Off they go into the wild blue yonder, climbing high into the sun…is the concept behind the Air Cadet League of Canada’s partnership with the Vancouver Soaring Association at Hope Airport.
The six best air cadet pilots in the province are in town to test their skills against Hope’s challenging terrain.
Wind funneling in from the sea and into the valley rushes along the region’s mountain ridge-lines making conditions in Hope perfect for soaring. Primary and secondary “waves” undulating over mountains give rise to air pockets keeping gliders aloft.
“Cadets don’t normally get to soar for an hour like they do [here],” VSA president James Swank said.
The VSA is providing cadets the use of its aircraft. The gliders used by the cadets at bases in places such as Comox are primary for straight and up and downs and don’t lend themselves to soaring. Flights in Hope with VSA aircraft may last as long as five hours with pilots reaching heights of 10,000 feet.
“The cadet commander was in the air for seven and a half hours the other day,” Swank said.
Pilots also work on becoming more technically proficient in Hope.
The mountainous terrain, close proximity to town and restrictions placed on pilots due to the physical geography enhance their skill-set.
But getting here meant the air cadets earned their way in. All of them went above and beyond the call of duty.
Sergeant Paul Heim, 16, of Prince George’s squadron 396 made top honours to earn his ticket. He’s excited about gliding.
“It’s magical,” he said.
His mother and father were in the air cadets but didn’t pursue a career in the military. Scared when he made his first glider flight Heim now has Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot ambitions.
For Heim and his fellow cadets the chance to push themselves physically and mentally is paramount to their success. For the soaring association the goal is to promote soaring.
But both organizations agree on having wind beneath their wings.