Cdt Sgt Prole goes solo!
Andrew awarded a Gliding Scholarship at 644 VGS RAF Syerston
What was the course like/what did it consist of?
The gliding scholarship took place at RAF Syerston in Lincolnshire where the RAF and Air Cadets have a large presence, this was especially noticed as many of the flight staff cadets and my fellow course mates were from large CCF and ATC squadrons with up to 400 cadets and direct linkages to the RAF.
The course was 9 days with all accommodation and food provided for £35 although £15 of that was used for a 644-squadron meal at a local pub. The accommodation was at RAF College Cranwell, and we all had individual rooms.
The course consisted of 11 exercises to complete including a solo flight at the end (assuming we were good enough) and each one had a group briefing to familiarise ourselves with the topic and what we would do in the exercise, however none of it came as a surprise as we were emailed the entire exercise trainee guide before the course to read through and revise from.
Every morning there was an entire squadron brief which discussed the weather and the day plan in great depth which we were always involved in which made us feel part of the VGS team. The staff were all incredibly friendly and were always ready to help and provide guidance to us on anything from flying to caring for the aircraft and making the perfect cup of tea.
Each day we had breakfast at 7 and travelled in a minibus to RAF Syerston (about 45 minutes) over this time many songs were song and played. Then we would prepare the gliders by polishing the canopies and helping our instructors check the aircraft. We would then have a morning briefing with the weather and flight plans for the day and then walk out the aircraft for flying. After around 4-7 launches which were constant learning, we would either stop for lunch or help out on the ground with attaching cables and launching aircraft. After lunch we would keep helping until our next sortie for the day which would be more learning before putting the aircraft away and cleaning them and going back to Cranwell for dinner. Then we would socialise and revise at the Lawrence club.
The staff at 644 VGS were all volunteers and were some of the friendliest and most welcoming people I have ever met. They were always ready to provide assistance and advice on everything and there was a real family dynamic between the staff. The instructors would try to remain teaching the same cadet throughout the course and because of that all of us on the course grew a friendship and greater appreciation for each of our instructors individually. They were also excellent teachers who worked tirelessly to help us and guide us through the course, especially toward the end when everything we learned came together and the workload increased as we grew more tired. Each instructor catered their teaching style to their cadet as well which was exceptional and helped us progress constantly.
The cadets both on the course and who were flight staff cadets at 644 were all amazing people who I will keep in contact with for a long time. We all shared a passion for aviation and could learn from each other on the course from both shared experience and vastly different experiences. We all came from different areas around the UK and from some vastly different backgrounds which made getting to know them both a pleasure and an experience that I would never have received anywhere else.
The staff dynamic was best on display when all the staff and cadets went for a squadron meal together. Everyone could relax and celebrate all we had achieved up to that point in the course, and it gave everyone a chance to talk to each other in a more relaxed and friendly manner.
The gliding itself was both rewarding and challenging in equal measure. As someone who had only flown once before I was concerned when I felt very airsick on my first flight, but by the third day it had disappeared by both becoming acclimatised to the movement and being actively involved in controlling the glider. It was an amazing experience and achievement not only glide, but to fly up to 14 launches a day for 9 days and then fly solo at the end. It was a once in a lifetime experience that will stick with me forever.
Flying solo after all the training and preparation was exhilarating, we were fully trained and had done over 6 circuits without any instructor input beforehand, but the freedom of being in the sky alone was a truly incredible experience. At no point in the flight was there a moment that we had not been trained for repeatedly, and that feeling of being fully in control was surreal. I will never forget the feeling of landing on my own and the satisfaction I felt.
The course was easily one of, if not the best experience of my life, and everyone involved was friendly and passionate. The staff at Syerston were like a big family and it was bittersweet to have to leave at the end after getting to know everyone for 9 days. The course was equal parts challenging and rewarding, and each day presented new and priceless memories. The other cadets on the scholarship were also extremely friendly and we will all be staying in contact for the foreseeable future as good friends. I would thoroughly recommend this course to anyone and everyone as a priceless experience that you will never forget. Flying solo is the most rewarding achievement and feeling I’ve experienced.
I have since been asked to consider becoming a Flight Staff Cadet at RAF Topcliffe where I could both help other Cadets to achieve this amazing experience and continue to develop my flying skills further into the future.