Bronze and Aerobatic Gliding Badges

James Peat (right) pictured with Aerobatic instructor Peter Sharphouse.

James recently passed the rigorous Bronze and Aerobatic flying tests, showcasing his dedication, skill, and passion for gliding. These achievements not only demonstrate this aspiring aviator’s commitment to mastering the art of gliding but also signify his readiness to take on new challenges and reach for the skies.

Lina Aleksandraviciute (LA): James, what inspired you to pursue gliding and work towards your Bronze badge?

James Peat (JP): I have always loved flying, even at a young age. I used to fly RC models because I always thought learning to fly would be outside my budget. When I learned about gliding, I realised I could afford to learn to fly

LA: Can you share a memorable experience from your Bronze badge flight test? What challenges did you face?

JP: The thing I remember the most was the last landing. It was a pretty big crosswind landing on the South field. The most difficult landing I’ve faced so far I guess it’s pretty fitting for a Bronze test! Initially, I thought the crosswind was meant to be across the North field, but it was across the South, which required some quick decisions on circuit modifications.

LA: How did you feel when you found out that you had passed the Aerobatic flying test? What maneuvers did you perform during the test?

JP: The test covers just some of the basic figures, like a loop and chandelle. It should be achievable for every pilot with training! Actually, I was radioed after my sequence to say I had passed! So, I was able to celebrate by practicing some stall turns with the height I had left before getting ready to land! Those went nicely too. It looked great from the ground, apparently. Also, it was my first time flying aerobatic solo! With it being my first aerobatic solo flight, I was definitely slightly nervous on the first push to the 45-degree down line. 

LA: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their gliding journey and aiming for similar achievements?

JP: There have been a few times where, for various reasons, I’ve wanted to give up. However, remembering how much fun I had, I pushed myself back into the seat to get past the issue. So, I guess it is don’t give up and pursue the areas of flying you enjoy. The second part is definitely what I did with aerobatics. Also, something we do for aerobatics that could be useful in normal flying is recording video with a fixed camera in the cockpit. It’s exceptionally useful for reviewing parts of the flight that you don’t have time to process at that moment. I used recordings to help refine my landings too.

LA: Could you describe the significance of the badges you received? What do they represent to you personally?

JP: It is a big achievement for me, as I have always loved aviation. A massive investment of time and money paid off. Even though most of the time it was fun doing it, I feel I can finally say that I can fly a plane with the badge to prove it. It’s also fun to consider myself an aerobatic pilot now. I get so many questions about it at work and conferences!

LA: What are some of the key skills and knowledge you gained while working towards your Bronze badge that you think will be valuable in your future gliding endeavors?

JP: The skills you develop for the bronze badge are very important. That is the reason it is on the test! I think the interesting part is that from aerobics training, you get used to the unusual attitudes, speeds, and recovery. When you perform a “normal flight” and apply the knowledge that you have gained before, you can see how flight manoeuvres become easier and quicker. For example, I have found that recovery from winch failures with the pushover is much smoother with current acrobatic flying knowledge.

LA: Are there any specific aerobatic maneuvers or techniques that you found particularly challenging or exhilarating during your training?

JP: To achieve an aerobatic flying badge, I had to fly inverted. For the first time, this was finally incredible for me. It feels so weird just hanging in the straps with a completely unique nose-high attitude and ground in full view above you! For the badge, I found a chandelle pretty difficult. It took me ages to get it to a decent level. I still don’t fly them the best even now… The quick changes in speed and coordination required during an aerobatic flight really test you!

LA: How has gliding impacted your perspective on aviation and flying in general? Has it influenced your career aspirations?

JP: Gliding always makes me question if I should have learned to fly earlier and pursued a career in aviation. However, potentially, it could be because many Ph.D. students that I know talk about unrelated things they will do when they finish! Ultimately, I think I will do something related to my PhD but keep gliding as my hobby.

LA: Can you share your goals and aspirations for your gliding adventures in the future? Are there any specific achievements or challenges you’re aiming for next?

JP: In the short term, my plan is to get a cross-country endorsement. Later, I am planning to involve my friends and family in gliding too. My partner got excited about flying with me when I mentioned to him that I would be able to take him on a flight with me in the future. I really look forward to being able to take him up for a flight!