Wing News

Flying High

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The Air Cadet Pilot Scheme is one of the most sought after courses that the Air Cadet Organisation provides and I was lucky enough to be sent on one of these courses over Easter 2013.

To be given a place on this course you must be over 16 when you go, and it helps to have had previous flying experience such as a Gliding Scholarship.

The course only takes place in Dundee, Scotland, with a company called Tayside Aviation operating out of Dundee airport. We fly in Grob Herons, which are very similar to the Tutors that are flown during Air Experience Flights.

I spent Monday 25th March travelling up on the train. It was a long journey but the scenery got better and better, and later on in the day I was travelling through snow-capped Scottish mountains, across the Forth Rail Bridge, and on to Dundee.

From there I travelled to the Landmark Dundee, a pleasant 4-star hotel, where great breakfasts and dinners were provided with the other people on the courses. I was sharing with a Cadet Warrant officer from Wales in a twin room.

At 8.15 in the morning, the whole course was taken, in flying suits, to the airport. There we had our introduction briefings, a tour and were given study bags with aircraft checklists, radio help cards, textbooks and folders of local information and air law. We were given briefings on various aspects of airmanship and then flew hour long sorties for each concept. Soon the level of difficulty increased as there was limited time and a lot to be covered.

We ended up using the gym and pool time at the hotel to wind down and still quiz each other on stalling speeds, radio procedures and air traffic signals. There was a definite requirement to self-study and not fall behind on the academic side.

Evenings were spent having great food and socialising at the hotel, watching movies, using the sauna, and the entire time keeping focussed on not forgetting vital information.

Soon I was doing most of the flying with my main instructor, Neil, giving helpful advice and giving me simulated stalls or engine failures to recover from. Flying out to the east and west gave me great views of the stunning Scottish cold spring scenery.

Halfway through, I changed to a different instructor, Rut, a Spanish flying instructor. She trained me to fly the recognised Dundee circuit patterns from different runways depending on the weather. Luckily the weather remained flyable even though sometimes we were dodging snow showers or heavy cloud. The technical aspects of the flying such as radio operation and the many checks to ensure aircraft safety started building until I was flying touch and go circuits again and again without instructor input.

I passed the first solo theory examination and then it was down to refining my technique, practicing for emergencies, and ironing out issues. A typical hour long circuit sortie had 7 take-offs and landings.

Finally, after a short check flight, I landed and taxied to the main apron to drop off Rut and continue on with my first Solo. With my new radio call sign I did ground power checks and soon had permission to taxi down the runway, turn around and line up. Permission came to take-off, the throttle went forward, and I was in the air, on my own, in charge of an aircraft.

Flying circuits has a very minimal amount of downtime. The working procedure of looking out for other aircraft, checking the aircraft attitude and checking instruments is broken up with many other procedures that must be followed, such as noise abatement turns to avoid flying over the local town, checks for flaps, holding airspeed, not gaining and losing height in a turn, and keeping the tower informed of your movements.

Turning downwind brings more checks, and then I was descending on the base leg, with the aircraft pointing at what seemed like a ridiculous angle to the ground. The final turn to the runway had me compensating for thermals off sandbanks on the Tay warmed by the sun in low tide. Then I was over the runway, flaring, and the wheels were on the ground. I had landed.

Permission to taxi to the flying club came with congratulations from the Air Traffic Control, which we had visited the day before. I did power down checks, and left the aircraft that I had commanded solo for 20 minutes and approximately 10 miles with a feeling like no other.

The course gave me a valuable 11 and a half hours dual training for my logbook and my first solo flight as well. I did just under 30 of my own take-offs and landings. All of this can be added to the hours total that must be submitted for a Private Pilot’s Licence.

Everyone on my course flew solo, and we all added to the long running tradition of stencilling our names on the inside of the dedicated cadet hut at Tayside Aviation.
The final day brought my debrief and the presentation of my wings. I spent the morning with others from my course in Dundee. After an emotional goodbye I travelled the 9 hours on the train back to Romsey. The scenery was just as good but the journey had mixed emotions. I was glad to be heading home, but sad to be leaving new friends and such a fantastic experience.

This course gives participants an advantage when applying for other continuation flying scholarships as well. I thoroughly recommend that cadets make their way through the various gliding then flying scholarships that the Corps offers. Reports of cadets performance were also sent to Central Flying School, so this gives another small advantage to cadets wanting a career flying with the RAF.