Imagine floating along thermal air currents with just the sound of wind rushing past your aircraft. You're over 2,000ft in the air and you have the controls of an 8 metre long aircraft in your hands. It's a buzz, and one of the biggest reasons our cadets join up.
The aircraft we use allow your first steps to flying to be totally exhilarating. They're an integral part of the cadet experience, designed to get you trained, confident and ready for solo flying. If you have a talent for flying we'll spot it.
Before you're cleared for takeoff, get to know the aircraft…
The Viking T1
Providing most cadets' first piece of airborne action, the Grob G103A Twin II Acro - better known as the Viking T1 - is a modern, high performance two-seat glider. It's perfectly suited to seat you and your instructor. It's even used to train instructors themselves at our Volunteer Gliding Squadrons (VGS) around the country.
The Viking has no engine and the main method of getting airborne is via a winch-launch - a cool experience in its own right. A steel cable, up to 1,500 metres long is pulled and wrapped around a drum by a powerful turbo engine. It winds slowly at first and then (when the winch operator receives the "all out" signal) at high speed, allowing the glider to catch the wind and launch upwards. After the glider is at the right height the cable is released and, aided by a parachute to slow it down, falls to the ground ready for the next launch. The height you reach depends on wind strength at the time, but a winch-launch flight normally lasts around 5 minutes. In warmer months the pilot can use thermals (warm rising air) to stay aloft for longer periods of time - circling to gain height.
Less common is for the Viking to be aero-towed - a small engine-powered aircraft acts as a tug and pulls the glider off the ground and up to a predetermined height using a towing cable.
The Vigilant T1
The Grob G109B, or Vigilant T1 to its friends, is the next step in your flying experience. The best of both worlds, it's a motor glider with an engine and propeller, so can launch itself like a normal powered aeroplane but still be flown as a glider. The engine isn't powerful enough for rapid climbing (or aerobatics!) but Vigilant is an agile aircraft, capable of soaring in thermals under the right conditions.
Instead of being seated in front or behind your instructor like in the Viking, the Vigilant seats two, side-by-side. It also needs less ground staff as it can take off and land under its own steam. Flights last much longer too - usually about 45 minutes.
Whichever aircraft you're in or whatever way you get off the ground, your cadet flying experience can't be beaten, and may be just the beginning!