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Air Cadets grounded?

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Air Cadets grounded?

Old 21st Mar 2016, 19:08
  #1961 (permalink)  
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To me the most important product of the VGS system is (was) the ability to send kids solo.
The Canadian Air Cadet glider program not only sends Air Cadets solo but every year 230 to 250 air cadets get Transport Canada (ie the Canadian equivalent to the CAA) issued glider pilot licenses after completing the Air Cadet glider training program.

Suitably proficient Air Cadet Glider pilots have the opportunity to fly other younger cadets on glider experience flights.

I think the key elements of this record of success are as follows.

1) The gliders and tow planes are owned by the Air Cadet organization and are civilian registered and operated under civil gliding regulations.

2) All of the flying qualifications including those of the instructors are civilian licenses

3) No flash glass ship flash, just the simple all metal just about un-bustable SW 2-33, is the only type operated. It's extremely benign flying characteristics make it the perfect first glider for new young pilot.

4) Air Force direct involvement is mostly on operational flight safety matters and providing a relatively stable core funding stream to the Air Cadet organization.

The Canadian Air Cadet program has its problems too but after watching the slow motion Shyte Show that is the present and future UK Air Cadet flying program it seems a shame that the flying "pause" was not used to transform the program to a civilian based operation which has been so successful else where........
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 20:35
  #1962 (permalink)  
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Hon President 2FTS 'IMPARTIAL' !!!!

Whilst not wishing to dispute the Hon Pres 2 FTS motives in 'pouring oil' on very turbulent waters the fact that he holds that post means in practice he is part of the system,and therefore not an impartial observer of the debacle.
I wonder how much contact he has had with a broad section of VGS operators,or indeed the 'actual actions' of Cmmt 2FTS.
He makes the same comments re AEF Accidents yet fails to also mention these were not airworthiness issues or involved volunteer staff.
He also 'plays up' the AEF factor when in fact there is no evidence that it in any way replaces the loss of Cadet Solo training,and as for aerobatics; well the T21's on Cadet flights were doing that over 4 decades ago.
The main crux though is no one is seemingly responsible for the complete failure of the tech back up that was the ultimate responsibility of the RAF.
There is no suggestion that any 'posts' are going to change in the ATC organisation that has so badly lost its capable leadership on the flying side.
However from my viewpoint it is the total lack of flying and tech respect shown to the Squadrons that leads me to the conclusion that the 'system' (who have been shown wanting) are in complete denial about their failure to deliver that part of the operation that they alone were responsible for.
As alluded to before if there are no changes at the top then nothing will change as the Titanic mentality is alive and well and they hope if they trot out the same old hype people will believe it.
Just calling an operation 2FTS does not confer any relationship to that organisation with a previous regime of flying training that held that name.And by the way no one 'hides' behind call signs it is normal practice for a forum,which in this case that has exposed the failures in a system we all revered and think it deserves better.

Last edited by POBJOY; 21st Mar 2016 at 22:39. Reason: content
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 21:08
  #1963 (permalink)  
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I am not an old VSO; my last rank was Fg Off, and I am more proud of my flying and command experience than anything else!
The reason I am an Hon President of 2 FTS is out of respect for the Hon President of Air Cadet Gliding, Bill Walker, who is terminally ill. I am, if you like, replicating his job without upsetting his family by assuming his title.
I have indeed visited several VGS, and do not frequent the MOD. I fly with many VGS pilots in a civilian capacity.
I believe in telling it as it is. The problems of the glider fleet go back many years, predate most in command appointments, many of whom have been working their socks off to try and solve this problem.
My priorities:
- The Cadets
- Getting the very best deal for the great volunteer instructors who will lose their Vigilant slots.
- Recovering the Vikings.
- Pressing for delivery of the full infrastructure piece.
- Looking at how best to recover capability, especially once the remaining Vigilants leave service; this means dedication from us all, leadership and investment. None is impossible if we all pull together.

I am a non-exec, but in my last remaining active years will dedicate myself to the ACO and VGS.

Anyone have any trouble with this; let us hear what you have to say, and don't hide behind screen names!

Venture Adventure!

