It was Monday morning and the Easter holiday's were coming, Yay, I had nothing planned. Saturday nothing, Sunday nothing, and then later that day the phone rang; “Hello is that Chris Newbery?” “Yes?” I was completely confused “Its Squadron Leader Tilson, you have been awarded a gliding scholarship” brilliant I thought. I had been waiting for this for 8 or 9 months. I was awarded my gliding scholarship at 633VGS at DCAE Cosford, a base which I was familiar with, as, I go there for shooting and powered flying but I hadn't been there for gliding. So anyway, I got the call on Monday and I went away on the Thursday, not a lot of time when you have to get transport and supplies.
My dad took me there and I arrived in my uniform, proud and prepared for what I hoped would be the best weekend of my life. I have always wanted to be a pilot and this was my chance. When I arrived I didn't know anyone, the first lad I saw there was Jack, and we clicked straight away, he was from Staffordshire Wing and likewise for him he didn't know anyone either. There were six boys and two girls, the boys being: Me, Jack who I got on with really well, Jordon who was properly my closest friend in the end, Lewis who was great, Max and finally Rob who was a bit quiet but wasn't left out. The girls were; Erica who is now a staff cadet, and Emma. Everyone got along with everyone, which was great. However there were two groups of people towards the end: Me, Jack, Jordon and Lewis, and the other was Emma, Erica, Max and Rob. But everyone still got along. When we first arrived there, we had the safety brief about the Parachutes and how to get in and out of he aircraft.
That was the start, but before going any further we then went down the town and went into this very, very weird Pizza place with a man who loved throwing change at people, strange I know! We then got introduced to our rooms, I was told before going, to be prepared by Flight Sergeant Barber who said they were diabolical: showers didn't work, you share rooms and the beds are plastic. Was he so wrong, I had my own room with an en-suite bathroom with a toilet, wash basin and shower, and the best bed you could have got, better then the one I have at home! So I was quite impressed. I then read the GS book that was given to me up to chapter 5 and then went to sleep.
Day Two and I had woken up for my first day of gliding; the first thing I noticed was the glorious blue skies even at 6.30 in the morning. I then came to get in the shower and noticed I had forgotten my towel, not the best start. I then rang my mum and she dropped them off at the guard house, good old mum! We then went to the mess had breakfast and then went to 633 VGS and had the met brief. I was then introduced to my instructor. I had Flight lieutenant Lawton A.K.A Lofty. He was a laugh, I must admit. All of my sorties were 1 hour long and where all in aircraft number 187z. My first sortie was basic principles; yawing, left and right turns, and up and down. Boring you might think! but I did quite enjoy it, because at the end of the day I was at the control of this £75,000 Grob 109B aircraft. I had two other sorties on my first day and I was extremely tired. I did a lot more of the use of controls and I began to make the radio calls. The first full day ended with us all going to the mess and then later playing football. The guy who was in charge of the GS students was a Warrant Officer called Ray, he was a laugh, he did nearly anything we wanted and really did bring the course alive. That day was an exciting one I must say.
Day Two came with the use of a towel after the shower, a welcomed item. Again we went to the mess and then got a lift with Ray to the gliding school, which was only a 2 minutes ride form the Mess. We had the met brief and again we were told it would be another glorious day. (What are the chances of having a nice weekend when you really need one?) Me and Lofty were walking out to 187 when he turned and said, “Your doing the start up and the taxi”. The start up is surprisingly easy because there is a book that tells you everything about what to have do and also in emergencies. I then started it up and started taxiing down the taxi way. Wow I thought I'm in control on the ground now. I then lined it up on the runway and he said put full throttle on and keep the controls level with the door panels and you'll be in the air in no time. O my god I thought I was going to take off. I did it and it was so quick I really can't remember it. But I'm still here so it must have been OK. Lofty then introduced me to circuits and said “this is what you're going to be doing all day today, your skill will drop severely and will then be amazing”, I never believed him because I was confident I could maintain the high level I was producing, my first circuit was good and then it came to the landing. I was on an excellent approach and came to touch down, to hear that I only landed on the two front wheels instead of all three, I got told off but I could see what he meant, I put pressure on the wheels and could have broken the aircraft. Anyway I was down safe and sound. My next two sorties were pretty much the same but I was improving, until my last circuit. If I'm honest with you I didn't feel confident going up in my last sortie I just had a strange feeling that I was something wrong, well I did I nearly totalled another glider by not doing the correct drills. We landed after the hour and I really lost everything I learnt and I think I was tired and that affected my performance. I then asked the others how they were doing and they were well, well behind me. I went back to the block after tea and had a look at the book and tried to gain my confidence again, it wasn't working.
Day three came and I woke up nice and refreshed I went to breakfast then got picked up by Ray and taken to the met meeting. The weather was again blazing hot, me and Lofty were walking out to our aircraft 187 again and I felt like I was really going to go for it now. I started up, taxied and did the most gorgeous circuit I could have asked for. I then landed spot on in the middle of the runway and then did that again, we had completed two circuits with Lofty not touching the controls. Lofty called on the radio “Exercise 14 exercise 14” we stopped and stopped the engines, he got out and said you're on your own now. I couldn't believe it from so bad to so good in 20minutes. The average before solos was10 hours, I had done 6 hours 20. The staff cadets came in and put some weights in the seat next to me and said you'll love it. With the canopy closed and locked I was on my own, I then started up and taxied to the runway, normally I stop first but I was so confident I roll started. I took off and was flying, that was the best feeling I have ever had in my life, although at the time I wasn't saying that to myself, I can't repeat that, but it rhymed with hit. I did the most amazing turn and I was on my downwind, I did my first radio call “ alpha 6 1 8 sierra downwind to land” I forgot my last call because I was so busy doing other things like turning etc. I was on my finals and did all the drills and landed perfectly I pulled over to the side and did the landing checks and turned off the engine. I'd finished it, I've got my wings I thought, I'm technically a pilot. 6 hours 20 minutes that is one of the quickest times ever seen on 633. The rest of the day I was sitting around doing nothing as I was finished with no1 else even close. I was the only person to finish on that day and the rest of the day I was buzzing. That ended day three.
Day four began with a boring day to come on my own. I had breakfast and then went to the squadron, I had arranged with my parents to come and pick me up later that day. I got my wings and I was done. Six others past early in the day, and one other later on. The other lad Max was unfortunate and only got his blue wings but he was a good lad and I'm proud of him for that. That concludes my gliding scholarship and I must say it was the best time I have ever had. I am now a staff cadet on 633 and loving every minute of it.