Gliding at RAF Upavon

Gliding at RAF Upavon

In the early hours of Saturday 17 November, four of us from the CCF at Caterham School gathered in the parking lot ready for an exciting day at RAF Upavon. None of us had ever been gliding before and so we weren’t entirely sure what to expect when we got there. Fg Off Arrol-Barker drove the four of us (FSgt Farris, Cpl Warr, Cpl McGlashan, and Cdt Parr) safely to our destination. We arrived and eagerly signed ourselves in, dumped our gear in the cadet crew room, and sat in the classroom ready for the welcome briefing. Andy (a member of staff at the squadron) explained to us what we would achieve by the end of the day, how he expected us to behave and, of course, what to do in the unlikely event of a fire. After having been told this we watched a short video explaining the gliding in more detail. This included what to do if we needed to exit the aircraft, how to put on and take off the parachute we were issued and how to exit the glider in an emergency. We then followed Andy into a smaller room where we had to carry out the “JUMP! JUMP! JUMP!” drill which involved pulling a few leavers to jettison the canopy, grabbing the D-ring of the parachute and jumping out of the metal chair which resembled what the actual cockpit of the glider looked like.

We were then weighed with the parachute on our backs to make sure that we didn’t exceed the limit of 110kgs — none of us did. Three of us had already done some ‘synthetic gliding’ at RAF Kenley in a simulator. FSgt Farris had to do his synthetic gliding part of the course while the rest of us played on the Xbox in the cadet crew room. We then all went back to the classroom in order to do the bronze wings theory (the level above the blue wings which we had all done by now).

After this briefing we heard the buzzer for the main briefing of the day and we all learnt that it was a near perfect day for gliding, if a bit chilly. I volunteered to help get the gliders ready whilst the others did the bronze synthetic gliding. So I headed out with the crew to the airfield. It was cold. Luckily I wasn’t outside for that long and before I knew it I was in the cockpit of the glider ready to go up.

There was a short delay as there was another aircraft in the sky who didn’t seem to be listening to the crew and was unhelpfully in our airspace. He eventually moved away though and I was able to go up with my pilot behind me called Liz. Within 20 seconds I went from being at a standstill on the ground to being 1200 feet up in the air without an engine. There was a slight inversion which is basically a very thin, low fog which made the view spectacular. I got to go up twice, the first time Liz had control of the glider, the second time I did. All four of us got to go up twice and we all got to help prepare the glider for flight (like attaching the cable to the aircraft, and holding the wings level). It was truly an amazing experience and I cannot wait to go up again. We left the airfield just before 1600hrs and headed home with a gorgeous sunset behind us. We all thoroughly enjoyed the day and are very excited for when RAF Kenley is able recommence their gliding program.

Cpl. McGlashan

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