Chris Coville

(Yes, I am indeed an Evertonian; perhaps the only one to have risen above the rank of Cpl!)
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 21:40
  #1964 (permalink)  
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As an Air Cadet in the 1960s I flew in quite a few aircraft types but, to be fair, the RAF then had a huge number of RAF Stations and many aircraft types. Of the four annual camps that I attended, only the one unit was a none flying station; albeit that it did have a Chipmunk AEF. The RAF of today is a much smaller organisation and that their operational commitments are of a much higher order of magnitude. Is it therefore not understandable that the opportunity to fly Air Cadets, with air experience flying, is increasingly problematic?

On the subject of gliding courses, I did achieve my ATC A&B gliding certificate at RAF Hemswell. I was one of the lucky ones to be invited to return and, perhaps, become a staff cadet to assist with gliding operations for other cadets. I would "hitch-hike" from Sheffield to RAF Hemswell, every weekend, in the hope that my efforts would be rewarded by just the one flight before "hitch hiking" all the way back home and readying myself for school the next morning. I would surmise, in retrospect, that only a handful of cadets were ever selected to gain the opportunity to, perhaps, continue to fly beyond their A&B certificates. Given the huge numbers involved in giving (todays) cadets the opportunity to fly, are we perhaps kidding ourselves that we can do all of this on a shoestring budget and with fewer opportunities of RAF airframe availability?

Within a much earlier post (within this thread) I had suggested that, during the pause to flying, that cadets should, perhaps, be given a good grounding within the art of pilot navigation. The response, at that time, was met with much derision of, and I quote, "Most cadets don't have the mental capacity to wish to engage within the suggested mental arithmetic to remain interested in flying"!

I would therefore suggest that, for many (cadets), the futuristic belief that they might become fighter pilots isn't achievable! However, the fact that they might become more aviation orientated by experiencing free flight in a glider, could well become the catalyst for them to join the RAF in some other form of aviation related employment.

The "bottom line" in all of this "return to flight" saga is, what is the worth of Air Cadet Gliding upon the recruitment of cadets into the RAF?

To all of those folk who might wonder, or object, to the Haddon-Cave report. Yes, it has taken some significant time to filter down to Air Cadet gliding operations but, the MAA has had to consider, firstly, front line operations above all others. Like it or not, the MAA has a job to do and that it was wholly appropriate for the DH to pause flying operations. Everyone has been focussing on the word "pause"... it was initially meant to be a "pause", though, the enormity of the findings has gone well beyond what was initially thought to be something of a hiccup.

Air Cadet gliding has entered a new era of military aviation management and airworthiness requirements, which is the alignment of Air Cadet gliding operations to that of every other aircraft platform operated, and managed, by the military.

The pre-emptive strike that has been previously alluded to, by the release of the 2012 document, I believe, was a well written document and that each and every consideration was taken into account when considering the effects of the suggested closure of each VGS. Whilst that the report might not be well received by everyone, it does address the facts that were known at that time... it was a balanced report.

Where to go from here... deliver the capabilities as they are known today and for the foreseeable future. I believe that the report delivered the correct answers.

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Old 21st Mar 2016, 21:53
  #1965 (permalink)  
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To c4aero;

Sir, welcome to PPRuNe. We all fly, and most of us got our eyes opened to the fantastic world of aviation via the ATC.

The emotion on this fairly epic thread stems from one reason - the life-changing opportunities that we all experienced have been denied to current and future Air Cadets. To add to this, the dedication and passion of adult volunteers has been flushed down the toilet, after decades of loyal service.

To add insult to injury, all this has come about due to internal MoD politics, incompetence and arrogance.

There are many good air-minded people within the system, but they have been overridden by all kinds of vested interests, to the point where a young person has to choose between learning to glide or joning the ATC. Naturally, finances will dictate that decision for many.

Again, with respect, many posters on here will remain behind screen names. MoD can be fairly vindictive and ruthless as far as its self-image goes. We are loyal to the original aims of the ATC, and are heartbroken to see where the movement currently is.

Again, welcome to PPRuNe, from a fellow bluenose.
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 22:00
  #1966 (permalink)  
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it was initially meant to be a "pause", though, the enormity of the findings has gone well beyond what was initially thought to be something of a hiccup.

