Cadets in the Royal Air Force Air Training Corps can solo in gliders before they can drive and many do, according to their leader at Sun ‘n Fun, Flight Lieutenant Richard Turner.
The cadets have been an integral part of Sun ‘n Fun for the past 10 years. This year a record 42 cadets and eight officers made the trip from Kent, in southern England, to marshal aircraft at the air show.
The group that has been coming to Sun ‘n Fun for the past 12 years is recruited from among the 38 Air Training Corps (ATC) squadrons in Kent, a county in England’s southeast where much of the Battle of Britain was fought during World War II. With 30 cadets in each squadron, some 1,200 cadets and officers participate in the Kent Wing, the largest ATC wing in Britain.
Sun ‘n Fun represents a significant commitment for the ATC and the individual cadets, who are responsible for their own air fare and living expenses. Despite the substantial cost and money-raising effort, there is no shortage of applicants for the trip: the organization already is screening applicants for 2008. Those chosen tend to be the cadets showing the greatest interest in aviation, according to Flt. Lt. Carol Coyne.
This year, the cadets were marshaling aircraft in the T-6 Warbird area, where anyone who met them was impressed by their courtesy and professionalism. Both the RAF and the corps itself look upon Sun ‘n Fun as “an educational experience,” Coyne said. Cadets learn how to marshal large numbers of aircraft on a tight schedule, get a better sense of the scope of aviation, and meet people of different nationalities, she commented.
Cadets’ ages range from 16 to 20 years, Coyne said, about a third of whom are women. All cadets take part in rigorous “adventure training” and navigation exercises, many participating in a 100-mile competitive hike, she said.
Although the cadets are offered initial flight training in gliders, it is more difficult to fly in the United Kingdom than in the United States, Coyne said, thus more difficult to join powered flight training programs.
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