Do You Need an FAA Motor Glider Rating in the USA?
By Dean Carswell
If you are considering flying a self-launched motor glider in the US, here are some questions and answers which you may find helpful.
(These replies are considered correct as of May 2001. Please contact Dean or the ASA if you believe there is an error.)
Q. If I want to fly a self launched glider, can I do this if I hold a US pilot certificate with an airplane [powered] rating?
R. No. A self launched glider is certified as a glider, so you require a glider pilot rating, private or commercial. [FAR§61.3(a)]
Q. Do I require a medical certificate to fly a self launched glider?
R. No; [but some insurance carriers may require one]. [FAR§61.3(c)(2)(i) and (iii); §61.23(b)(1) and (4)]
Q. To obtain a glider pilot rating, am I required to take a written test?
R. Yes, you require to pass a knowledge test, but only if you don’t hold a private or higher airplane (or rotorcraft, powered lift or airship) rating. [FAR§61.63(b)(5)]
Q. To obtain a glider pilot rating, am I required to take a flight test?
R. Yes, every applicant must pass a practical test. [FAR§61.63(b)(4)]
Q. If I already hold a glider rating on a private (or higher) pilot certificate, do I require a self launch endorsement?
R. Yes, unless you held an unrestricted glider pilot rating before August 4, 1997. [FAR§61.31.(j)(2)]
Q. What is meant by an “unrestricted” glider pilot rating?
R. A glider pilot certificate issued prior to August 4, 1997 which does not contain a restriction, e.g. “Aerotow only”.
Q. I held an unrestricted glider pilot certificate, but surrendered it in exchange for one issued after August 3, 1997 on completing an additional rating. How do I evidence the fact that I held an unrestricted certificate prior to August 4, 1997?
R. FAA records (consult your local FSDO) should show the date that you were issued your unrestricted certificate; if there is a problem receiving such a confirmation, you may be able to confirm the position by logbook entries showing signoff for FAA practical [flight] tests by both aerotow and ground launch prior to August 4, 1997 followed by exercise of privileges of both of these.
Q. If I need, but do not have, a self launch endorsement, do I need to take a practical test to get one?
R. No; however you need to receive and satisfactorily complete ground and flight training from an authorized instructor [self launch CFIG] in a self launched glider, and receive a logbook endorsement to that effect. [FAR§61.31.(j)(1)(iii)]
Q. Where are details of the required ground and flight training set out?
R. FAR§61.31(j)(1)(iii) is not specific, but the ground and flight training should include that required by the relevant part of FAA Advisory Circular AC 61-94 - Pilot Transition Course for Self Launching or Powered Sailplane (Motorgliders). Also, the relevant practical test standards (for test in a self launch glider) are helpful.
Q. If I only want to fly a motor glider with a sustainer engine (one which cannot takeoff on its own without an aerotow or ground launch), do I require a self launch endorsement?
R. No; you will however require an aerotow or ground launch endorsement (whichever is appropriate) unless you had an unrestricted glider pilot certificate prior to August 4, 1997. [FAR§61.31(j)(1)]
Q. Do I require a self launch endorsement only if I wish to exercise the privileges of a private (or higher) glider pilot certificate holder, e.g. carry a passenger?
R. No; if you require a self launch endorsement, you must have this in your logbook before flying solo for the first time in a self launched glider. [FAR§61.31(j)(1)]
Q. If I wish to fly a self launched glider with an Experimental certificate, do I require a self launch endorsement, assuming I do not hold an unrestricted glider pilot certificate issued prior to August 4, 1997?
R. Yes; the exception for experimental aircraft in FAR§61.31(k)(iii) does not apply to the requirements of FAR§61.31(j).
If you have any other questions, call your local FSDO, or write Dean Carswell at 8041 Jordan Lane, Midlothian TX 76065, fax (972)-775-1915, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.