After going solo, you will be mainly aiming towards your Bronze badge, which replaced the old 'C' badge. This requires all sorts of things, including:
- 2 soaring flights of 30 minutes each (if launched by Winch, Auto or Bungee) or an hour each (if launched by an Aerotow not exceeding 2,000ft).
- At least 3 flights with a Full Category rated instructor to perform an air test, looking at things like coordination, airmanship, lookout, stalls and spins.
- Multiple choice ground exam covering things like air law, airmanship, meteorology, radio use, cross country, planning and navigation, principles of flight.
At first you will be aiming for your 2 soaring flights and 50 solo flights, with the exams and field landing checks coming later on. The main idea of the bronze badge is to prepare you to start making cross country flights, getting used to soaring and landing in unfamiliar fields and making sure you are generally competent enough to do so.
Cross Country Endorsement
Once you have your Bronze badge, you can then aim for your cross country endorsement, which will allow you to fly out of gliding range of the airfield. The requirements are:
- A 1 hour soaring flight.
- A 2 hour soaring flight.
- More advanced field landings.
- Field selection - being able to choose from the air which fields are suitable for landing in and which aren't.
- Navigation exercise - using an aeronautical chart, fly around a pre determined course of at least 100km and prove you can navigate using ground features. This is normally done in a motor-glider.
The Cross Country Endorsement is applied to your Bronze badge, and is needed in order to complete your Silver badge, where one of the requirements is a cross country flight of 50km.
Once you have your Bronze badge with Cross Country Endorsement, you can apply for a glider pilot's licence from the BGA, which will enable you to train for a private pilot's licence with less training than you would ordinarily need, and is the gliding equivalent to the standard someone would be at after gaining their powered licence.
The silver badge is the first internationally recognised badge, with all the ones before it being UK specific. You can start aiming for your silver badge as soon as you start soaring on your own, since 2 of the parts can be done within gliding range of the airfield. However you need a Bronze badge with a Cross Country Endorsement in order to complete the 3rd part, which is a cross country flight of 50km. The 3 parts of the silver badge (commonly known as 'legs') are:
- A 5 hour flight
- A soaring flight with a height gain (AFTER launch) of 1,000m or more (3,281ft)
- A 50km cross country flight
- In addition, the height loss between your start and finish fields on your 50km flight cannot be more than 1% of the total distance flown. This is known as 'the 1% rule'.
Once you have got your silver badge, you are considered 'self-authorising' - which means you can judge for yourself whether you should fly on a particular day or site without needing a check flight (although some sites will still require you to take one before you fly there for the first time). It also enables you to enter competitions, and apply for parts of your Diamond badge.
There are plenty more badges to aim for after your Silver badge, including the Gold badge (300km flight, 5 hour duration flight, 3,000m height gain after launch), Diamond badge (500km flight, 300km pre-declared flight that you must make all the way around, 5,000m height gain after launch) and cross country 'diplomas' for 100km, 750km and 1,000km flights. However, only a handful of people in the UK have flown over 1,000km.