Air Cadets have the opportunity to fly with Royal Air Force pilots in Grob Tutor aircraft. Flying takes place at one of 12 Air Experience Flights (AEFs) where cadets are shown how the aircraft flies and given the chance to control the aeroplane, experience aerobatics or simply admire the view. All Air Cadets get the opportunity to fly with the AEF each year.
Prior to the establishment of AEFs, cadet flying was a more ad-hoc affair, although during the 1940s and 1950s, Airspeed Oxfords and Avro Ansons were used specifically to fly cadets. On September 8, 1958 formal Air Experience Flights were established at 12 airbases across the UK. They were equipped with the De Havilland Chipmunk trainer who’s service with the AEFs lasted until 1996 when they were replaced with the Scottish Aviation Bulldog. In 1999 the RAF began to replace the Bulldog with the Grob 115e Tutor. Ninety of the aircraft are used by University Air Squadrons and Air Experience Flights across the UK.
The aircraft, although used by the RAF, are not owned, managed or maintained by them. Instead they carry civilian registrations and are serviced under a Private Finance Imitative (PFI) with Bombardier Aerospace Defence Services, and the MoD, buys flying hours off them.
6 AEF, RAF Benson
Wantage Squadron's local Air Experience Flight is No 6 AEF, a lodger unit at RAF Benson. Formed 8 September 1958 at White Waltham, 6 AEF moved to Abingdon in 1973 and Benson in 1992. From 26 November 1995 it was parented by London University Air Squadron but when London UAS moved to Wyton, 6 AEF remained at Benson with parenting being taken over by Oxford UAS, both units being equipped with Grob Tutor T Mk 1s.
AEF: What to expect
Your first trip to the AEF is an exciting time – although can seem a little daunting and nervous for some. You have no reason to worry – the flight training with the ATC is very safe, and you will be fully briefed at every step of the way.
You will have either a morning or afternoon "detail", and you will be briefed on when to arrive at squadron to get transport. You will need to wear your blue uniform with boots. You will need to bring a pair of soft soled shoes with you (trainers), some food, drink (preferably water or still drinks rather than fizzy drinks!) and a book to read (if you like that sort of thing!). If you have a cold, or have had one recently, you should let a member of staff know as soon as possible.
When you arrive at RAF Benson, you will be escorted into the briefing room and shown a safety video. Regardless of how many times you have been flying, you will still need to watch this video in case anything has changed. It also provides you a recap of the safety procedures.
After the briefing you will be allowed to watch DVD's and await your turn in the aircraft. You will not just be there with Wantage Squadron, but there will be other cadets from around the Wing there too – use the time to make new friends, and if they are playing games, ask to join in. You should also use this opportunity to change into trainers.
When you are called forward you will be taken to a room to be fitted in a flying suit, parachute and flying helmet by a Survival Equipment Fitter (also known as "squiffers"). You will then be escorted to a waiting area to wait for an aircraft to become free.
Once one becomes available a member of staff will call you forward and escort you to the aircraft, where you will be seated, strapped in, and made ready for the off. What you get up to is up to you – your pilot will probably ask you what you want to do – so have a think about this before you go flying. Remember to ask him questions – you are there to learn as much as you are to have fun!
Air Cadet Pilot Scheme
Cadets who wish to pursue a career in aviation can apply for the Air Cadet Pilot Scheme (ACPS), which provides a pinnacle of flying experience for those cadets lucky enough to be selected. There are three scholarships available:
* 125 Light Aircraft courses available, consisting of 12 hours flying, leading to solo, to be flown at Tayside Aviation, Dundee.
* 25 Microlight courses, consisting of 10 hours flying, leading to solo, to be flown at RAF Halton..
* 40 Air Experience Flying courses, consisting of 10 hours to be flown on the Tutor aircraft, at several locations..
* There will be 36 Air Cadet Pilot Navigation Training Courses available, consisting of 10 hours flown on the Tutor aircraft at an AEF..
Eligibility and Application
In order to apply for one of the courses offered under the ACPS cadets must:
* Be aged 16 years at application and 17 by the start of the course.
* Hold or predicted to achieve GCSE grade C or equivalent SCE above in English Language and Mathematics (BTEC in Aviation Studies can be accepted as an alternative to Mathematics).
* Have achieved Gliding Scholarship solo (silver wings), although exceptions may be allowed with written support.
* Be available to attend for a continuous residential course of up to fourteen days duration.