Cadets reach for the Skies

A report by Sgt Aj Sandhu

"As part of winning the Lees Trophy 241 Sqn was awarded a batch of Gliding Scholarships. Awkwardly placed in the middle of the school term, we managed to fill our places and on the 17th October 11 cdts went to complete their Gliding Scholarships at RAF Syerston, the Central Gliding School for the Royal Air Force. We were accommodated and hosted by RAFC Cranwell for the week, an experience enjoyed by all thanks to the fantastic facilities, accommodation and food.

The primary aim for the week was for everyone to complete a GS which meant achieving the ‘Blue Wings’. There would also be the chance if there was enough time to go solo and earn the ‘Silver Wings’ and then possibly even further for the more rare ‘Gold Wings’ which signify that the bearer is a more advanced glider pilot who has a better understanding of the aircraft, has completed the extended syllabus and has achieved a further 5 solo flights to a satisfactory standard.

The 11 of us were each allocated an aircraft and an instructor. This course was slightly different in that the chance to fly the Vigilant powered glider was also available and 7 people were put onto this aircraft and the other 4 were on the conventional unpowered Viking. We were very lucky in the sense that the weather held up for us and the only time we were grounded because of poor weather was on Wednesday morning.

The first two days were spent going over all the basics needed to fly solo, which included take-offs, landings, circuit flying and emergency procedures. Those flying the Vigilant had the challenge of having to know more material because their aircraft had an engine and those on the Viking had the additional pressure of knowing that if they made a mistake it may not be possible to recover from it as there is no engine you can use to gain height again!

On Wednesday morning we all sat our respective tests that we needed to pass to prove that we understood the aircraft. The Viking pilots all passed theirs whereas the Vigilant pilots were not so successful! This added to the friendly banter between the two camps as each believed their respective aircraft was the better to fly. I was on Vikings and can assure you that they were the best. In the afternoon we began flying again and things were began to look up for the Viking pilots who had now all largely mastered the landings and were now just looking to refine their skills before the chance to fly their £30,000 gliders before most could drive a car. I was very lucky in that a small weather window opened and I flew solo on the last set of cables for the day, an experience which ranks high up as one of the best things I have done with the ATC.

Thursday was my final day of flying in which I completed the material to gain my Gold Wings. The remaining Viking pilots also flew solo and began to work towards the next stage. The Vigilant pilots by now had learnt all they needed to go solo. On Friday their instructors went through the final refinements and 3 from the 7 went solo and the remaining 4 were unfortunate to miss out due to time restraints. One of the other Viking pilots (Sgt Simpole) also completed the course for his Gold Wings and I managed to persuade the Duty Instructor to let me fly once more. I wasn’t allowed to go solo again but so I went up with an Instructor and managed to find some thermals and stayed up for quite a while in pleasant conditions.

All in all, this was a fantastic week enjoyed by all. Everyone succeeded in coming home with a set of Wings and some now look forward to taking their flying with the ATC forward with a Flying Scholarship"

The cadets where: ICWO Dent, Sgt Simpole, Sgt Sandhu, Cpl Davidson, Cpl Graham, Cpl Dutch A, Cdts Benjafield, Babla, Ruffini C and D and Panesar.

The photo shows one of the cadetsin a Vigilant Motor Glider before take off