Oratory CCF: Gliding at RAF Little Rissington
On Saturday 20 May, as the school celebrated the 110th anniversary of Oratory CCF, the RAF section had the opportunity to go gliding at RAF Little Rissington in what was a long, but glorious day! The weather conditions were perfect for gliding; a strong breeze, sunshine and warm air led to thermals - spiralling elevators in the sky that Red Kites and glider pilots unerringly find.
Our 6 cadets were a nervous, with the exception of Anna who had been before and who was therefore happy to have had her name pulled from the hat again! The staff were all volunteers, but consummate professionals, from the winch operator and the ground controller, to the airline pilots who were Qualified Gliding Flying Instructors. Pilot Officer Becky Smith and Nigel Todd attended a reassuringly detailed and professional briefing for the adults. They were delighted to learn that Curlew conservation was being undertaken with no go areas on the airfield to protect these ground nesting birds!
The cadets were shown how to enter and egress the cockpit, including emergency evacuation - "Jump Jump" with a parachute on! They were shown the way to and joined in with preparing a glider for launch, fixing the tow line under the belly of the aircraft, asking for slack to be taken up by the winch controller as they held the gliders wing to keep it level, and then a cry of "All out", the signal for the winch to run full speed, pulling the glider from 0 to 60 knots in 2.3 seconds after which it was whisked airborne at an attitude of almost 45 degrees. At 1,400 feet the tow rope was released and floated to earth with its drogue chute, and the glider was free to soar - and soar they did, with Zac reaching 3,400 feet after an earlier calm recovery by the instructor involving a down draft and a hedge.
All cadets took control of their aircraft and flew at least one leg of their circuits. Their smiles upon returning to earth were the largest Oratory staff had seen on any of them.
Pilot Officer Smith was granted the privilege of sailing aloft, and thoroughly enjoyed her trip, but sadly Pilot Officer Todd would have had to remove both legs to meet the weight restrictions!
Of the trip, Pilot Officer Todd says, "Our cadets were a credit to the school and behaved very well on a long day with a great deal of time awaiting their turn. Thank you to the fabulous volunteers at 673 VGS, I counted at least 12, all there to light the fire of flight in our cadets. A job very well done. Sincere thanks also to Pilot Officer (Miss) Smith. Powered flight next!"