Langley cadet spends her spring break in flight

Lucy Poirier was one of 12 air cadets from across B.C. who spent their spring break in March brushing up on their glider pilot skills.

Poirier, of Langley’s 746 Lighting Hawk Squadron, and the others were at 19 Wing Comox, honing their flying and, in one case (13 cadets participated in the exercises), aircraft maintenance skills.

Spring break gliding is an annual exercise hosted by Regional Cadet Air Operations (Pacific).

The 12 cadet pilots had all earned their glider pilot licences at the Regional Gliding School (Pacific) the previous summer.

“A total of 12 air cadet pilots were selected from throughout B.C.” said Lieutenant Colonel Keith Stewart, Regional Cadet Air Operations Officer, and Commanding Officer of the Regional Gliding School (Pacific). “The opportunity to fly over spring break is a unique and exciting opportunity for these young teens.”

The 13th cadet was there to complete his B.C. High School Work Experience Graduation Credits, and worked with the RCA Ops Aircraft Maintenance Team.

Cadet Ben Stipkala, from 676 Squadron in Sidney, learned aircraft maintenance and repair skills, completed the requirements of the school program, and received an offer of employment from a Vancouver Island-based aircraft maintenance company.

Working in coordination with 19 Wing Air Traffic Control, each cadet completed about 10 flights, all in the Comox area, during the training period. Each flight ranged from two to 15 minutes.

As part of their regular annual proficiency training, each cadet pilot would take off, conduct a variety of in-flight exercises, and then complete a circuit and landing, all while being assessed by an instructor pilot.

At the completion of each flight the cadets discussed with their instructors how the flight progressed, what went well, and what could be improved upon.

The self-assessment technique is used to lead the cadets in their growth, both as pilot, and potentially, as future instructors.

“The cadet pilots also had the opportunity to experience flying a high performance sailplane, which was contracted for the week from a Vancouver Island-based firm, on flights which often exceeded one hour,” said flight instructor Lieutenant Duane Kirkpatrick.

Spring break gliding also aims to further enable the cadets to return to their home squadrons and help with their local gliding operations. They will spend weekends throughout the spring and fall, conducting familiarization flights for other cadets, at numerous centres around the province.

The glider pilot cadets also work as ground crew, moving the gliders around, performing critical safety duties, and supervising the junior cadets in attendance, all while teaching local cadets the proper way to handle a glider on the ground.

Naramata, B.C. resident Cadet Liam Cole, of 259 Squadron in Penticton, said, “What’s going to be awesome is taking junior cadets up gliding and showing them just how great it is to fly. Hopefully, that will encourage them to become pilots too someday.”

“Many of these cadets aspire to a career in aviation, whether it is a military or civilian career.

Taking part in Spring Break Gliding is just one step in that direction.

They made a choice to come to Comox for this exercise, in order to better themselves all around as a pilot, and to possibly becoming an instructor. The Air Cadet program has a reputation for building leaders (Col Chris Hadfield, for example), and this is just one way that we work towards our task.” said Captain Cathy Holder, chief flying instructor.

The goals of the Air Cadet Program are to develop in our youth the attributes of strong citizenship and leadership skills, to promote physical fitness, and to stimulate an interest in the air activities of the Canadian Forces.  The B.C. High School Work Experience Program is a joint initiative of the B.C. Provincial Committee of the Air Cadet League of Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Education.

Regional Cadet Air Operations is based at 19 Wing Comox, and is responsible for the safe and effective conduct of all Air Cadet Flying Operations in British Columbia throughout the year.

This includes the Regional Gliding School, which operates each summer at Comox.

The cadet program is open to youths from 12-18 years of age, and is well represented in the Comox Valley.

Youngsters interested in joining Air Cadets can contact 386 Komox Squadron at 250-339-9198.

The Army (250-339-8211 x7995) and Sea Cadets (250-339-8211 x3606) are also active.

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