On 18th November 2012, Cdt Rendell and I arrived at 618 Volunteer Gliding Squadron at RAF Odiham, near Basingstoke, for our first day of our Gliding Scholarship course. Over the following 8 weeks, we would go on to complete training in the following areas: effects of controls (how the aircraft acts in the different axes, different attitudes and airspeeds); engine start and taxying the aircraft; straight and level flight, climbing and gliding; take offs; turning; approaches and landing; stalling the aircraft; how to fly a predetermined circuit of the airfield and PLATOs (Power Loss After Take Off and other emergency drills). We completed our training in the Grob G109b Vigilant T Mk1, a two seat motor glider. Each Sunday we would attend for a whole day of activities, not just flying! We would start in the morning by assisting prepare the aircraft for the day and move them from the hangar, refuelling them, and following a briefing, taxying them around to the appropriate places on the airfield. Throughout the day, we would complete a number of flights of around an hour at a time with a qualified instructor.
On days where the weather was unfavourable we partook in other activities, such as ground school, aircraft maintenance, and one day we were lucky enough to be shown around one of the many Chinook helicopters, which operate from RAF Odiham.
On 13th January 2013, Rendell and I both completed our first solos in the Vigilant. This involved flying a circuit of the RAF station, which we had been practicing with instructors for many weeks, alone in the aircraft. Although it was slightly scary, it was one of my proudest moments in the air cadets. Having done this we were both presented with certificates and our silver wings to wear on our uniforms.
I highly recommend this course to all eligible cadets as it is a wonderful experience, where you will learn a lot and have a lot of fun. To apply, you must be 15.5 years old (and 16 to complete the course) and at least a first class cadet. The application form can be downloaded from the Kent Wing website (www.kentwing.org) and after being filled out must be given to the CO.