The dream of taking to the skies is becoming a reality for more and more Air Force cadets since the opening of the Australian Air Force Cadet (AAFC) Facility at Bathurst in April 2014.
Each school holidays, cadets are offered the opportunity to attend training camps focused on developing the cadets gliding skills in a military atmosphere.
FLTLT(AAFC) Allan Buttenshaw a flying instructor said the week-long camps give the cadets the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of flying. Cadets can earn a flying scholarship before they can drive a car, it is an amazing opportunity that is open to all cadets.
“Our aim is for every cadet to have the opportunity to experience flying three to four times a year. Powered flying, such as gliding is usually out of reach for most people, but this facility here in Bathurst makes it accessible to all cadets,” FLTLT(FLTLT) Buttenshaw said.
“Every student is different, some pick up the skills in no time and others need some more time, yet they all love the culture and environment. The first thing we work on is speed, trimming controls and controlling a heading from there moving to circuits.”
After completing 12 months home Squadron basic training, a cadet can commence glider training. From there, a cadet can progress to fly SOLO from the age of 15 once they have completed the required training.
SQNLDR(AAFC) Billy Gleeson-Barker said our instructors are a mixture of ex-RAAF and commercial pilots who come from all over the state, volunteering their own time to train the cadets.
“We currently have 7000 cadets over 160 units across Australia, with the aim to grow these numbers to 10,000 over the next few years. To be able to continue to develop this gliding program will greatly depend on having enough instructors. The aircraft that the cadets once used were older and more basic, they are now state-of-the-art and the demand for these school holiday camps is high. To continue the support for this program we will need to ensure we are continually attracting instructors in line with the demand from cadets.”
The gliders are controlled and flown just like conventional powered aircraft, for the cadets to become competent glider pilots they need to be very well coordinated on the aircraft controls and to have a high degree of in- flight situational awareness and excellent out- of- cockpit lookout. Many Australian Defence Force and commercial aviators began their flying careers by learning with the AAFC.
Cadet Flight Sergeant Stephanie Ehret said she started flying five years ago at the age of 13. “This is my 25th course, I progressed through gliding and last year I achieved my first instructor rating. I now have my recreational pilots licence and am endorsed to fly tugs, so I can help other cadets here at the camp,” she said.
“Your very first flight is one you’ll always remember – if you really enjoy the flight you’ll probably consider it as something you want to do. It’s the most enjoyable experience I’ve ever had, I come here as many holidays as I can.”
Leading Cadet Sophie Winterton said she loves the discipline and flying, and meeting new people on the course.
There is so much new knowledge and experience to gain, since I have been a cadet, everything has changed; I want to be a pilot now.”