The trouble is TCF - it appears that under cover of invoking the 'safety case' the brass have taken the opportunity to decimate the Gliding Units.
My view is that instead of being upfront about wholesale cuts to the ACO gliding system 'The Brass' have used the 'Pause' in a very devious way to chop out the Units they want to get rid of.
As I have said previously surely not many people now are nave enough to believe this whole sorry saga has not been a devious way of making defence cuts !
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 22:13
  #1967 (permalink)  
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Thanks, Subsunk.
OK, but we will have to disagree on some issues here.
We have a choice: whinge, rent our garments, cry 'it's them up there again', or get stuck into the challenge of returning aviation in full to the ACO.
I'm going for the latter option,
Chris C
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 22:22
  #1968 (permalink)  
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Sir Chris

Thank you for coming forward. I am enthused with your notion of using Service air sports clubs to help provide flying. I am also pleased to hear that another type may be considered (ASK21s? We could call it the Vanguard! ).

The infrastructure piece makes me whince a little. The chosen bases for the new look VGS seems odd:

1. Syerston. Apart from a spangly new maintenance area the rest of the Station is falling to bits. The runway also needs a resurface and the nearest RAF accomodation is Cranwell some 45 minutes away.
2. Little Rissington. In the winter it is normally in cloud and also needs a small fortune spending on it.
3. Kenley. Stuck under the London TMA on Common Land with access-right issues. No proper accommodation and a long way from any RAF support.
4. Predannack. Another airfield which has seen its best. Yes, it gets support from nearby Culdrose, but that's it. Not a RAF facility.
5. Wethersfield. Now a MoD Police facility and therefore outwith support of the RAF.
6. Ternhill. Away from mainstream RAF and relies on the Army's support.
7. Woodvale. Away from mainstream RAF support.
8. Topcliffe. Away from RAF mainstream and relies on the Army.
9. Kirknewton. Possibly the oddest of the lot. Normally a quagmire most of the year round. Not supported by mainstream RAF.
10. Hullavington replacement - Merryfield. Another ghost town with little infrastructure to support.

So why keep these and pull out of RAF main stations like RAF Cosford, St Athan, Henlow, Linton, Halton, Honington and Odiham? Also, the possibly better supported RMB Chivenor and Arbroath, plus Abingdon? I know some of these might be part of a DIO plan for disposal in the long term, but quite a few aren't. The infra bill at the VGS sites are going to be huge - money that could be spent on gliders!!! Also the infra receipts for these VGS-only places could be huge - real estate inside the M25 or the Cotswolds!

It's just one of a series of more and more baffling infra decisions in recent years accross defence. We'll shut Cosford to go to St Athan, then its we're all going to Lyneham, then its we'll stay at Cosford. Let's move all training into Shrivenham, hold on, it's too full. Let's put everything into Brize, oh hang on, it doesn't quite fit. Let's shut Leuchars but keep it open as a weather diversion. Merge PTC with STC then decide it doesn't fit at High Wycombe - rusticate some parts to Halton. Let's sell Halton for peanuts and then have to find a shed load of extra cash (hundreds of millions) to put recruit training at Cranwell. Having purpose built the Centre of Av Med at Henlow a few years back then let's move it to Cranwell. Then Cranwell is full with legacy flying training and MFTS planning to run alongside each other and the rest of RAF Lincolnshire living in their married quarters.

The infrastructure for the VGS is just as baffling as it is for the rest of us, so I guess I shouldn't be so surprised! I wonder if we need some operators in DIO instead of blotter-jotters that tend take these slots!

Excuse me for hiding behind my nome de plume but I doubt OC Admin Wg (or Base Support, or whatever) will like my last comment!

Anyway, thanks again for coming forward to the debate.

CPL Clott

PS. i'm sure some incumbents from the remaining VGS sites will say everything is rosy at their locations and a nice new shiney hangar and accomodation block is all they need!

PPS. Having just read your latest post, I agree, getting behind the wheel to get Cadets flying is the primary aim. But I think we should also challenge this decision in the mean time as well to see if there are further efficiencies/advantages to be had.

Last edited by Corporal Clott; 21st Mar 2016 at 22:39.
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 22:25
  #1969 (permalink)  
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Basing comparison

just for information, a probable basing strategy for VGS/AEF (Based on a recent town hall meeting with OC 2FTS) compared with the 2014 laydown. I no longer have a horse in this race, but all the best to the VGS folks who are suddenly surplus!

