Each Remembrance Day in November it is a common sight to see the local air cadets on parade in their crisp uniforms, following the terse marching orders shouted by their commanding officers. One might wonder why they join such an organization, why join an extension of the Canadian Forces when they are so young?
A visit to the Trail Regional Airport this past weekend would provide the answer to that question in a second.
They can fly.
Saturday saw the Trail Air Cadets, 531 Squadron hold its fall Gliding Day, a twice yearly opportunity for the local cadets to actually experience flight in two Cadet Air Operations gliders that have been towed over the mountains from the regional base in Oliver for the occasion.
“Our goal is to give every single cadet one or two flights per year,” said Officer Cadet, Simon Bambey. “We give them the introduction and hope that they pursue flying in the Air Cadet Program.”
Bambey said that every year about 80 advanced cadets take the training and try to qualify for a licence with the cadet program, 40 seeking glider licensing, and 40 for the powered flight, at cadet camps in the province.
“We cycle each one through to make sure every cadet gets to do a bit of flying,” he explained. “They get taken up to about 2000 feet and have about a 12-to-15-minute flight. Licensed pilots fly for the takeoff and landing but the cadet gets to do a bit of flying.”
Cadet pilots and their commanders from around the region go on twice-yearly tours to the various cadet squadrons teaching the younger kids the exhilarating experience of soaring in a glider with nothing but the sound of the wind over the wings to distract them.
The white and blue, wide-winged gliders are towed up to altitude by a specially modified, high horse-power single engine plane and then released to ride the winds.
Sixteen-year-old, Cadet Shael Huska, from Chase, was with the group for the first time, having just gotten his glider license this summer. He was working as part of the ground team responsible for briefing cadets before their flights and coordinating activities on the between takeoffs and landings, ensuring that each step in the day’s activities takes place by the numbers.
His eyes grew wider and a smile spread across his face as he tried to describe what it was that he liked about flying.
“It really challenges you, makes you better at decision making,” he said. “You’ve got the control over the glider and it makes you good at being able to think quickly.”
Local glider pilot, Kevin Debiasio, said he joined the cadets in 1976 and never left. He was one of the pilots taking the kids up and landing them safely.
“What I like about it is giving the kids their first ride, getting them into flying,” he said. “They go from kids who don’t have a clue about what to expect and five years later they’re the ones doing the flying.”
Another glider quietly touches down and slows to a halt and, the local cadets, following the orders of the visiting officers, hurry out onto the runway to roll the plane out of the way so the tow plane can land to be hooked up for the next flight.
The plastic canopy opens to release another smiling, red-faced cadet from the cockpit, who excitedly returns to his fellow cadets to compare flights.
“This is about learning leadership and decision making,” said Cpt. Clark Davidsen, commander of the Regional Cadet Air Operations, Pacific Division. “In many cases we’re the first ones who ever take them flying. It can be pretty expensive to do it any other way and not everybody can afford it. The kids love it.”