Gliding through the open skies

Raissa Tetanish
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DEBERT - Robert Verstraten is making the best of his second last year in the air cadet program.

The 17-year-old from the 154 Amherst Anson Air Cadet Squadron has just one week left of the Glider Pilot Scholarship Program.

"I had been interested in flying for a while, but I didn't get into gliding until a couple of years ago," Verstraten said after finishing his morning classes at the Atlantic Regional Gliding School in Debert on Sunday.

"My parents thought the cadet program would be a good program to get involved with and when I found out I could become licensed (to fly) through the program, that's what really motivated me."

The program has roughly 45 cadets participating at the school in Debert is designed to qualify approximately 320 cadets throughout Canada for a Transport Canada Glider Pilot License each summer.

Cadets go through both ground school and flying instruction in areas such as principles of flight, soaring, navigation, radio communication and air law, among others.

Because gliding is so dependent on the weather, cadets also learn about meteorology.

"I really like the flying and the people in the course," Verstraten said.

"We all have a lot of fun."

Out of the entire program, Verstraten said the bookwork is the most difficult.

"We've written eight exams in the last five weeks, and we just finished our Transport Canada exam," he said, adding cadets need at least an 80 per cent to pass the test to receive a license.

"So that's definitely more stressful."

Watching the cadets on the runway, they each take turns getting the Schweizer 2-33A glider ready for takeoff - first by attaching the rope from the L-19E Bird Dog tow plane to the front of the glider and then doing an outside check.

Then another cadet levels the glider's wings while the pilot gives the direction for the tow plane to pick up the rope slack before going full out.

Having joined the cadet program in the fall of 2007, Verstraten said the coming year will probably be as far as he goes with the program before heading off to university upon graduating from Amherst Regional High School.

"I'd like to go into the Power Pilot (Scholarship) Program next summer," he said.

If he is accepted and completes the Power Pilot Program, Verstraten will receive a private pilot license.

Organizations: Transport Canada, Atlantic Regional Gliding School, Amherst Regional High School Power Pilot

Geographic location: DEBERT, Canada

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