A day with the Belgian Air Cadets


Text & Pictures : Serge Van Heertum - SBAP



During summer season, the Belgian Air Cadets organise couples of glider camp sessions and SBAP had the opportunity to make a visit in July during a deployment on the reserve airfield of Bertrix, not far away of Saint Hubert in the Belgian Ardennes.



The Belgian Air Cadets is a non-profit organisation supported by the Belgian Air Component. The aim of the movement is to engage young people in aviation and eventually in a career in the Air Component. The leitmotiv of the young glider pilots must be team spirit and responsibility to catch their goal. There are about 300 active flight cadets currently. Each year 75 candidates are selected to have the opportunity to join the organisation and to become a glider pilot. For those young and enthusiast people (between 15 and 16 years old) the training and glider flights are free of charge. Some conditions are imposed to become a Belgian Air Cadet: Nationality, Membership fee, Medical and sport examination, mathematics and language examination...

The training is given by both people from the military and civilians. In most cases ground and flight instructors are closely related to aviation in their everyday life and they find the excellent place here to pass their knowledge and experience to the new generations.

The first year... (Aspirant): Theory and practice

The organization offers its members a complete and integrated flight training program to become a glider pilot. Obviously theoretical knowledge is essential. The principles of aerodynamics, meteorology, instruments, rules of the air, airframe structure and aircraft handling should be very clear before the candidate will perform his first flight. The theoretical course is given during the 'Easter Camp' at Koksijde AFB (Belgian coast). In a two week session, pilots, meteorologists and instructors will teach the basic concepts of flight. At the end of the period the candidate is tested via a multiple-choice exam.

If the theory of flight is fully understood, the candidate is ready to step into the cockpit. The first flight is held during the summer camp (July or August). During a period of three weeks the candidate will be prepared for his first solo-flight. This is a unique experience in a pilot's life. An important step because at this moment the young pilot is called flight cadet. This is confirmed at the official wing ceremony generally held in September or October.


The second year... (Flight Cadet): Performance!

During the second year the cadet will participate in a one-week flight camp during the Easter holidays and also during the weekends from May, June and September. Just like the previous year the cadet will enjoy a summer camp of two weeks! The goal of the second year is performance: learn to fly newer and more advanced glider aircraft. In addition, the Air Cadet will be encouraged to obtain qualifications recognised by the "Fédération Aéronautique International" (FAI)


The third year... (senior cadet): Precision and IACE...

The third year the Air Cadet can continue to participate in flight weekends and summer camps. However, the best 25 cadets are selected to represent Belgium during the two weeks of the International Air Cadet Exchange (IACE). The career of a flight cadet ends when reaching the age of 19, but some cadets who are remarked for their outstanding flying skills are allowed to stay until the age of 21, but most of the time such Air Cadets are already following an aviation career as airliner pilot or military pilot.


Interested to be a glider pilot and member of this prestigious association?


More info's : 

Belgian Air Cadets


SBAP would like to thanks Kolonel Peter Lepez for the invitation, Colonel Pierre Musette for the guidance and all the team, towing pilots, glider instructors and the Air Cadets for their kindeness during this report.


The morning briefing with meteo, airfield situation and other important info's Towing pilots and glider instructors
After the briefing the gliders are taken out if the hangar Before the flights of the day, the needed verifications
The clean up of the gliders is done every morning Hello Jean, stick is at other side you know !
(In fact this is a safety check for the wings fixtion)
All cadets are busy in a good team spirit Pushing the gliders to the departure point
The towing plane : Piper L-21B First take off
The parachute for the safety Awaiting the towing plane
High turn after the cable launch... ...and downwind
Next one, a Grob G 102 Astir A Grob G 103 Twin Astir I
Colonel  Paul Rorive as towing pilot A low pass
On the runway a Grob G 103 Twin Astir II Preparing for the next flight
At landing the Grob G 103 Twin Astir II PL95 (note the 3 wheels) Installed and awaiting the towing plane
In final, speed breacks open To bring the glider back is also a job done by the Air Cadets
Student listening his monitor Fixation of the towing cable
One by one on the runway Help given to maintain the wing level till sufficient speed
A monitor is briefing his group Grob 102 Astir CS Jeans waiting his next driver
Low pass before landing for a refueling The tower and the towed...
The command post during the operations... ...and the safety vehicule


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