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I began my Gliding Scholarship at RAF Syerston with the Air Cadet Central Gliding School (ACCGS), which is located 22 miles away from RAF Cranwell. I started the course on the 29 th of February and the course lasted for 5 days.

I was paired up with Mike Throssell, my pilot and tutor for the next 5 days. We flew in the Grob Viking, a very simple glider which has great gliding abilities.

Over the first day I learned basic controls, such as yaw, pitch and airbrakes. I was also taught how to use the glider's internal panel, and how to use vital instruments such as the airspeed indicator and altimeter. The first day was very difficult, it's a bit like being thrown into deep water when you can't swim.

The second day was a lot easier. I picked up skills like co-ordination around the aircraft and learned how to use the rudder and ailerons together effectively. I also learned how to recognise stalls, and how to get out o them if I ever encountered one. I was also taught how to fly a certain circuit and by the end of the day was flying "ghost" with my instructor. I was doing all the winch launches, turns and landings on my own, something I considered an achievement.

On my third day I encountered bad weather and was only allowed to fly for half of the day, however I was able to master the techniques I had learned and learned how to handle with high, medium and low launch failures.

I had hoped to go solo on my fourth day, but the bad weather continued thought the week and no other flying was permitted. However I had completed the syllabus and was awarded my Blue Wings.

Gliding Scholarship Blue Wings

I had enjoyed my time at RAF Syerston and arranged to go back to complete the course over two week - end visits to RAF Syerston.

I went to RAF Syerston for two Saturdays in a row, and flew with 643 Voluntary Gliding School, where I refreshed my knowledge and handling of the Viking. After passing my launch failures, stalls and co-ordination, I was allowed to fly on my own, with no pilot. I wasn't really bothered about going solo, I was confident that I knew exactly what I was doing and I relished on the opportunity. All other aircraft on the base were grounded and I was allowed to winch up into the sky on my own.

My solo flight lasted only 6 minutes, but I managed to complete a full circuit without anything going wrong, however landing the aircraft is somewhat harder as the aircraft is a lot lighter without an instructor. In fact the aircraft responded differently throughout the flight, the controls were a lot more sensitive and the nose had a tendency to pitch up, so trimming the aircraft was a little harder.

I had successfully achieved my solo flight and gained my Silver Wings.

Gliding Scholarship Solo Silver Wings

I loved my solo flight in the Viking. I was so eager to do it and when I landed I wanted to go up again, but it was not allowed, unfortunately. I really enjoyed my time at RAF syerston and I would advise anyone to apply for a gliding scholarship if they are over 16 and want to learn how to fly.

Cpl Dale Mckeown proudly wearing his newly acquired solo Silver gliding scholarship wings. A great achievement for any – Click to enlarge
Viking gliders in line ready for winch launch – Click to enlarge
Another cadet all ready for take-off on her first solo flight in the Viking – Click to enlarge
Student and instructor in the cockpit of the Viking glider – Click to enlarge
Viking on final approach – Click to enlarge
View from the student pilots seat of the Viking glider during a turn – Click to enlarge

Article Submitted by:-
Cpl Dale Mckeown - 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron
10Aug06


RAF Syerston CrestNo 643 Volunteer Gliding School crestRAF Syerston

Initially a bomber station when it opened in 1940, Syerston became a training base post-war, until it closed as an operational station in 1976. Syerston is currently home to the RAF's Air Cadets Central Gliding School , responsible for the allocation and maintenance of gliders, and No 643 and 644 Volunteer Gliding Schools .


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