Already happening:
- 621 moving to Merryfield from Hullavington
- 13 AEF stood up at Aldergrove (# not confirmed, but co-located with Northern Ireland UAS)

Unconfirmed but probable (mentioned by OC 2FTS):
- UAS/AEF to move into Exeter Airport (BUAS seems the only real candidate, as Colerne probably won't have much hope in the Defence Estate Review and no one else is close - shown here as 3 AEF)
- UAS/AEF to move into Odiham (potentially someone moving in (London UAS?) or the second new AEF Squadron (shown here as 14 AEF))

The above is guesswork on my part (the map shows that option) - OUAS could move from Benson to Odiham and the new AEF could stand up at Exeter, .: BUAS would either stay or move somewhere else more local. Until the Defence Estates reports in the summer it's all conjecture.

2FTS didn't mention the northern Squadrons but Linton is probably a likely candidate to be closed, and potentially Leeming as well. No idea where current sqns likely to move to.

I stand ready to be proved wrong almost immediately.
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 22:59
  #1970 (permalink)  
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Quote:- Get stuck into the challenge of returning aviation in full to the ACO

Oh yes, and where are the dedicated, experienced, proven volunteers,going to come from,and more to the point where is the Leadership that can LEAD.
This is not about personalities it is about hard facts; one of which is the ability of sound judgement and knowing the job.In any other sector (especially those using volunteers) you take staff with you and encourage involvement; a factor totally devoid in the current 'management' of Cadet Gliding.
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 23:02
  #1971 (permalink)  
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c4aero, thanks for coming on here and also for a certain epic 'Boulmer Sector Conference Dinner' at RAF Leeming rather a few years ago...!! Which cost us rather a lot thanks to the destructive ways of a few Lightning mates....

I'm intrigued by the use of Merryfield. I first knew it as RAF Merryfield in my (actual) childhood, when it housed a busy Vampire AFS and also some Canberras when Bassingbourn was being resurfaced. Westlands worked on Wyverns and F-86 as well as other aircraft and then came the RN squadrons once the AFS closed, as Yeovilton was being extended for the Sea Vixen. Lots of flying to keep a small boy interested as we lived on the approach.

When the RN moved out, most of the infrastructure went into 'care and maintenance'. But not much of either, really. Local 'travellers' helped themselves to all the wiring, drain covers, window frames and all other metal items, so after the hangars and old control tower were pulled down, there was little left. We kept 3000 pigs in the old domestic site and Officers' Mess (which probably improved the tone) and the old Westlands site became a formal gypsy site. RAFGSA came on an exped and lived in tents and the remains of the old ATC tower - and sent me solo in a T21.

In later decades when the station re-opened for RN helicopter work, everything other than the small air traffic enclave was levelled - there is NOTHING in the way of any other permanent buildings or safe storage for winches and gliders now. Also there are some very vocal noise moaners living nearby; oddly enough they didn't seem quite so concerned about the Vampires and later Sea Venoms, Sea Hawks and Gannets. So while those in charge of Merryfield would no doubt be content for ACO gliding, there will be a considerable cost in infrastructural terms...

I do hope that at least that part of the new ACO strategy goes ahead though.

Oh and Merryfield isn't 'near Exeter' - it's about 40 miles from there. Try Taunton?
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 23:08
  #1972 (permalink)  
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Questions for Sir Christopher

Sir Christopher,

Having had sight of the FOGIES note I think that I and some others would greatly appreciate your thoughts on the following extracts/points - through one route or another - if you are able to offer them:

'The motor glider sorties are largely being replaced by more capable, interesting and varied Tutor sorties'; will it be possible for the AEFs to provide cadets with any formal flying training akin to elements of the Vigilant syllabus and, if so, which elements? Is the intention for CFS to pursue a bespoke qualification to enable non QFIs to be able to teach certain upper air exercises in a more formal sense?

'Conventional Viking gliding opportunities will increase threefold'; does this mean that the number of Viking launches will increase by a factor of 3 (from circa 48,000 to circa 144,000, once we have moved from 8 Viking VGS to 10 enlarged Viking VGS), or does it mean that 3 times the number of cadets will fly Vikings annually but each do on average only a third of the launches they would have done previously, or does it mean something else?

