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Alternative activities for BMAA Wings?

#1
I was amused at the closing comment in an article in the December edition of MF. The author was writing of his experiences in getting his Silver Wings flying his Jabiru-powered X'Air. After remarking that Rob Mot had commented that they get very few applications from pilots of "such a basic aircraft", the author's advice to anyone wanting to get their Wings was to buy a microlight that could cruise at 250kt!

OK, that last remark will have been with the tongue firmly in his cheek but it made me think. I wrote an email to Rob Mott, who forwarded it to Geoff Weighell. We had a short email dialogue about the subject and the ball is curently in his court... anyway, the crux is that I'd suggested it should be possible to get at least a bronze award (and possibly higher) without doing ever-longer cross country flights but by fulfilling different challenges closer to home. I went on to suggest some flight challenges which would be suitable for newly qualified pilots including those who have a restricted licence and, of course, those who fly "basic aircraft", perhaps even more basic than a Jab-powered X-air (such as a Thruster TST, a Cyclone AX3, a Flylight PeaBee or an Pegasus XL).

The BMAA Wings scheme is described [here].

I'll not include my suggestions at this stage , but I was wondering if anybody had suggestions of challenges which might be offered instead of ever-longer cross countries.
 
#2
I like the idea of ever longer cross countries, but perhaps with a distance requirement based on cruise speed of the aeroplane - so that the bronze 100nm flight which could be done in a CT at 100kn becomes 50nm in a TST at 50kn. The flight time hence evens out with a system of handicapping.
You might argue against my suggestion by saying that the navigation is easier flying a short route slowly. But then is navigation the challenge with this task anyway? I'd say not, as moving map GPS use is encouraged.
(Im very keen on the BMAA Wings Scheme and was a little bit involved in getting it started - but that was several years ago)
 
#3
I like the idea of ever longer cross countries, but perhaps with a distance requirement based on cruise speed of the aeroplane - so that the bronze 100nm flight which could be done in a CT at 100kn becomes 50nm in a TST at 50kn...
I wouldn't object to that for starters, but microlighting has been rushing headlong towards conventional GA (even if done with a flexwing) and I find that the mandatory nature of the ever-further cross countries to achieve the awards undermines what microlighting is/was.

That's why I asked specifically about alternative tasks of equivalent difficulty or development value which don't involve distance from start point to landing as a criterion.
 
#4
...
You might argue against my suggestion by saying that the navigation is easier flying a short route slowly. But then is navigation the challenge with this task anyway? I'd say not, as moving map GPS use is encouraged...
Interesting point - then what is challenge in that task? Following the magenta line? I'd be willing to argue that an hour long cat's cradle flight within the 8nm range limitation of a restricted licence, but without GPS, would be more challenging than a 100nm out and return in a CT with GPS.
I'd love to see reasons against that point of view.
 
#6
OK, that last remark will have been with the tongue firmly in his cheek but it made me think. I wrote an email to Rob Mott, who forwarded it to Geoff Weighell. We had a short email dialogue about the subject and the ball is curently in his court... anyway, the crux is that I'd suggested it should be possible to get at least a bronze award (and possibly higher) without doing ever-longer cross country flights but by fulfilling different challenges closer to home. I went on to suggest some flight challenges which would be suitable for newly qualified pilots including those who have a restricted licence and, of course, those who fly "basic aircraft", perhaps even more basic than a Jab-powered X-air (such as a Thruster TST, a Cyclone AX3, a Flylight PeaBee or an Pegasus XL).
As someone who's just got to a 30th anniversary of being a coach in my other association's coaching scheme, I think Joan makes some very good points which need to be addressed.

I see it as slightly symptomatic of an organisation with some "nice to have objectives" but they are not part of joined up long term policy or thinking.

Back to basic philosophy:

We should have a long term objective(s) to further pilot skills post PPL/NPPL. Emphasis on skills. Anything that poses a barrier to demonstrating skill except having the ability is an unnecessary and unfair impediment.

Navigation is a skill. Good airmanship is a skill. Accurate landing is a skill.

