Cadet Flight Sergeant Alex Burch has become the first Royal Air Force Air Cadet to achieve a Grade 2 Glider Pilot qualification in the Air Cadet’s Viking Glider.
Alex achieved this unique award whilst undertaking duties as a Flight Staff Cadet at 644 Volunteer Gliding Squadron, RAF Syerston in Nottinghamshire.
Alex is a cadet at 1300 (Sutton in Ashfield) squadron and recounts how he achieved this distinct and unique honour:
“On the 16th September 2017, I began my Silver Wings Gliding Scholarship (SGS) with 644 Volunteer Gliding Squadron based at RAF Syerston. Whilst on the course, which was conducted over a number of weekends, I was taught how to fly the Grob Viking T1 glider. Once I was considered to be of an acceptable standard, I was sent on a check flight. On completion of the check flight, I was cleared to fly solo. The first solo consisted of a single launch, circuit and landing. After completing my solo flight and a short exam, I was awarded my Silver Gliding Wings on 26th November 2017.
After successfully completing my scholarship, I was allowed to remain with the squadron as a Flight Staff Cadet. As a Flight Staff Cadet my role was to assist other members of the squadron with the daily tasks. Such tasks ranged from briefing arriving cadets on their day ahead, inspecting the winches to make sure they are serviceable for us to launch the gliders, setting up the aircraft at the launch point once they have been serviced and helping out at the launch point getting cadets strapped into the aircraft ready for their flights. Being a Staff Cadet on the VGS also meant that I was entitled to continue my gliding training towards my Gold Wings, which I was awarded on 14th January 2018. Golds Wings Glider Training (GWGT) consists of honing already existing skills, being taught how to manage the aircraft when in the air, being taught more advanced manoeuvres, as well as completing a further 5 solo launches. In addition, to further gliding training, I have also had the opportunity to learn how to operate the winches and become a winch operator. In this role it is my responsibility to launch the gliders into the air, allowing other cadets to get into the air, so that they can have a similar experience.
During my time so far with 644, I have attended a 9 day continuous course that the VGS held during the Easter period, where we had four cadet trainees that were completing their Gliding Scholarship with us. Whilst on the course, I would help out on the ground, whether at the launch point, or operating the winches. I also attended a course that 644 were deployed to at RAF Little Rissington with 637 VGS, in order to assist them with their continuous course during July 2018, where 4 cadets were complete their Gliding Scholarships. My tasks there again consisted of helping out where ever I was needed.
Being a staff member on the VGS has meant that even after completing my Gold Wings, I have been able to continue my training towards becoming a G2 Graded Glider Pilot. This includes accumulating more solo launches, improving my flying skills and learning some additional things, such as soaring. After logging at least 20 solo launches and as well as 70 launches with an instructor post Gliding Scholarship, I was able to take a G2 Test. The test consisted of flying with a senior instructor, where they would test my general handling of the aircraft, sortie management, stall prevention and stall recovery and launch failures. As well as passing the test in the air, I also had to complete a ground exam. The exam consisted of several topics such as Airmanship, Technical, Meteorology and Principles of Flight. After completing both aspects of the test, I began a G2 and was awarded my Graded Glider Pilot wings. As a G2, I am qualified to fly the aircraft solo without the need to have a competency check beforehand. This is the next step in my gliding career to being able to flying cadets on their gliding experience when visiting the VGS.”
The Royal Air Force Air Cadets offers opportunities to obtain many recognised qualifications in flying related subjects, adventure training and leadership and management.