So, you are air explorers and you’d like to learn to fly a glider?
The unit leaders are keen to get the air explorers who want to fly onto an airfield as often as possible. In practice, for Endeavour ESU, this means gliding. Additional safeguarding restrictions were imposed in PoR in 2017 which make powered flying almost impossible, especially given the already high cost of that activity.
Some of our air explorers are junior members of the Cotswold Gliding Club at Aston Down airfield (http://www.cotswoldgliding.co.uk/). We know the club well. The club values the contribution of the air explorers and air scouts. Members have, in their very large majority, been very welcoming and helped the explorers learn. We also believe that the club has the right procedures (including safety), great instructors (competent, friendly and very considerate), good safeguarding measures as well as appropriate insurance (which we, of course, hope never to need to use).
For those who want to fly:
- For those who only want to try, we will run another air experience evening, usually in June. Otherwise, explorers who are club members may be willing to give you one of their “friend flights”. They each have a limited number of friend flights every year, so please understand that this is not guaranteed. They are generously giving you one of their flights. Friend flights cost £20.
- For those who want to learn, you will need to join the club in your own right as a junior member. The club’s membership year runs from October 1st until September 30th. The unit will subsidise your costs until our grant funding runs out.
Learning to fly
It can take anything between 50 and 100 launches to go solo at a rate 3-4 launches per good gliding day, depending on how regularly you come to the airfield. There is no legal minimum age to learn other than that you must be at least 14 years old to fly solo.
To gain your scout gliding wings, you must complete 3 solo flights. So far, in 5 years, the unit has awarded 4 scout gliding wings (and 2 canopy wings). We are hoping to award 2 more gliding wings this year. This is an amazing achievement for these young people.
Learning to fly is fun, very social and extremely rewarding but it is also hard work and a significant commitment. You are committing to being on the airfield 1 day per week (usually Saturday or Sunday) on at least every 3 out of 4 weekends, preferably every week, come warm, still, windy or freezing weather. If you don’t put the time in, you will not succeed, so be prepared to commit and enjoy your flying.
Gliding is, to a large extent, a fair-weather sport. Fog, low cloud, wind and rain will definitely impact a gliding day. But a cold, crisp winter’s day is a great opportunity to get some instruction as chances are that fewer pilots will make the trip to the airfield than on a warm summer’s day.
Gliding days can be hard long days: in summer, we aim to be on the airfield before 08h30 and to leave at the end of flying when the gliders are packed away in the hangar, which can be any time between 16h00 and 19h00. So long but rewarding days outside (think lots of water + sandwiches + sun cream in spring/summer and even sometimes in winter).
Warm, woolly hats and fleece gloves are, de facto, mandatory in winter or early spring and it doesn’t matter if you think you look stupid. The only person who looks stupid is the one without a warm hat, warm gloves and a good coat to keep the wind out.
Junior members under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a responsible adult on the airfield at all times. Some may argue that a glider pilot cannot be a responsible adult…! This would be very unfair to the members of the club who are very serious, diligent and indeed, very responsible. For us, this means that a leader or a DBS cleared parent (registered as an occasional helper) need to be present with the explorers all day when the day is organised by the unit. While the leaders can, and will, be there regularly, the leaders cannot be there every weekend on Saturday or Sunday. We do have other commitments, businesses to run and, occasionally, we enjoy a day off… So, parents will need to help and look after the explorers regularly.
The airfield is located ca. 30 mins north of the M4, near Stroud, and we need help with transport. So, parents will need to help with transport too.
On the airfield
Parents and explorers must receive an airfield safety briefing before you go to the airfield. I will give you the briefing and you can read the “Access to Airfields” fact sheet on our website in the forms library .
We expect all air explorers whose membership or flights are subsidised by the unit to be wearing uniform on the airfield. This means activity trousers, uniform shirt and scarf.
You must wear suitable, sturdy footwear on the airfield. We will look again at options to get some customised fleeces or hoodies made for the unit this year.
Parents have 2 options on the airfield
- Do nothing and spend the (long) day waiting either on the bus at the launch point or outside; or
- Join the club as a parent, get involved, learn and help. The £5 a year parent membership was created specifically for us, so I would urge you to really consider it. Joining means that, as a parent, you are a club member, so you will be on the club’s mailing list. But more importantly, you will be covered by the club’s insurance and bound by club rules (including in the use of equipment on site). I have been a parent member for several years. It’s easy and means I can be active on the airfield rather than sat in a chair waiting for time to pass by. This has done wonders to my office-bound fitness level and let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to drive the retrieve trucks?
The costs involved are spread over time, but they can be significant. There are 2 main costs:
- Junior memberships
Junior membership (under 18 years old) costs circa £55-£60 (see http://www.cotswoldgliding.co.uk/fees for more details).
Launches cost circa £8.50 including the first 10 minutes of soaring time. Additional soaring fees apply after that (see http://www.cotswoldgliding.co.uk/fees for more details). This will likely rise slightly year on year.
The unit was lucky to receive a grant from the W.T. Taylor Fund for Air Scouting in 2016. This can only be used to part fund air activities and is reserved for air explorers (wearing a blue shirt). We are not allowed to use the grant to fund activities for land explorers at all and the grant cannot pay more than 50% of any cost incurred. This grant has allowed us to do some fun things: the static line parachute course we ran in spring 2017, help explorers learn to glide and make the quadcopter project possible.
We created the rules below to ensure that you take ownership of your learning and that we use the grant funds available as fairly as possible for all explorers who wants to learn to fly. We may need to tweak the rules and add new ones over time but, as a starting point:
- The unit will pay half an air explorer’s membership for 2018/19 from the air fund grant after 10 launches while funds last and up to a maximum of 2 years of membership per explorer in total.
- Depending on the number of explorers who want to learn to fly, the unit may be able to help pay:
- Launches 11-20 (while funds last)
- Launches 31-40 (while funds last and if there are funds remaining after paying for launches 11-20 for as many air explorers as possible that year).
- Money paid from the air grant to your flying account cannot be refunded to you. If you stop before your 20th or 40th launch, the remaining balance from launches 11-20 will revert back to the grant.
- Trial flight / friend flight: £15 per flight and cannot be subsidised.
- Parent membership is £5 per club year.
- The unit will purchase hardcover gliding log books from the BGA which will cost £6 each.
If you want to learn to fly, you need to commit to being on the airfield regularly. You must manage your gliding yourself through your flying account (we cannot and will not manage it for you) and your parents need to commit to helping regularly both with transport and on the airfield.