The Nelson Air Cadets, including four members from Nakusp, recently had the chance to see the world from a different angle as they took part in their first flying exercises of the year at the Trail Regional Airport.
The Air Cadet League in B.C. owns six tow planes and twelve gliders. Those airplanes are owned by the Civilian Air Cadet League, and the military operates them. These aircraft were brought to Trail to give the three local air cadet squadrons, Trail, Castlegar, and Nelson, a chance to go flying.
The cadets each received a flight in the glider and the tow plane. They also worked on moving the aircraft to and from the runway.
During the flights, cadets were shown how the flight controls of the aircraft work and the effect they have on the aircraft.
Chiara Minchin is one of the members from Nakusp. She joined the cadets after hearing about it from friends. She had participated in Scouts, and thought joining cadets would be a good activity to take part in after her time with Scouts was complete.
She said being up in the plane was amazing.
“Everything looked so small, and it was pretty scary when it was just you and the plane,” she said. “I felt like I was going to crash, but the plane was super stable, and it just felt amazing, like you were weightless.”
The cadet program is a partnership between the government of Canada and the Department of National Defense. Together, they run the organization known as the Air Cadet League of Canada.
It is the largest youth organization supported by the government of Canada, and is a military based organization for youth ages 12-18 to work on the leadership and citizenship principles of that organization. Notable former air cadets include Colonel Chris Hadfield and country music singer George Canyon.
While one of the aims of the program is to give cadets experience in the air, not all cadets are comfortable being in the air, so going up in a plane isn’t mandatory.
“We don’t force them to go flying, because that defeats the purpose if we scare them off,” said Major Kevin DeBiasio, area cadet instructor cadre officer for the West Kootenay region. “We have 12 year olds that are very nervous, and we want them to have a positive experience.”
One interesting aspect of the program for the cadets is they can get their glider pilots licenses, and their power license through the cadet program. When they’re 16 years old, one the programs they can apply for is the glider pilot program.
Some of the cadets who take part do go on to join the armed forces, but that is not one of the goals for the cadet program, nor is it a requirement.
Though she has only been in cadets for a few weeks, Minchin plans on staying in the program.
“It teaches you lots of things, and it just feels good to be part of something so disciplined,” she said. “It teaches you respect for people, and we also have class times in which we learn how to march, we learn about different politics, we learn about being healthy, healthy eating and exercise. It’s pretty good.”