Words from our CFI Duncan Stewart

The club’s LS4 has just returned to service after a major refurbishment which included re-gelling the exterior and updating the instrument panel. The new panel boasts an LX9050 – similar to the LX8080 in KOW, but with a much larger display: In human factors, screen size matters.

I hope that over time we will have navigation aids in all the club gliders and that they will all use the same software so we don’t have to learn multiple systems. The drive for installing better nav aids is coming from the BGA who are probably in turn responding to pressure from the CAA to prevent Controlled Airspace (CAS) infringements.

I think that it’s fair to say that in the past, there has been a relatively relaxed attitude to CAS infringements in the gliding community. Gliding comps have merely awarded penalty points to competitors who have infringed airspace, rather than handing them over for prosecution. It’s not just competitions, some pilots have submitted badge claims with airspace infringements in the flight log. On the other hand, overall, glider pilots have a better record of avoiding air space than GA pilots. 75% of infringements are by Single Engine Piston aircraft. 65% of infringers had a PPL, while 24% had a CPL. That only leaves 11% who like me, don’t have either. Gliding’s reputation used to be relatively good but a few occurrences recently mean that we can no longer rest on our laurels, and anyway, perhaps some glider infringements didn’t make it into the statistics.

As well as risking collisions with large aircraft, Controlled Airspace (CAS) infringements can greatly increase the workload on air traffic controllers. In extreme cases, infringements result in the closure of airports, stacking of aircraft and diversions. If a light aircraft is going to infringe CAS, it may be too late to avoid problems if you wait until it has actually entered the CAS, so air traffic controllers get distracted by aircraft near or heading for, CAS. The CAA’s mitigation plan includes improving air traffic controller’s situational awareness using modern technology. For gliding, that means having access to FLARM displays and encouraging all gliders to be fitted with FLARM.

Some of our club gliders have FLARM but no moving map display. This means that you can easily be detected if you infringe airspace, but you don’t have an easy nav aid to tell you that you are doing so. The BGA have recently made it clear that they consider it negligent to send supervised pilots cross-country without a GPS moving map system on board. The more old-fashioned amongst us believe that this is a shame, as navigating with a map and an eyeball is an excellent skill to develop, and comes in very useful if the battery on your GPS goes flat. Our club is close to some quite complicated CAS, so you don’t need to go cross-country to bust airspace. If you do infringe airspace, you are advised to make a Mandatory Occurrence Report (MOR). There may be some unintended consequences from the CAA’s push for modern technology. When judging the position of a CAS boundary using the map and your eyeball, there is quite a lot of uncertainty about exactly how close you are getting to the line, and you will probably leave a healthy margin. When you have a moving map, it will tell you precisely how close you are and you will feel entitled to fly right up to the line, which is exactly the kind of behaviour which makes air traffic controllers nervous. Perhaps they will get used to it, or further develop their systems to screen it out.