Endurance is not a skill. It's a quality, but not a skill. Flying fast is not a skill, and purchasing an aircraft capable of a 150nm sized trip in a day is not a skill, capable to mean without it being a feat of endurance. Owning a fast aircraft is not a skill.

We are excluding pilots from awards based on their purchasing power or choice of aircraft, not skill. Flying 150nm in an AX3 is not necessarily a good plan, given that we want to be honest about human factors, and longer flights carry the risk of fatigue, especially in aircraft like the XL or the AX3 in question.

This is plain wrong. I can tell you having flown back from Scunthorpe to Kent in an X-Air Falcon, it was far more demanding than flying a 912 Skyranger from Athey's Moor back to the same place. The return trip to Popham took more effort than a day out to Sandown, again X-Air v Skyranger.

So we need to alter the scheme to attract people to further their skills. Gliding got over the endurance thing a awhile back, it's far better to fly a defined flight back to base than landing out a long way away, speeds/accuracy over defined courses eclipsed endurance long ago. However, there is still a speed element, which is purchasing power based. The numbers participating* show that the scheme is not attractive. Strip Skills has been running for a year or 18 months and will probably be the most popular in the long run.

The distances have some basis in the FAI Gliding Awards, with nm substituted for km.

I'll not include my suggestions at this stage , but I was wondering if anybody had suggestions of challenges which might be offered instead of ever-longer cross countries.
Yes. Defined XC flying backed up with a breadcrumb trail. We've done this in HG/PG for years, and in paramotor competitions. Number of turnpoints, flown to accurately, and with target ETA and ATA.

I hope that when you say "I'll not include my suggestions at this stage", that you will later?

We could still keep the distances but include defined options with lower overall distances but more planning and accurate flying. Accurate positioning is a skill, regardless of whether moving maps are used on or not. It keeps us out of airspace, and so goes further than benefiting just the possessor of those skills, extending to the rep of the sport overall.

But as an association, we are more worried about cash flown and regulation, and members' interests or aspirations often take a back seat...

*Bronze - 32/Silver - 9/Gold - 1/Diamond - 1/Strip Skills - 9
 

Mike Calvert

Moderator
Staff member
#7
While I clearly need to concentrate on finishing my training, ground school etc, I am keen to continue to build skills beyond that as I kind of see the license in the same way as gaining you car license - everyone says the real learning happens once you've passed your test :)

So with an eye on the Wings awards, I'm very interested in the way it's formatted - the navigational distance one is the outstanding one as you might argue that the only difference between the levels is the ability to fly 'straight and level' for increasing periods of time - which as Randombloke points out isn't so much a skill as a human endurance issue.

Now, if the ability to maintain concentration over ever increasing time spans is the purpose of the exercise, then fine. But if it's about ever more challenging navigation, and landing at airstrips new to you, then I think it fails. Of course, defining something alternative may be a tad more complex than simply stating a minimum distance, so I wonder if that's at least one reason for that approach?

Personally I'm really looking forward to the navigation part of my training, because I want to fly to places, not just stay local, so it's a key skill, and since technology is fallible, the ability to navigate by compass, chart and stopwatch is essential unless being 'temporarily misplaced' is something you're comfortable with :ROFLMAO:
 
#8
Hi Gentreau, interestingly a Colibri is one of the 'Flight Skill' achievements listed in the BMAA Wings scheme.

Looking again at the Wings scheme I note two points:
1) There appears to be no 'distance to outlanding' requirement so my hypothetical NPPL(M)restricted could do it as long as they had another airfield (or suitable 'other' field somewhere within their 8nm range. They then fly a planned cat's cradle within th e8nm ending back at base. There's not even a stated requirement for GPS proof, so I presume a completed PLOG would suffice - confirme by the official observer, of course.
2) I realise now that the Wings scheme must have been designed to meet the CAA's PROUD criteria which mandate the ever longer cross country flying. Question, of course, is whether this scheme is to improve our pilots or to please the CAA.

