While at the World Class National in Cordele, GA, Jayne and I had the opportunity to discuss advanced training with Gary Carter, past President of Mid Georgia Soaring, and his wife, Chris.  We talked about the fact that many commercial operations and clubs do a great job in designing training programs for students from beginning to the private pilot rating.  However, unfortunately too many of us drop the ball at this point.  That is, we do not have a formalized training program to take the private pilot to the next level (and most important level if we are to keep people in our sport) – cross-country flying.  We are too casual in our approach to the new private pilot as far as his additional training.  We all agreed that we must come up with a more organized training program to move glider pilots to the cross-country soaring level.  A general training syllabus needs to be developed that will incorporate the ABC Badge program with a structured program to take the new private pilot up to and including his/her first cross-country flight.  This training program would include:


  1. Thermaling lessons
  2. Moving into a single place sailplane
  3. Completion of the AB and C Badges
  4. Studying for the Bronze Badge written test
  5. Passing the Bronze Badge test
  6. Barographs and how they work
  7. Data loggers
  8. Accomplishing the five hour duration flight required for the Silver Badge
  9. Accomplishing the 1000 meter altitude gain required for the Silver Badge
  10. Planning cross-country flights
  11. Personal preparation for cross-country flying
  12. Other equipment needed for safe cross-country flying
  13. Weather for cross-country flights
  14. Navigation (both map reading and GPS usage)
  15. Proper radio procedures
  16. Dual cross-country flights
  17. Short field landing practice and field selection
  18. Post land out etiquette (How best to deal with the landowner.)
  19. Assembly and Disassembly of single place sailplanes
  20. Loading sailplanes on or in trailers
  21. Crewing/retrieval duties for others. (So that someone will in turn crew for them)   This should include at least one actual retrieval.


Holding early morning or evening classes on the above topics would go a long way to keep the new soaring pilot focused on his/her long term objective of cross-country soaring.  The cross-country training camps that are hosted by various clubs and commercial operations are great and do an excellent job of introducing many to the joy of cross-country soaring.  The SSA though its SSA Master Instructor Program has also taken a proactive position on teaching cross-country training by designing and subsidizing cross-country camps for SSAIs.  Anyone attending these camps will certainly benefit from the experience.  However, the benefits from these camps would be even greater if those attending already had been exposed to the basics of cross-country flying at their home field.  I believe every club and commercial operation should consider designing and implementing some type of cross-country training program even if it is a ground school only concept.  I’ll bet both the clubs and commercial operators will see a reduction in the member drop out rate is they implemented such a program.


Any thoughts from you on this topic would be greatly appreciated.  Over the next few months with the help of your thoughts and suggestions and with the help of Gary and others from Mid Georgia Soaring I hope to put together a sample syllabus and publish it in Soaring for those of you who are interested.  Better yet we might just find some club out there who has already “invented this wheel” and would be willing to share their program with the rest of us.


Fly Safely and Have FUN!




Frank Reid