Part-FCL     Sailplane Towing Rating     EASA NCO     ANO 87     Other Principles

The law surrounding the towing of sailplanes is extensive and, at times, complex. The key points which are relevant to our operation are summarised on this page.


Pilots must comply with Part-FCL and Medical requirements. Details of these can be found on the ‘Pilot Requirements’ page.

Clubs may keep details on the pilots expiry dates to ensure that pilots do not fly illegally unintentionally.

Sailplane Towing Rating

Pilots who wish to tow EASA approved tug aircraft must have a sailplane towing rating on their EASA license. New pilots to towing will need to attend a course at an approved BGA DTO site (of which Dunstable is one) in order to qualify for a STR.

Minimum Requirements (as per FCL:085)

  • Holder of a pilot’s license with the privilege to fly SEP or TMG (depending on what aircraft is to be used for the course and subsequent towing)
  • Have at least 30 hours PIC & 60 take-offs and landings in SEP or TMG, completed after the issue of the license (depending on what aircraft is to be used for the course and subsequent towing).
  • Completed a training course at a BGA DTO (more information available from the CTP, DCTP or CFI)
  • The subsequent rating is only valid for the type of aircraft trained on.


  • The holder of the rating MUST have completed a minimum of 5 tows in the past 24 months.
  • If this is not achieved, then the missing tows must be completed with, or under the supervision, of an instructor.
  • Individual gliding clubs may have their own revalidation requirements. For LGC, this can be found on the ‘Pilot Requirements’ page.

EASA Non-Commercial Operations

  • EASA agree that the towing of sailplanes is not deemed to be a commercial operations.
  • However, sailplane towing is seen as a ‘specialist operation’ under NCO SPEC.


What does this mean?

Pilots are required to conduct a risk assessment to determine the hazards and risks inherent with the operation and establish mitigating measures, such as a checklist (NCO.SPEC Subpart E).

This checklist does not have to be written down and the UK CAA agree that the BGA tug pilot manual (which incorporates the details that you can find on this website) is sufficient along with an additional risk assessment which should take place prior to each flight. This risk assessment can be found below, but it is something that we have always done before each flight anyhow.

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More detailed information on NCO operations can be found here.

Air Navigation Order (87) – The Towing Of Gliders

  • Ensures the towing aircraft are regulated (CofA) and suitable (approved by the CAA).
  • Sets the maximum length of the combination (150m).
  • Ensures the tug pilot has:
    • checked the tow rope is serviceable.
    • checked the combination (in particular, the performance) will be suitable considering the conditions.
    • the tug can land back at it’s intended destination after release.
    • ensures signals have been agreed (including emergency) between the glider and tug.
  • States the glider must be attached to the tug prior to take-off!

Other Principles

  • The tug pilot is PIC of the combination, until the glider releases
  • Power aircraft give way to sailplanes, balloons and airships
  • Airships give way to sailplanes and balloons
  • Power aircraft shall give way to other aircraft seen to be towing other aircraft or objects.

One final approach:

  • The lower aircraft has the right of way
  • Except in an emergency
  • Power aircraft will give way to sailplanes

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