An extract from the CFI report in the March 2013 Alpine Flyer

Easter 2013 5 glider gaggle. Photo: George Skarbek

Last week I was informed of an ATSB Air Incident report of a near miss between an Air Ambulance B200 and a sailplane near Wangaratta. According to the report they passed within 70 metres of each other.

Very scary! With Easter just past and the large number of visiting gliders that engulfed our field it’s a good time to remind and reinforce our “Look Out Procedures” Many modern pilots become very reliant on cockpit electronic gadgets and spend far too much time looking at computer screens that can tell you almost everything except where the thermal is!

“Looking” and actually “Seeing” are not always the same thing so we need to constantly train ourselves to scan the sky and hopefully know who’s likely to run into us. Power aircraft cruise at much higher speeds and their pilots may also have their heads in the cockpit, especially if they’re IFR.

Gliders generally operate on one of the designated glider frequencies when flying X/C, but there is a strong argument especially from the ATSB and the commercial guys that we should be monitoring the area frequency and routinely giving and responding to position reports from aircraft to aid the See and Avoid principles.

The case against this is that on a good day when dozens of gliders are flying in a broadcast area, generally in the lower levels to our IFR aircraft, the communication congestion can become almost unworkable. None the less we all need to be vigilant and aware of our responsibilities to all aircraft and Never let up on the Look Out!

Worth revisiting the GFA AIRWAYS AND RADIO PROCEDURES FOR GLIDER PILOTS. Look for the "OPS 0005 - GFA Airways and Radio Procedures" PDF file on the GFA Manuals page


Safety message
When operating outside controlled airspace, it is the pilot’s responsibility to maintain separation with other aircraft. For this, it is important that pilots utilise both alerted and un-alerted See and Avoid principles. Pilots should never assume that an absence of traffic broadcasts means an absence of traffic.



This should be an invariable habit for all.

1. Be conscious of your lookout responsibility 100% of the time.

2. Set up your cockpit to maximise your time outside the cockpit. Instrument layout, GPS operation, map handling etc should be set up to allow maximum time looking outside.



1. Use a scan technique appropriate to what you are doing. Good situational awareness is essential.

CRUISE SCAN - Forward conical scan 60 degrees left/right, up and down)

FULL SCAN - Complete visible sky scan. Each side, above and below, behind each side round to as far back as possible. Vital for situational awareness, particularly in the circuit.

TARGETED SCAN - Used in specific circumstances. Scan concentrates on that part of the sky where the hazard is expected, eg pull-up into a thermal.

2. Look in particular for turning gliders indicating a gaggle thermalling ahead.

3. Slow down before entering an identified area of lift, especially if it already contains gliders.

4. When thermalling at turnpoints and in the circuit, experience will readily dictate where to look for potentially conflicting gliders.

5. In particular when pulling into a turn, remember that you have changed the situation significantly so you need to take primary responsibility for remaining clear of other gliders.

Particularly scan back along the track direction when entering a thermal looking for expected and unexpected gliders on that same track.

6. Because gliders around us will sometimes be easy to see and other times will disappear as we look, it is necessary to make a conscious effort to maintain situational awareness. Keep track of the gliders around you and what they are doing.

7. Remember modern gliders in particular have high energy. Speeds are higher than before. Height gain in pull-ups is significant and rapid.

8. Hazards are greater on cross-country cruise/racing. Stay alert.

9. Increased stress at contest start points, getting low on track, approaching a turn point, navigation checks and etc force pilots back into the cockpit. Be particularly aware of this and force yourself to look out!



Be aware of and allow for the effects age, fatigue, low blood sugar, dehydration and mild anoxia. If you have any of these be sure to concentrate more than ever on technique.


Mark Bland – CFI