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I have a Private Pilot certificate {ASEL, instrument) that I got years ago, and I haven't flown airplanes in over ten years. I'm trying to get back into flying now, but not in airplanes; I want to get a glider rating.

A couple folks I spoke to said that there's an unfortunate quirk in the FARs, where I am required to be current -- that is, have a flight review -- before I can get my glider rating. This would entail spending some serious time and money, working with an instructor to get proficient enough in airplanes again, and get signed off.

Of course, this feels like a step in the wrong direction for me; I want to fly gliders, not airplanes! Things would be simpler if I didn't have my PPL at all, and just started as a student pilot in gliders...

The people I chatted with are knowledgeable -- one is a very senior instructor, the other a DPE -- and they don't have anything to gain by telling me I need a BFR, so I do trust them. But I still want to ask: is this BFR really necessary? What are the relevant FARs that dictate this? Is there any reasonable way around it?

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  • $\begingroup$ Why don't we get this changed? AOPA, are you listening? $\endgroup$ Mar 18, 2023 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ @quietflyer Here is another legal interpretation that seems to focus on the disparity you're alluding to in your comment. Maybe one day this regulation may change. This legal interpretation was pointed out in a comment by mergeconflict below my answer. $\endgroup$
    – user22445
    Mar 20, 2023 at 0:08

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Since you hold a Private Pilot Certificate, according to an FAA legal interpretation you are required to have a current Flight Review (14 CFR 61.56[c]) before you conduct any flights as pilot-in-command (e.g. solo) in any aircraft (per your question, a glider).

See a pertinent excerpt from the Newman legal interpretation below:

enter image description here

(emphasis/highlighting is mine)

Here is a copy of the Beard Letter of Interpretation, referenced in the Newman legal interpretation shown above.

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    $\begingroup$ Another legal interpretation I found, saying roughly the same thing: faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/agc/…. $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2023 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ @mergeconflict This legal interpretation is a good find. It seems to point out a disparity that others have mentioned and that one day might be corrected. $\endgroup$
    – user22445
    Mar 20, 2023 at 0:04
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, I just found another good one: regulations.gov/docket/FAA-2020-0453. The Soaring Society of America submitted a petition to the FAA for exemption/rulemaking. It seems this docket has been pending for nearly three years. $\endgroup$ Mar 20, 2023 at 2:17
  • $\begingroup$ @mergeconflict -- thanks for that note. 3 years. Gotta love it-- $\endgroup$ Mar 20, 2023 at 3:13
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As another answer has said, you cannot just solo without being current. You will need to have a flight review, or something that counts as a flight review.

Adding another rating is most likely out of the question, but completing a phase of WINGS, an FAA pilot proficiency program, also counts. This involves 3 earning "knowledge credits" and 3 "flying credits" on three different topics. Critically, it seems to be possible to earn the flying credits in a glider, so you should be able to complete a phase of WINGS and become current without having to touch an airplane.

Alternatively, you can surrender your pilot certificates and "start fresh" with glider training. You would then need to take the written as well, I believe.

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    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, one of the three required WINGS basic-level credits for gliders is a glider flight review. 61.56(c)(1) implies that you can't have a flight review in a category of airplane you're not rated for, so sadly I don't think the WINGS strategy works here :( $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2023 at 23:21
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    $\begingroup$ @mergeconflict There are many different options for WINGS credits. I haven't looked through all of them, but I think some should be possible. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Mar 20, 2023 at 0:05
  • $\begingroup$ You're absolutely right, I didn't realize there were other options than the defaults! One option is called, very appropriately, "Glider Student Activity." Best of all, this activity provides all three credits for both the basic knowledge and basic flight requirements! $\endgroup$ Mar 20, 2023 at 2:31
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A Private Pilot certificate includes Sport Pilot privileges. The ubiquitous SGS 2-33 is a sport-legal glider*. You may use the Sport process to train with one instructor and demonstrate proficiency with a second instructor. There's some paperwork to send off, but the "checkride" with the second instructor counts as a flight review (Please don't say BFR, it's so dated, deprecated, wrong).

*There are several other sport-legal gliders, but I don't recall them off the top of my head. The lovely ASK-21 is not sport-legal.

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  • $\begingroup$ As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Jul 22, 2023 at 22:25

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