On Saturday, 27 January 2024 saw the first winch launch of an Air Cadet glider at RAF Woodvale.
For the first time in 72 years, a glider was winch launched into the skies above Merseyside thanks to the combined efforts of 632 Volunteer Gliding Squadron (VGS). Whilst waiting on their home airfield to be available for operational use, volunteers from 632 VGS have been supporting other VGSs around the country, including those based at RAF Topcliffe, Predannack, Syerston, Honington and Little Rissington throughout 2022 and 2023.
186 Gliding School originally operated at RAF Woodvale between 1947 and 1952. One of the original instructors sent the current Officer Commanding 632 VGS, Squadron Leader Graham Delaney, gave an insight into how training was completed.
"Cadets flew in the Kirby Cadet Mark One, which was a single-seat glider with no instruments. The gliders started with ground slides to high hops and eventually launched to about 120 feet, with the winch driver reducing power at the appropriate height. The cable was connected directly to the glider with no shock absorber or drogue chute.
Instruction to the trainee was via a batsman standing in front of the winch, who gave signals to either raise or lower the nose and to keep the wings level. We endeavoured to keep about 200 yards clear of the main runway, which Spitfires and Meteors from 611 Squadron would be using. How times have changed!"
With no Spitfires or Meteors to worry about now, 632 VGS work closely with the Woodvale Pilots Association and their private aircraft, which also use the airfield. Sgt Andy Hagan (632VGS Winch trainer) launched the inaugural flight using a much more modern Skylaunch winch, and the next few weeks will see VGS aircrew authorised to fly from RAF Woodvale.
Air Cadets gliding at RAF Woodvale will commence later this year.