And now, for something completely different…again!

The Air Cadets, or more formally, the Air Training Corps and the CCF (Combined Cadet Force, mostly based on ‘public schools’  in Great Britain) are given the chance to experience flight at one of several sites across the UK. A combination of Air Experience Flights and Volunteer Gliding Schools provide powered flight and unpowered flight to cadets, with a typical VGS being staffed by a combination of RAFVR(T) Officers, Civilian Gliding Instructors, and Flight Staff Cadets, all of whom provide training for cadets. In the past this used to be accomplished using Chipmunks and Bulldogs for the powered element and Sedbergh gliders. In the 1980s, the Royal Air Force, which both owned the aircraft and provided the engineering support, decided to acquire 100 German-built tandem-seat Grob 103, of glass fibre construction, as the Grob Venture TX.1, their wooden-framed gliders having reached the end of their useful lives. The old, and much-loved Slingsby Aviation-built Sedberghs, with their open, side-by-side cockpit, were sold off; many of them ending up in Germany, Holland, France, Switzerland and as far away as Australia.

No. 621 VGS (after a long and happy association with Weston-Super-Mare, which lasted 50 years) is now based at Hullavington Airfield, Buckley Barracks, Wiltshire, along with No. 625 VGS, which moved down from South Cerney in 1992 when their site was handed over to the Silver Stars, a military freefall parachute display team. They are equipped with Viking T Mk 1 gliders, finished in white with orange markings, typical of the Viking fleet. As well as this, their WW2-vintage L-type hangar also houses the aircraft of No. 621 VGS Historic Flight. Amongst these you will find a most impressively restored example of the Slingsby T-21 Sedbergh TX.1. This lovely wooden-framed glider is painted in the typical red/white and grey scheme of the Sedbergh fleet, and has a special Royal connection. It was in this very Sedbergh, WB922, that Prince Andrew, who went on to fly helicopters operationally with the Royal Navy during the Falklands War, first flew solo with the Air Cadets.

All in all, the Viking might have the more sprightly performance, a better glide ratio, and the ability to gain height faster in a thermal, BUT, the creaking, stately progress across the sky of a Sedbergh has a magic all of its own.

Ah, yes, and the glider hiding shyly in the background, tucked underneath the curved concrete beams of the L-hangar, is ZE993, a Grob G-103, Viking T.1, the successor to the Sedbergh.

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