The process of acquiring a glider pilot certificate requires not only dedicated instructors but also a group of dedicated Pilot Examiners to give the practical test and issue the pilot certificate.  In a previous article I discussed the need for pilots to step up and become instructors to share their knowledge with others and help them move through the learning curve associated with the pilot certification process.  Standardization of instruction is a major safety issue that the Soaring Safety Foundation (SSF) is trying to address.  However, the CFIG training offered by the SSF in currently voluntary and it is actually possible for a CFIG to never attend a glider revalidation clinic nor attend any glider specific training.  This can happen if the CFIG is also a CFI in airplanes or helicopters and chooses to always get his recertification in one of those areas as opposed to gliders.  This is a safety issue that needs to be addressed by the FAA in the future if we are ever to have true standardization within the glider training process.  However, this article is not about instructors.  Rather this article deals with the next level up.  That is, the FAA Glider Pilot Examiner who is the one who “completes to loop” involved in getting a glider rating.


Currently there are less than 75 FAA Pilot Examiners in the United States who are designated as Glider Pilot Examiners.  Only ten of those have multiple examiner designations.  That is, approximately 65 of these examiners are only glider pilot examiners with no other examiner authority.  With this information we can see that there are two areas of concern that need to be addressed and can be addressed by the FAA.  First off there is a lack of glider examiners in the US.  We simply do not have the number of examiners in the right places needed to adequately service the soaring community.  I have students or pilots who want advanced ratings coming to Bermuda High from the entire Eastern United States.  While I would like to think this is because I am such an excellent Pilot Examine, the truth is they come to me because they cannot find an examiner in their location.  This is not good and the FAA recognizes this. 


The second area of concern involves both the initial training of Glider Pilot Examiners as well as their recurrent training that is required every two years.  With all the tasks that the FAA currently has on its plate it is not practical to expect them to develop a program specifically designed for Glider Pilot Examiners since this area is such a small portion of their entire FAA pilot examiner training program.  However, imagine a training program that not only teaches the generic areas of being a pilot examiner but also emphases current safety issues that exist in the soaring community.  This program would then lead to examiners putting special emphasis during the practical test on safety problem areas in soaring.


So we have two areas that need to be addressed relating to Glider Pilot Examiners.  First there is the need for more Glider Pilot Examiners.  Second, there is a need for glider specific training programs that could, if developed, improve the glider examining process that, in turn, could lead to improved safety throughout the soaring community.  Your SSA President, Larry Sanderson, and I spent a day in Washington on June 24th discussing these issues with the FAA.  The final results of these discussions are still yet to be determined.  However, with some “outside the box” thinking the SSA, with the approval, help and oversight of the FAA, could solve both of these areas of concern by assuming some of the glider examiner training responsibilities as well as assisting the FAA in identifying those geographic areas where examiners are needed and additionally identifying those individuals who could be examiners in those areas.  But as usual there is a price for improved service and safety.  Should the SSA and the FAA come to an agreement on a solution to these areas of concern the SSA would need to figure a way to fund these improved programs.  One method may be to charge a fee to the applicant for a glider rating.  Initial SSA expense estimates suggest that a fee of $25 per applicant would cover the costs of these improvements.  Considering the overall cost of getting a glider rating this fee seems to be reasonable.  Your thoughts on this concept would be appreciated, as the SSA exists to service its members.  The question is “Would you be willing to pay an additional $25 “examiner fee” when taking a “check ride” for having more examiners who are better trained?”  Think it over and let Larry or me know your thoughts.


Fly Safely and Have FUN!



Frank Reid