Imagine floating along thermal air currents with just the sound of wind rushing past your aircraft. You’re over 2,000ft in the air and you have the controls of an 8 metre long aircraft in your hands. It’s a buzz, and one of the biggest reasons our cadets join up.
The aircraft we use allow your first steps to flying to be totally exhilarating. They’re an integral part of the cadet experience, designed to get you trained, confident and ready for solo flying. If you have a talent for flying we’ll spot it.
Before you’re cleared for takeoff, get to know the aircraft…
he Grob 115E, known by the RAF as the Tutor, is used for Elementary Flying Training by the 14 University Air Squadrons and 12 Air Experience Flights throughout the UK. It is also used by the Central Flying School and for elementary WSO training at the RAF College Cranwell.
The Tutor is constructed mainly from carbon fibre reinforced plastic, which combines high strength with light weight. Like its predecessor, the Bulldog, the Tutor has side-by-side seating but, unlike the Bulldog, the primary flight instruments are on the right-hand side of the cockpit. This allows the student to fly the aircraft from the right-hand seat with a right-hand stick and a left-hand throttle so that future transition to fast-jet aircraft is made easier.
Unpressurised, and powered by a Textron-Lycoming 180hp piston engine driving a Hoffman three-bladed, constant-speed propeller, the Tutor can cruise at 130kts at sea level and climb to 5,000ft in seven minutes. The aircraft has a very clean airframe and has a three-minute inverted- flight time limit, making it ideal for aerobatics where, unlike previous RAF light aircraft, it loses little or no height during a full aerobatic sequence. The aircraft has a very modern instrument and avionics suite, including a Differential Global Positioning System, which, apart from giving excellent navigational information, can also be used to generate a simulated Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach for training use at airfields where ILS ground equipment is not fitted for the runway in use.
“The thing I love about flying Grob Tutors with the Air Cadets, is that it’s just you and the Pilot”Cdt FS D Leach from 613 (Alton) Squadron
When attending annual RAF camps and occasionally during fieldcraft exercises, Air Cadets are given the opportunity to gain some additional Air Experience Flights in RAF military aircraft. These range from helicopters such as the twin-rotor Chinook, the medium-lift Merlin or ultra fast Lynx.
Through to tanker and transport aircraft including the huge C17 Globemaster, the classic C130 Hercules. The Tristar and VC10 (the worlds fastest airliner) are also regularly flown in by cadets.
Occasionally, a few very lucky cadets get the opportunity to fly in fast jets including the Hawk and Tornado.
Providing most cadets’ first piece of airborne action, the Grob G103A Twin II Acro – better known as the Viking T1 – is a modern, high performance two-seat glider. It’s perfectly suited to seat you and your instructor. It’s even used to train instructors themselves at our Volunteer Gliding Squadrons (VGS) around the country.
The Viking has no engine and the main method of getting airborne is via a winch-launch – a cool experience in its own right. A steel cable, up to 1,500 metres long is pulled and wrapped around a drum by a powerful turbo engine. It winds slowly at first and then (when the winch operator receives the “all out” signal) at high speed, allowing the glider to catch the wind and launch upwards. After the glider is at the right height the cable is released and, aided by a parachute to slow it down, falls to the ground ready for the next launch. The height you reach depends on wind strength at the time, but a winch-launch flight normally lasts around 5 minutes. In warmer months the pilot can use thermals (warm rising air) to stay aloft for longer periods of time – circling to gain height.
Less common is for the Viking to be aero-towed – a small engine-powered aircraft acts as a tug and pulls the glider off the ground and up to a predetermined height using a towing cable.
The Grob G109B, or Vigilant T1 to its friends, is the next step in your flying experience. The best of both worlds, it’s a motor glider with an engine and propeller, so can launch itself like a normal powered aeroplane but still be flown as a glider. The engine isn’t powerful enough for rapid climbing (or aerobatics!) but Vigilant is an agile aircraft, capable of soaring in thermals under the right conditions.
Instead of being seated in front or behind your instructor like in the Viking, the Vigilant seats two, side-by-side. It also needs less ground staff as it can take off and land under its own steam. Flights last much longer too – usually about 45 minutes.
Whichever aircraft you’re in or whatever way you get off the ground, your cadet flying experience can’t be beaten, and may be just the beginning!