The SSA ABC Training program was developed to have a standard of training available. It is designed to provide a basic approach to flying for the student glider pilot as well as to give the accomplished pilot the necessary points unique to soaring and flying safely.


Preflight Phase

Applicant has knowledge of:

  1. Sailplane nomenclature
  2. Sailplane handling procedures
  3. Sailplane preflight check
  4. Airport rules and Federal Aviation Regulations
  5. Tow equipment signals and procedures
  6. Hook-up of tow rope or cable
  7. Take-off signals
  8. Pilot responsibilities.

Applicant holds:

  1. Valid FAA student glider pilot certificate
  2. Suitable log book

Presolo Phase

Applicant has completed the following minimum flight training program:

  1. Familiarization flight
  2. Cockpit check procedures
  3. Effects of controls, on the ground and in flight
  4. Take-off procedures, crosswind take-offs
  5. Flight during tow
  6. Straight and level flight
  7. Simple turns
  8. Circuit procedure and landing patterns
  9. Landing procedures, downwind and crosswind landings
  10. Moderate and steep turns up to 720 degrees in both directions
  11. Stalls and stall recovery
  12. Conditions of spin entry and spin recovery
  13. Effective use of spoilers/flaps and slips
  14. Emergency procedures
  15. Oral exam on Federal Aviation Regulations
  16. Solo flight



Practice Phase

Applicant demonstrates:

  1. Soaring ability by solo flight of at least thirty (30) minutes duration after release from 2,000 foot tow (add 1-1/2 minutes per 100 foot of tow above 2,000 feet)



Pre Cross-Country

Applicant has completed the following flight training:

Dual soaring practice, including instruction in techniques for soaring thermals, ridges, and waves (simulated flight and/or ground instruction may be used when suitable conditions do not exist)

Has knowledge of:

  1. Cross Country procedures
  2. Sailplane assembly, disassembly, and retrieving
  3. Hazards of cross-country flying

Solo practice (two hours minimum)

Demonstrates soaring ability by solo flight of at least 60 minutes duration after release from 2,000 foot tow (add 1-1/2 minutes per 100 foot of tow above 2,000 feet)

While accompanied by an SSA Instructor, demonstrates ability to:

  1. Make a simulated off-field landing approach without reference to the altimeter.
  2. Perform an accuracy landing from the approach, touching down and coming to a complete stop within an area 500 feet in length.



Cross-Country Readiness

Applicant must:

  1. Complete the ABC Program with the "C" badge awarded
  2. Log at least 15 solo hours in gliders. This time must include 30 solo flight with at least 10 flights flown in a single-place glider.
  3. Log at least two flights each having a duration of two hours or more.
  4. Perform at least three solo sport landings in a glider witnessed by an SSA Instructor. The accuracy and distance parameters established should be base on glider performance, current winds and runway conditions.
  5. Log dual time in gliders with an instructor during which at least two accuracy landings were made without reference to an altimeter to simulate off-field/strange field landings.
  6. Pass a closed book written examination covering cross-country techniques and knowledge.

Established in the 1930's, Federation Aeronautique Internationale ("FAI") Badges acknowledge internationally-recognized levels of soaring achievement. The hundreds of Badge applications reviewed by SSA's Badge and Record office each year reflect the popularity of this challenging and rewarding program, administered in compliance with the FAI Sporting Code.

FAI Silver Badge
The FAI Silver Badge involves 3 required elements. Silver Altitude is a 1,000-meter (3,281-foot) altitude gain above an in-flight low point; Silver Duration is a 5-hour flight time after tow release and Silver Distance is a 50-km (31.07-mile) cross country flight.

FAI Gold Badge
The FAI Gold Badge involves 2 required elements. Gold Altitude is a 3,000-meter (9,843-foot) altitude gain above an in-flight low point; Gold Distance is a 300-km (186.42-mile) cross country flight.

FAI Diamond Badge
The FAI Diamond Badge involves 3 required elements. Diamond Altitude is a 5,000-meter (16,404-foot) altitude gain above an in-flight low point; Diamond Goal is a 300-km (186.42-mile) cross country flight using a pre-declared Out and Return or Triangle course; Diamond Distance is a 500-km (310.7-mile) cross country flight.

1,000K Diplome
The FAI 1,000-Kilometer Diplome was adopted in 1964 and is awarded for a cross country flight of at least 1,000 km (621.4 miles).

2,000K Diplome
The FAI 2,000-Kilometer Diplome is the most recent addition to the FAI Badge program and is awarded for a cross country flight of at least 2,000 km (1,242.8 miles).

In 1995, The Soaring Society of America adopted the SSA Distance Award. Pilots' accumulated cross-country soaring miles add up in the SSA Distance Award Program, which uses the Carl Herold Handicap system to equalize distances for glider performance. Written notice of flight claims must be submitted within 7 days and flight documentation must be turned in within 45 days of the flight. In every other way, application procedures parallel those in place for FAI Badge flights. Applicants may submit any number of documented cross country flight claims, each accompanied by a $10 processing fee.

The SSA Distance Award winner, second- and third-place pilots are determined each calendar year, based on the SSA Distance Award points granted for each pilot's best flight in each of four flight categories: Straight Distance to a Goal; Out and Return; Triangle Distance and Free Distance.

Lennie Pins

In the late 1940's when Robert F. Symons, a mountain pilot and wave pilot pioneer, was working out of the airport at Bishop, California, he instigated a new and unique system of awards for wave flying which he called "lennie" pins. Pilots who soared to great heights in the Sierra Wave received a one-lennie pin for attaining an altitude of 25,000 to 35,000 feet, a two-lennie pin for reaching 35,000 to 40,000 feet, and a three-lennie pin for exceeding 40,000 feet.

Very early, Symons recognized the excellent soaring conditions in the Owens Valley and helped organize a soaring group in 1938. As a professional pilot engaged in cloud seeding, he learned first hand of the power generated in the Sierra Wave and became well-known for his studies and lectures on mountain wave phenomena. Although his lists are incomplete, it is believed that he issued some 35 one-lennie, 16 two-lennie, and 10 three-lennie pins. The awarding of these pins ceased in 1958, when Symons lost is life in a glider accident.

In 1962, Carl Burson Jr., saw one of these pins and upon learning of its history, became interested in re-establishing their issuance as a memorial to Bob Symons. In 1963, the program was re-established under the official auspices of SSA, with each new pin holder also receiving a handsome wall plaque. The pin itself is 7mm in diameter (the same as the FAI Gold Badge) and has one, two or three white lenticular clouds set off against a blue background with a silver rim. Each pin is consecutively numbered.

All applications for lennie pins should be made on the standard SSA badge application form. More detailed information can be obtained by contacting the SSA directly.