Major shake-up for air cadets gliding ops

RAF air cadets gliding Viking

Fourteen of the 25 Volunteer Gliding Squadrons (VGS) are to be disbanded, leaving just 11 squadrons across the UK including Scotland and Northern Ireland. Two new Air Experience Flights, which give introductory flights to air cadets, are being created making a total of 14.

The re-structuring, announced by the government recently, follows the grounding of the VGS fleet of 146 Viking gliders and Vigilant motor-gliders for airworthiness reasons in 2014. There has been no gliding in the air cadets for the past two years, resulting in a decline in cadet numbers.

Julian Brazier, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence said in a recent debate, “Let us be clear that the recent restructuring of air cadet gliding is not a cost-cutting exercise. The Air Cadet Organisation remains hugely valued and the Royal Air Force is fully committed to offering flying training to all air cadets.

“The blunt truth is that we were unable to find a sufficiently reliable contractor with the capacity to take on the bulk of the Vigilant fleet. Faced with no viable option, we are increasing spending to get almost all the Viking gliders back into service as well as offering an uplift of more than 50% in air experience flights. We aim to have a significant gliding programme again by this summer and to have the full programme in place by 2018.”

RAF air cadets Vigilant

Above: one of the RAF’s Vigilant motor-gliders. Top: Viking glider (Photos; MoD)

The reduction in gliders goes hand in hand with the closure of many flying bases around the UK, such as Hullavington, Wilts, forcing the MoD to concentrate gliding for air cadets to fewer locations.

The MoD also plans to increase the number of Grob Tutor aircraft, better known as the Grob G 115E, from 45 to 70 for use by the Air Experience Flights. They will also make more use of flight simulators for air cadets.

One bit of good news is that Kenley Aerodrome, near Croydon, south London, is to re-start gliding operations with the air cadets and 615 squadron.

RAF Grob Tutor

The RAF’s Grob Tutor will be used to give air experience flights to air cadets.

Squadrons disbanded:
611 (RAF Honington), 612 (Abingdon), 613 (RAF Halton), 616 (RAF Henlow), 618 (RAF Odiham), 624 (RMB Chivenor), 633 (RAF Cosford), 634 (MOD St Athan), 635 (RAF Topcliffe), 636 (Swansea Airport), 642 (RAF Linton-on-Ouse), 662 (RMB Arbroath), 663 Kinloss and 664 (Newtownards, NI).

Squadrons retained:
Central Gliding School and 644 (RAF Syerston), 614 (MDP Wethersfield), 615 (RAF Kenley), 622 (Trenchard Lines Upavon), 626 (RNAS Predannack), 631 (RAF Woodvale), 632 (RAF Ternhill), 637 (RAF Little Rissington), 661 (RAF Kirknewton) and 645 (Topcliffe) (from October 2019). 621 Squadron (Hullavington) will move to RNAS Merryfield.

RAF Air Cadets



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