Lieutenant Colonel Mike French addresses the graduates. Photo by Scott Strasser.

Smoky skies cause delays to air cadet’s glider training program

Poor air conditions meant that cadets were unable to fly enough hours to receive their pilot’s licenses, despite graduating from the Air Cadet Gliding Program

Air cadets from across western Canada were recognized in the Comox Valley at the glider pilot scholarship course and advanced aviation course graduation ceremony on Aug. 11.

More than 90 air cadets from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon and the Northwest Territories took part in the programs this summer, which were run through the Comox Cadet Flying Training Centre (CCFTC). The graduation ceremony took place at CFB Comox Hangar 15, the home of the CCFTC.

Despite finishing their course, the graduates will have to wait a little longer before they can get their “wings.”

Due to poor air conditions caused by smoke from the British Columbia wildfires, the cadets could not complete enough flying time to receive their Transport Canada Glider Pilot’s licenses. CCFTC staff said the delay is “unprecedented.”

“This has been a tough summer for you guys. There’s been a natural disaster in B.C. this entire summer,” said Lt.-Col. Mike French, addressing the crowd of graduates. “While we’re not necessarily celebrating people graduating and getting their wings today… this is still a celebration of your accomplishments to date and those to come, as well.”

An air cadet needs to complete the full syllabus of the glider pilot scholarship course in order to receive his or her wings. This includes conducting 28 flights with an instructor and 20 solo flights. The cadets also need to pass a Transport Canada written exam.

While every cadet in the course passed the written exam this summer, smoky conditions prevented them all from getting enough time in the air. As a result, the glider pilot scholarship course has been extended by a week, to give cadets more time in the air.

“Obviously we don’t control the weather,” said 2nd Lt. Rebecca Lumley, who is a standards pilot and deputy flight commander with the CCFTC.

“We’ve been working hard on alternative plans to find ways to help those cadets get their wings. We sent some cadets to other regions to make things work a little smoother this summer.”

The Aug. 11 graduation ceremony still featured marches from the cadets, speeches from various commanding officers and several awards handed out to some of the cadets.

One award recipient was Courtenay resident and cadet Amanda Nielsen. She earned the Order of St. George Medal, which recognizes the top staff cadet who has distinguished themselves through exemplary performance of their duties.

According to the CCFTC, as of 9 a.m. on Aug. 12, three of the air cadets had received their wings.

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