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Bedworth teenager Dale Mckeown can't drive yet, he's not even old enough to take his first driving lesson, but he can certainly fly solo. Dale, aged 16, is a Cadet Sergeant with 121 ( Nuneaton ) Squadron of the Air Training Corps based in Attleborough Nuneaton is celebrating after becoming one of only a handful of cadets and possibly the youngest within his Squadron to have ever gained the Air Cadet Advanced Glider Training (AGT) Gold Wings.

What's even more remarkable is that since starting his Gliding Scholarship (GS) course on the 29 th of February this year Dale has worked his way through all three stages of Air Cadet glider pilot training, gaining his Blue and Silver GS wings and eventually replacing them with the coveted Gold AGT wings.

Dale's cadet glider pilot training began when he was awarded a 5 day residential Gliding Scholarship course with 643 Volunteer Gliding School at RAF Syerston in Linconshire.

The Gliding Scholarship course for cadets of 16 years of age or above consists of up to 8 hours of flying training after which cadets are awarded their Blue GS wings. Those cadets showing the necessary aptitude can be selected to undergo additional training up to a ‘solo' standard. Unfortunately for Dale, bad weather prevented him from achieving sufficient flying experience to enable him to do his solo flight, however he had managed to complete the syllabus and was awarded his Blue GS Wings.

Gliding Scholarship Blue Wings

Under normal circumstances cadets who gain their Blue wings don't usually get the chance to progress any further with glider pilot training but Dale was determined to get back into the air and complete the solo flight that was necessary for him to qualify for the Silver wings. True to form Dale managed to persuade the gliding school to allow him to go back to complete the additional refresher training necessary to bring him up to the required standard. Over several weekend visits to RAF Syerston Dale showed his instructors that he was ready to go it alone.

Dale said, “I was eventually allowed to fly on my own, with no pilot. I was really excited about going solo and was confident that I knew exactly what I was doing. All other aircraft on the base were grounded and I was allowed to winch up into the sky on my own”.

”My solo flight only lasted 6 minutes, but I managed to complete a full circuit without anything going wrong, however landing the aircraft was somewhat harder than my training flights as it was 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. But once I was safely back on the ground I finally realised that I had successfully achieved my very first solo flight and gained my Silver Wings”.

Gliding Scholarship Blue Wings

Full of success and determined to progress even further Dale applied for and was granted a place on an Advanced Glider Training course which required him to complete a further five solo flights before he eventually managed to get his Gold Advanced Glider Training Wings.

Gold Advanced Glider Training Wings

Dale's Commanding Officer Flight Lieutenant Ian Crewe said, “We are absolutely delighted with Dale's progress through the different stages of his glider pilot training. I think it's the first time I've known one of our cadets to be awarded Blue, Silver and Gold Wings at the age of 16. This is a real achievement for him and a fantastic example to other cadets. Dale has shown that he has the determination and ability to progress even further with his flying training and has been invited to apply to join 643 Volunteer Gliding School at RAF Syerston as a Staff Cadet. Who knows, one day Dale could eventually qualify as a flying instructor and help to train the next generation of Air Cadets”

Gliding Courses have been the first step in the flying career of generations of young Air Cadets. If you think you've got what it takes to become one of the ‘Next Generation,' the Air Cadets could be just the thing you've been looking for
Cadet Sergeant Dale Mckeown aged 16 proudly shows off his Blue, Silver and Gold Air Cadet Advanced Glider Training Wings – Click to enlargeA Viking T Mk1 glider as flown by Cadet Sergeant Dale Mckeown – 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:-
Flt Lt Paul Hincks - 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron
26Oct06


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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Page last updated, Thursday, 26 October, 2006 9:29 PM .