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The sky’s the limit for glider pilots – until they become astronauts

Cadet Brittany Childs with glider instructor Christina Lynch.

Brittany Childs was nervous, but excited, about commanding her fourth flight in a glider plane, but she was comforted to know her glider instructor was sitting right behind her.

“It is like flying like a bird,” she said. “It’s an amazing feeling and you know it’s completely safe because you have amazing instructors teaching you. It’s great because I know I’m going to do it by myself eventually, and hopefully go further into aviation.”

Ninety teenagers arrived at the Central Region Gliding School on July 1 to participate in this summer’s Glider Scholarship Program. Coming from communities across Ontario, they have earned selection into the program from a pool of more than 1,000 of their peers. Candidates complete academic and medical testing as well as an interview process in order to be chosen to attend the summer training.

The program is operated by the Canadian Forces and the Air Cadet League of Canada for the benefit of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. Cadets are trained at one of five summer regional gliding schools and about 320 cadets receive their glider pilot licence each year.

Over six weeks, they will complete 71 hours of ground school instruction and take to the sky about 50 times – including  20 solo flights, to qualify for their Transport Canada Glider’s Licence.

Lt. Andrea McKinley, public affairs officer, says ground-based training courses, which take place concurrently with their flying, include topics such as: air law, glider handling, meteorology, navigation, radio procedures, and flight operations and will allow cadets eligible to write the Transport Canada glider exam.

Kasia Grela went through the program 10 years ago at Mountain View and is now flight commander.

“The cadets do have to learn a lot in a short period of time. However, everything builds on the previous flights, and their skills increase significantly from flight to flight.”

Flying began July 3, from both Mountain View and Picton airports and will continue until August 18, weather permitting.
They fly a Schweitzer SGS-233A glider, towed to altitude by the Bellanca Scout.

Captain Rob Barbe, a tow plane check pilot and glider standards instructor, keeps an eye on the glider in his rear-view mirror.

Captain Rob Barbe, a tow plane check pilot and glider standards instructor, says candidates work through basic manoeuvers, but most importantly, learn judgement.

“They have to learn to exercise good flight judgement following strict protocol. When they go solo, we’re not there. We monitor them on radios on the ground, but really we can only do so much through verbal command.”

Barbe, formerly of Prince Edward County, is an aerospace engineer by training but now works on submarines. He got his first taste of aviation as an air cadet.

“Air cadets is one of the best kept secrets in Canada and is a great program for youth,” he said. “The Picton squadron is open for cadets ages 12 to 18 and we take them up in the gliders  so they can experience it. Lots of cadets go on to the military and end up flying everything.”

Everything including space craft.
Chris Hadfield, 52, was the first Canadian astronaut to walk in space and in December will be the first to command a space station when he boards a Russian Soyuz spacecraft bound for the International Space Station.
At age 15, Hadfield earned his glider pilot wings at Canadian Forces Station Mountain View in Prince Edward County.

* * *
For more information about the Central Region Gliding School, contact Lieutenant Andrea McKinley at andrea.mckinley@forces.gc.ca

For more information about the 851 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron Prince Edward call 613 476 6881 or email co7490@kos.net

A glider is moved into position for the next flight.

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  1. Gil Charlebois says:

    A Great article. I hope Parents that are reading this web site will try to direct their young to join Cadets.
    Been there -done that and after a great 30 year career in the RCAF,retired as an Aviation Technician plus 13 years with Honeywell(a major Aerospace Company) I can’t think of a better career potential as a young person joinining the workforce in todays climate.
    My son,served 28 years in RCAF, his 2 sons,Marc 9 years as a M/Cpl Aviation technician now on CF 18s in CFB Cold Lake and Brian 2 years in the Navy Stationed in Halifax.
    What a great career adventure!!!

  2. Karie says:

    Cadets are welcome to join ages 12 to 18. If interested the local Squadron 851 Prince Edward will start taking new cadets on Sept 11 at 6:30pm

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