Key points:

  • Use TEM to prepare for, or avoid, problems
  • If in a difficult situation: aviate - navigate – communicate

Normally, we always fly the glider following set guidelines. Those are safety precautions. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, one day you might be forced to deviate from normal procedures. This lesson teaches you some theory that is useful for approaching unexpected and difficult situations in a structured way.


If you have to solve a problem, it is wise to establish the right order and distinguish between what is important at what time.

  1. The most important thing is flying the glider. Always make sure you have enough airspeed and that your flying is reasonably coordinated. Flying in trim is important for reducing your workload: Aviate.
  2. Only if you have full control over the glider can you focus on other things. What is your position and what are your options? How much time do you have to come up with a solution? In a glider, your height usually determines how much time you have left before something has to be done. Sometimes you will have to act quickly, but always stay calm and carefully consider what is going on before choosing the safest option. This part in which you both check your position and make your decisions is called Navigate.
  3. You can make a radio call to communicate what is going on and what your intentions are once the situation is under control, and only if it does not interfere with flying or navigating: Communicate.

In this exercise we will practice how to approach the airfield and how to land from an unfamiliar angle and height. Your instructor will deliberately take you to an unfamiliar landing position before handing the controls to you. If you don’t have enough height for a standard circuit don’t fly to the normal high key position because then you would start the circuit too low.

Instead, join the circuit later and use the angle to the reference point in the normal way to judge your position. You should always try to fly at least a base leg, because flying at right angles to your landing area helps you judge your position. A ‘straight-in landing’ gives no room for error or sink, but it can be safe if you are certain to reach the airfield. If not, a field landing may be the safest option. If you have spare capacity then announcing your intention by radio can be helpful to other traffic, but remember that your priority is to fly the glider!


Technical problems are very rare when flying without an engine and the vast majority of incidents are the result of pilots’ mistakes. Although everybody makes mistakes every now and then, it is normally accumulation of several that lead to difficulties. If you have acquired the habit of Threat and Error Management (see Chapter 3) then you should have considered in advance what could possibly go wrong in any manoeuvre or exercise and so be equipped to deal with problems or, better still, to avoid them altogether. Soon you will be the captain, the pilot in command, expected  to make good decisions independently. As your training progresses your instructor will leave more and more of the decision-making to you. Remember the well-known aviation saying: Superior pilots use their superior judgement to avoid situations requiring their superior skill.

Good flying starts with flight preparation. Do you remember the I’M SAFE checklist from Chapter 1? If you cannot honestly say I’m safe then don’t fly. Use your experience while flying, look out and pay attention to other traffic, and follow your training. If something unexpected happens, stay calm and use the aviate-navigate-communicate sequence. By doing so, you’ll be able to solve almost any situation.


If you deviate from normal procedures you are more likely to forget important things that you wouldn’t normally forget, for example lowering the undercarriage or completing the pre-circuit checks. A checklist can help you remember essential things and avoid extra problems. Be extra alert and try to do all the things you would normally do.