Randombloke, thanks for your comments - I'll put my ideas/suggestions in another post.

Mike, your post came while I was typing. I'm happy for you that you want to fly places. I can do that too, and have dome, but derive no more pleasure in doing so than I do from driving there (and I can do that in bad weather and after dark). My greatest pleasure in flying has been when instructing, nearly all within 10-15 mn of base. Since I've stopped instructing, most of my flights have been short locals during which I've played with precision manouevres, stalls, steep turns and trying to do fun things within the permit to fly limitations of the aircraft. The permit to fly check flight sequence itself can be great fun... and one of the greatest pleasures of all is pulling off a greaser of a thre point landing on the chosen spot. All within 8nm of home.
That's why I'll probably never earn any BMAA Wings.

And that's why I raised this topic to see if I'm alone in that.
 
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Gentreau

Administrator
Staff member
#9
In the same vein of improving pilot skills post licence, I would also strongly encourage people to participate in competitions.
I have done 2 so far and they really do make you think and learn.
The excercises include precision landings, precision navigation, planning and observation.
 
#10
In response to randomblokes request, here's the substantive part of my original email to Rob Mott:
"I would like to suggest that you remove the mandatory cross-country element from the awards and permit a non-cross-country element with a difficulty equivalent to X hundred miles in a higher performance machine. Perhaps, say, a precision navigation over a distance or an altitude flight proven by GPS trace. Maybe a pilot on a restricted licence could gain a first cross-country achievement by doing a QXC. Another thought, how about someone who's done all their previous flying with a 4-stroke could gain an achievement by logging 5 hours solo with a two-stroke? Another flight achievement could be to log a certain number of hours in a single-seater. I think it should be possible for pilots on a restricted licence to get at least a bronze award within their 8nm radius."

OK, these are just 'straw man' suggestions intended to be shot at, but may stimulate thoughts.

Gentreau, none of the competition skills are included in the Wings award scheme other than second-hand by including gaining a Colibri as an acceptable 'Flight Skill' and Colibris have precision landings and cross country flights built in (along with PIC hours) as mandatory elements. The Colibri is optional though within the BMAA Wings scheme.

I have no objection to the cross country flights coming as an optional element in, say, the Flight Skills section, nor do I object to the precision-flying nature of the cross country flights with predicted times and fuel use. My dislike of the current scheme is solely the mandatory requirement for ever-longer the cross-country flights.

Thanks for the feedback guys.
 
#11
... Flying 150nm in an AX3 is not necessarily a good plan, given that we want to be honest about human factors, and longer flights carry the risk of fatigue, especially in aircraft like the XL or the AX3 in question.

This is plain wrong. I can tell you having flown back from Scunthorpe to Kent in an X-Air Falcon...
I'll second that! I'll never forget my 40nm ferry flight in our AX3 from Jenkins Farm to Great Oakley on a thermic summer's day just before the London Olympics airspace lockdown for SE England in 2012. Each time I looked down to check the chart, I had a "recover from unusual attitudes" exercise to carry out and needed to reset heading back on course. That was one of the toughest hour's flying I can recall.
 
#12
Exactly, achievement is often about what it is achieved in spite of the circumstances.

I'll drop Geoff a note, copied to Rob Mott, and it's best done without referring to what you've proposed,as a second opinion.
 
#13
Good discussion and sound points raised folks.

As an aside, subjectively the longest flight I've done in a day was Sandy in Beds to Cromer and back with stops at Sutton Meadows and Shipdham. This was in an Xair a few months afterI qualified and using a Garmin 96 (so not really moving map as we'd think of it today). It's 'only' about 80nm each way but I still think of it as a significant thing to do, and I learnt a lot.

I've done many more miles in a single day since, of course, but without making me a 'befter pilot' in the same way.

In essence I agree that the Wings Scheme is a great idea, but it needs more thought. It's a great idea because anything that encourages people to develop further after they qualify has to be good. It's good for safety and it's good for the hobby because folk will be more likely to stay in it. Too many people are the best pilots they ever will be on the day they take their GST.

