DEBERT — First-year air cadet Eddy Phalen of Trenton had never been flying, so he took care of that with a recent trip to the Debert airport.
For a lot of people these days, their first flight is aboard an airliner winging its way someplace distant, but not Leading Air Cadet (LAC) Phalen who made his first trip to the skies in an aircraft without an engine.
On a bright, breezy Saturday morning, with the heavens streaked with a few cirrus clouds, Phalen and his fellow cadets from Trenton’s 397 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron took to the skies for a series of glider flights.
“I’m mostly excited,” he said before heading out to the runway to board the bright yellow two-seat Schweizer glider. “I have no idea what to expect.”
Another first-year cadet, LAC Summer Lawrence, from Abercrombie, had previously flown in an airliner but this also marked her rookie flight in a glider.
“I’m excited, it might be bumpy because it’s windy,” she said.
The gliders were launched on this day, not behind a tow plane or winch, as is often times the case, but behind a white Dodge pickup truck. They leaped into the air carrying the cadets on their circuits of the airfield with a fellow cadet from 865 Dartmouth Kiwanis squadron, Warrant Officer First Class Ryan Jelinek, at the controls.
Flight Sergeant Gavin Hiltz, from Pictou, has made a few glider flights during his time with the Trenton squadron, but this one was a little different for him, a little more meaningful. In July, Hiltz plans to begin training to get his glider pilot wings at Debert.
“Just being up in the air is great,” he said while waiting beside the runway for his turn. “Being able to experience it, there’s nothing like it, especially in a glider, basically it’s just a kite.”
Following his flight, he said this time around the pre-flight briefing and in-flight commentary provided by Jelinek, had much more impact in light of his upcoming course. He said he can’t wait.
“It’s the reason I joined cadets, to do the glider program. It’s kind of a milestone for me.”
And how about our rookie fliers, how did they make out?
“At first the flight felt strange, but good,” Phalen said. “It was just so new. It was good.”
Lawrence had a hard time wiping the huge smile off her face and didn’t really try.
“It was fun especially when we went up, up, then they unhooked the cable and we sort of went down… Just gliding on the wind was so cool. I thought it was going to be a lot more scarier, but it was not scary at all.”
Trenton squadron commanding officer Captain Pamela Hansen said the sky is not the limit for air cadets.
“It opens their minds to additional opportunities and helps broaden their perspective on the things they are capable of achieving. It’s an attainable goal, to become a pilot, it can give them a sense of accomplishment.”
Flight Sergeant Gavin Hiltz, right, of Pictou will train for his glider pilot wings this summer in Debert. (Burns photo)
INSET: One circuit per customer as the air cadets got some glider flights at the Debert airport recently. (Burns photo)