Mission Aviation Fellowship

Can sailplanes be used for commercial flight training?

The use of sailplanes in commercial pilot flight training programmes was one the presentations discussed at the 2023 European Airline Training Symposium (EATS) held in Portugal. 

Sergio Gómez Brito, Head of Training at Spanish ATO Quality Fly, gave a presentation on the use of sailplanes in integrated ATPL training programmes, saying that it combines an enhanced competency-based training (CBT) methodology with sustainability.

In an introductory video posted Brito says: “If you look at the sky like today, in July at Madrid, it’s full of energy. If we were to paraphrase the title of Sebastain Kawa’s book ‘Sky full of heat’, today we have a sky full of energy and that energy’s not being used at all when we look at single-engine piston aircraft. We are just flying through that energy, through those thermals, and we’re not benefiting from them.

“A sailplane pilot uses his or her competency to stay in the air. Actually, what they’re doing is using the energy available in the air, the thermals, the uplifts that are created from the sun acting on the earth, and that saves fuel. We are using that energy to fly for five, eight hours – it doesn’t matter how long – but it’s still way beyond the capabilities of an electric aircraft as we have it nowadays.

“The implications of all this are huge. We can reshape the way we understand an ATO – a flight school – to include sustainability factors; not just with sailplanes but by adapting our [training] programmes to the seasons of the year. We can use mainly the simulators in the wintertime, and the sailplanes and electric aircraft in the summertime.

Thus, the consumption of fuel can be reduced to zero – a real zero. We can be totally independent from fossil fuel energies.
“All these ideas will require commitment from both the regulators to adapt the regulations to add sailplanes into integrated programmes, and also the schools; they should change their fleets, programmes, maybe even their location to benefit from all these [sky full of energy] advantages.”

Brito explains that at Quality Fly they are already using sailplanes in their training programmes and he will be bringing data to the symposium demonstrating the effectiveness of using gliders in commercial pilot training.

Brito says that at the moment, the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) doesn’t credit sailplane hours gained during integrated ATPL training programmes, but does allow for up to 30 PIC hours on sailplanes to be credited for pilots training under the modular system. It therefore should prove an easy regulatory change to enact, Brito argues, and it appears that EASA agrees.

Brito confirmed that EASA have encouraged him to propose a rulemaking change to this effect, recognising the instructional and environmental potential of sailplane training. Positive feedback has also been received from IAAPS (International Association of Aviation Personnel Schools) & RACE (Real Aeroclub de España), Brito adds.

Brito talks about the heightened safety provided by sailplanes operating in segregated airspace, coupled with advanced anti-collision systems, which he argues surpasses powered aircraft in this regard.

The video of the benefits of the use of gliders in commercial flight training can be watched here.

Image accredited to Quality Air

Author: FTN Editor

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