days’ NOTAMs and inform the instructor of anything that may affect your flights. The weather is another important aspect of the flight so you should be ale to look at the days’ METARs and TAFs and tell the instructor what the weather is going to be like on your flight. The instructor will expect good airmanship such as this, as well as the ability to actually fly the aircraft.
This is not a difficult flying test, as long as you build a decent amount of solo flying experience before hand and have confidence in your abilities. It is usually a good idea to have a couple of flights with an instructor in the lead up to your exam so that you can get some feedback on the quality of your flying.
Any of the exams, be it the theory of the flying need to be booked beforehand. You can do this by speaking to the office or to the CFI, or if you speak to Dave he will help sort you out. It will be arranged that a qualified examiner does these with you at a later date (usually a few days later).
Another thing to be aware of is the upcoming change from the current Bronze Badge system. When EASA take full control over our flight crew licensing in 2015, all glider pilots will be required to convert their Bronze Badge endorsements into Light Aircraft Pilots Licences for Sailplanes or LAPL(s). This isn’t too difficult if you already have a Bronze Badge but I won’t go into too much detail about that here.
If all of this hasn’t persuaded you enough that getting your Bronze Badge is a worthwhile achievement, our very own honourababble Dave is offering £50 from the youth fund to go into the Lasham flying account of anyone who completes their Bronze badge.
You can claim your Bronze badge on your 16th birthday and all of the requirements must be completed in 1 year. This makes it possible to begin work on your Bronze badge at 15. Lasham already has the countries youngest solo pilot, let’s see if we can have the youngest Bronze as well!
Just a final note. If you need any coaching on any of the ground theory, or any of the flying before any of your exams, Dave and Malcolm will be more than happy to go through it with you, and will even do a mock flying test with you when you have completed everything else, to ensure you are well and truly prepared for the exams.