'fleet size enhancement'? Does this mean more Vikings (beyond the current planned fleet size of 73+) or the introduction of a new aircraft type?

Looking into the future, will any consideration be given to the introduction of a sufficiently sized fleet of new motor gliders - to enable operations across the UK where there are now the biggest gaps in gliding availability (and where there are no suitable airfields from which winch-launched gliders could be operated), noting their enhanced flexibility/'deployability'?

Will the ACO continue to send the highest number of 1st solos of any gliding organisation in the world each year? In 2014 I understand the annual requirement was for in excess of 2000 Gliding Scholarships; how will this number have changed once 'steady state' has been reached? A major incentive to becoming an Air Cadet is obviously the opportunity to fly (in anything). AEF becomes more personal and adds to the attraction. Gliding offers the 'gold standard' prospect of being able to fly one's 1st solo or beyond, even for the least-well-off cadets, with the springboard and confidence this provides for the future - whether in Service or civilian life. A lot of us (perhaps most of us) commenting on this site would not be where we are today let alone able to give back all that we do had we not been given this opportunity - at zero personal financial cost. The overall cost in Defence spending terms is extremely small given the return on the investment, and we still need to generate our future staff and QGIs. But you know all this.

I think most people are unlikely to declare their identities to you until they feel they can trust their command chain. At that point there will be no need for this thread.
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Old 22nd Mar 2016, 00:20
  #1973 (permalink)  
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Brief 'pause' from me, as I am off to Linton soon to award Qualified Aerospace Instructors Course certificates to air cadets?
I do not have the specialist knowledge to answer all your points, ATFQ, or to address all your very valid infrastructure issues, Cpl Clott! However, it has become increasingly difficult to run VGS activities on operational stations, as most are being backfilled with operational units as the number of MOBs reduces. As you say, DIO run the show here, and they are under remit to rationalise the Defence Estate. On constantly changing plans; true, but funding, politics and the bad guys are dynamic, not static.
But I would for now make the following points, the detail for which come from staff briefings:

- I believe the right aviation mix for the ACO is conventional gliders and AEF.
- The whole cadet aviation syllabus is indeed being revamped
- Only about 40ish Vikings were regularly used in the past; 73 will be used in the future, with additional more capable winches.
- There will be a 70% increase in Tutor sorties
- We have run several RAFGSA and BGA site courses for cadets during the pause; why not gap fill with these in the future, using ACO officers as required?

For Pobjoy, I suggest you reduce the venom in your comments if you want to be taken seriously. I don't need a lesson in leadership of volunteers; I run 7 charities!
Chris C
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Old 22nd Mar 2016, 01:13
  #1974 (permalink)  
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C4 aero

Sir I was not aware that i questioned 'your' leadership,but if you care to check back on nearly TWO YEARS of this thread the common factor is all about the leadership of the ACO, and especially the lack of it on the gliding front.
The vast majority of those that post here do so because we feel the Cadet organisation that was so special to us has been badly let down and and the so-called recovery process is quite frankly a non event. How can an organisation heal itself with the same (paid staff) that got it into the mess to start with.
Remember; the tax payers are the ones who are still providing the resources that have been squandered with a disgraceful lack of 'provision'. The real loss is to the reputation of the Cadet organisation as a provider of an aviation experience to youngsters from all backgrounds.There are no winners here; so far two years worth of Venture Adventure has been lost despite the tax payers having paid for it.
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Old 22nd Mar 2016, 03:05
  #1975 (permalink)  
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I'm curious, has it been clearly defined what the issues actually were that led to the aircraft being grounded for the past two years.

I understand there was an issue found with the controls of the aircraft, specifically connections between the cables and the control surfaces (rudder) cracking/failing. Is that the only issues or where there also others. I have read posts regarding possible incorrect/missing maintenance documentation and possibly that preventative maintenance had not being carried out - but what are the factual elements. If there was a lack of preventative maintenance as defined in the PM schedules, was that lack of maintenance attributable to the failing in the control components. Its the facts that are important.