I think one of the difficulties fo the BMAA has been trying to come up with something that fits the CAA PROUD framework on the one hand and isn't simply a carbon copy of Colibri. My view as things stand nw is that for someone like MikeC who wants a path of continuous development after qualifying, then Colibri and/or competition is the right way forward.
(Or even train to instruct - but that's a whole different can of worms)
 
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#14
Seems related in some way to this thread. there's an interesting discussion running on FB (I only view, not post there) following an interesting video of old-school microlighting. See [here].

Martin - 'train to instruct' is an expensive way forward but when I got my AFI rating I reckoned it did more for my standard of flying than the equivalent sum spent on flying around the countryside as an ordinary hobby pilot even if I hadn't gone on to actually instruct. Actually, without checking, I think gaining an instructors rating is one of the 'achievements' towards one of the higher level Colibris.

I can fly cross country but I have no desire to do so unless its a ferry flight. I'm a cabbage-patch flyer at heart. Maybe it's just me.
 
#15
Thanks for the pointer to that film MadameB. Very good!
Also it's reassuring to see the very large numbers of people showing enthusiasm for the older aircraft. Yes, we have lost more than we've gained.
 

ginge

First Solo Pilot
#16
Ooooh that was cruel during lockdown, the Phantom still makes my mouth water. A wonderful little beastie to fly, although I've never thrown one around like that it is as close to wearing your own wings as I,ve ever been. Still available as kits from the states the only thing to rival the ole TST that I know of, a bit like wearing your own wings brilliant little things.
 
#17
Interesting that it's said in the video that a top of the range new machine at the time cost about £5000. I put that into the bank of England inflation calculator and it came out at about £17,000. Not sure you can get anything new for that price nowadays, even as an SSDR kit, let alone 'top of the range'.

I still think the PROUD/Wings scheme is aimed at people with access to top of the range machines, or close to. I suppose there could be a parallel with gliding's higher-ranking badges where you can get a bronze in any old club machine, perhaps even a silver, but most people going for gold or diamonds will need access to a high performance machine and the ability to head off to places with their own peculiar weather conditions.

I wonder: this forum's predecessor (and the other one) successfully ran CAGI cups and runway-number challenges. Maybe we could have a not-PROUD scheme with challenges that can be done within an hour airborne on an A-to-A local flight, maybe even add to the challenge by requiring it to be carried out within 8nm of the takeoff. Any suggestions?
 

Aerial

Cross Country Pilot
#18
I like your recollection of runway number challenges which Katy brought to the forum, I think. She was also responsible for 'chasing the PG Tips monkey'. I wonder where they both are now?
The runway numbers could be started again and perhaps a target is to get all the runway numbers in your local area (to be defined) but for many of the Scots that might be a challenge too far! For the moment, I'm content with the Wings scheme. The Bronze is straightforward for me in a 912-machine and not difficult in a 582-machine. Silver needs some thinking about! I do admire those who have gone before us - just everywhere you can go in the British Isles and further onto the continent.
By the way, what are PROUND and CAGI?
 
#20
Aerial,
CAGI = "Come and Get It". As you correctly surmise, the PG cup was one such. The original (to the best of my knowledge) CAGI cup in the UK was introduced on the BMAA Forum of the time by Kirk Sutton of Medway Microlights as a means of encouraging their members to travel to airfields they otherwise would have no particular reason visit. Both the Medway CAGI cup and the Microlight Forum PG cup both seem to have gone to ground. Perhaps interest in such things is time limited.
PROUD= is (IMHO) a clucky acronym for a good idea, as far as it goes, namely "Pilot Recognition and Operational Up-Skilling and Development". As you can see, it sets criteria for organisations to establish their own schemes which can then be approved by the CAA with a bit of minor tarantara. Interestingly a brief internet search didn't offer a list of PROUD-approved schemes, but I know of several as well as the BMAA.

Late edit: Katie is now CFI at Chatteris.

Hallibut,
Yes I know and yes he is. So is his son [free plug].
 
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