Air Cadet Uniform circa 2009

The challenge faced by the Air Cadet leaders of the sixties was to revitalize the Movement and establish its credibility with a new and very aware generation of young Canadians.

In the early years of Air Cadets, the RCAF had operated an impressive number of bases scattered across the country and there was no shortage of small aircraft, especially those in the Expeditor or Dakota categories, which were well suited to providing familiarization flying opportunities for Air Cadets. However, with the coming of Service unification in Canada, the closing of many air bases and amalgamation of others - and with the trend to larger, long-range aircraft - the situation changed rather drastically.

By the mid-1960s, it had become obvious that Air Cadets were no longer being provided with sufficient opportunities to experience the thrill of flight. Faced with the problem of maintaining cadet interest, the Air Cadet League decided to put the "AIR" back in Air Cadets.

In the summer of 1965, the western members of the League launched an experimental gliding program in conjunction with the Air Cadet summer camp at Penhold, Alberta. From that small beginning, gliding has developed into a major project and has built up to the point where the Air Cadet Movement carries out more than 60,000 glider flights each year and graduates 320 licensed Air Cadet glider pilots annually.

In 1967, a glider procurement program was launched by the Air Cadet League with the goal of building up our own fleet of gliders for use not only at Summer Camps, but during the spring and fall gliding seasons as well.

The current insured value of Gliders and Tow Aircraft is $4,782,000.

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The Air Cadet flying and gliding program was given a terrific shot in the arm in late 1972 when the League was authorized to purchase at a nominal price, surplus L-19 aircraft being released by the Canadian Forces. These were obtained through Crown Assets Disposal Corporation and continue to play an effective role, along with the other aircraft, in what is the largest gliding program in the world. The Air Cadet League now owns and operates a fleet of more than 100 aircraft.

The Gliding Program is a cooperative partnership effort between the CF and the Air Cadet League and is conducted in accordance with the terms of a renewable contract.

The aim of the glider familiarization program is to provide each junior Air Cadet with at least one familiarization flight per year. The glider familiarization programs are conducted on weekends from March to June and from September to November at over 60 locations across Canada, ranging from Transport Canada airports to approved grass operating areas. During the summer, familiarization flying is also provided for junior Air Cadets attending courses at Cadet Summer Training Centres co-located with Regional Air Cadet Gliding Schools.

In addition to flying at the gliding sites, the junior Air Cadets have the opportunity to participate as glider ground crew, positioning the gliders for take-off and retrieving them after landing. The Air Cadet League provides administrative and recreational support at the gliding sites in order to reduce the workload of the flying staff and the squadron supervisors.

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The six week summer Regional Gliding School course provides an opportunity for 320 Air Cadets to obtain a Canadian Glider Pilot license. The candidate selection process is the same as that for the Flying Scholarship Program, except that the minimum age for a Glider Pilot is 16 years. CIC officers qualified as Glider Instructors or Glider Tow Pilots comprise the flying training staff. Since the start of the gliding program, approximately 13,000 Air Cadets have completed the glider pilot course.

The Air Cadet Gliding Program involves the efforts of many people at all levels: the Directorate of Cadets and the National Air Technical Authority at NDHQ, Air Cadet League Headquarters in Ottawa, Regional CIC and Air Cadet staff personnel, and of course, the many Air Cadet League volunteers in the provinces and territories.

Figures received on a regular basis from Transport Canada and the Airline Pilots Association, Canada reveal that one out of every five Private Pilots in Canada at the present time is an ex-Air Cadet and 67 percent of the Commercial/Airline Pilots flying today got their start in Air Cadets. No statistics are available on how many Air Cadets join the Canadian Forces; however, it is estimated that 28% of the flying, technical and administrative members serving in the Air Force today had some form of Air Cadet training. Even more important, the failure rate among ex-Air Cadets joining the service is almost nil.

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