The answer to these questions are really where the focus should be. I get that there is frustration in the way this entire issue is now being addressed and that the Vigilant fleet has been decimated - frustration I share having been a member of staff at a VGS, but that is more to do with the 'recovery', which may not be the most appropriate word given the plan that has now been presented and is a separate issue to that of 'Continued Airworthiness'

If there were indeed failings in the CA of the aircraft - that is what should be the focus of attention. The MAA Regulatory Articles are very clear in regard of an accredited Maintenance, Technical, Design or other such organization and their Accountable Executives and 'Nominated' Post Holders - be they military or civil.
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Old 22nd Mar 2016, 06:38
  #1976 (permalink)  
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The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Save UK Air Cadet Gliding”.

Government responded:

The MOD has confirmed plans to relaunch Air Cadet Aviation to ensure cadet flying opportunities are available whilst delivering value for money.

Air Cadet Gliding had to be paused in 2014 due to safety concerns with our aircraft. A full inspection programme was initiated with a view to recovering all of the aircraft. However after substantial operational, technical and commercial negotiations with a range of leading aerospace companies, for most of the Vigilant aircraft and a few of the Vikings it no longer represented sensible value for money to continue their repair.

In order to give Cadets the opportunity to start flying again following an Air Cadet Organisation review there will be at least 73 Vikings, a fleet of up to 15 Vigilant aircraft, combined with an increase of an extra 25 Grob Tutor fixed wing Air Experience Flights (AEFs) – a more than 50% increase on previous flights. We are committed to returning as many gliders to the skies as possible while ensuring the safety of cadets and instructors. For the first time this will be backed by a range of realistic simulators provided by the RAF Charitable Trust.

The restructured glider fleet will be operated by fewer, but larger, Volunteer Gliding Squadrons (VGS), which will have a regional focus and be better integrated with synthetic training and increased AEF locations. The RAF is fully committed to Air Cadet flying. Where Cadets will have to travel longer distances, we are increasing investment in VGS and AEF sites to include residential accommodation for cadets and staff. In the future cadet flying will be better associated with force development and ground training opportunities alongside the gliding and flying.

The RAF acknowledges this has been a tough period for cadets and instructors and is grateful for the patience and understanding of the Volunteer Gliding Squadron instructors who continue to provide inspiration and leadership to generations of cadets. Air Cadet flying will be safer and far more resilient in the long run; enabling all cadets across the United Kingdom to have equal access to flying opportunities and which better integrates and allocates cadet flying opportunities between realistic synthetic flight simulation, glider flying and an increase of AEF flights.

Ministry of Defence

So much emphasis on 'value for money'. Price of everything, value of rather less than anything?

I'm still convinced that the 'synthetic training' will be worthless and will actually provide negative training. Again I ask whether a proper TNA was conducted and also whether experienced flight training SMEs identified the appropriate training media for skill-based training as being these PTTs?
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Old 22nd Mar 2016, 09:51
  #1977 (permalink)  
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What Beags said! "Don't confuse me with facts, my mind is made up" seems to be the "official" line
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Old 22nd Mar 2016, 10:29
  #1978 (permalink)  
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"The restructured glider fleet will be operated by fewer, but larger, Volunteer Gliding Squadrons (VGS)"

I will be intrigued to see how they make the Viking VGS's larger!

You can only operate a certain number of conventional gliders in the circuit at ay one time (Granted, the 'few' soaring days a year may help!).
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Old 22nd Mar 2016, 10:36
  #1979 (permalink)  
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BEagle - Following on from previous I also note the fact that they are again referred to (incorrectly) as

"realistic flight simulators"
Just as the Commandant referred to them in her Christmas YouTube video. Perhaps they feel that if they keep calling them such, people will take it as a given that that's what they are?
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Old 22nd Mar 2016, 11:11
  #1980 (permalink)  
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Couldn't agree more with BEagle - I very much doubt that the PTTs will be any use, and even giving cadets rides in Tutors and Vigilants doesn't do it for me. Being flown in an aeroplane means very little. Babes-in-arms and great grandmothers are flown in aeroplanes every day. To paraphrase (I think Lillenthal) "to be flown in an aeroplane is nothing - to fly an aeroplane, everything!" One of the great things about pure gliding (apart from that a lot more cadets actually get to fly, and solo) is that by its very nature everyone's involved and that although a cadet can take pride in a wonderful solo achievement, it is simply not possible without teamwork.
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