Cadets offered rare aviation experience

Youth at the Penhold Air Cadet Summer Training Centre fly in biplane

  • Jul. 24, 2013 8:14 p.m.

Fifty cadets have the opportunity this week to fly in a vintage biplane that was used for training in the Second World War.

The Raytheon Yellow Wings Youth Leadership Initiative is providing the opportunity for the youngsters. About 500 cadets are currently staying on the old Penhold base taking various courses throughout the summer. Of those, 50 were chosen via writing an essay as to why they deserve the opportunity to fly.

Those 50 cadets are having the opportunity to fly in a Boeing PT – 27 Stearman over the course of this week. According to the Yellow Wings web site, the two-seater biplane introduced by Stearman Aircraft Division of Boeing in Wichita, Kansas, in 1934, became an unexpected success during the Second World War. Despite its almost obsolete design, its simple, rugged construction made it ideal as a trainer for novice pilots for the U.S. Army Air Corps and U.S. Navy.

Vintage Wings of Canada was founded in 2003 and is based in Gatineau, Quebec. Each year, Vintage Wings’ qualified volunteers pilots fly its collection of 15 beautifully-restored aircraft from the Second World War and the Cold War to thousands of Canadians at events and air shows across Canada. It is a public charitable organization with the pilots being volunteers. The cost of running the planes are by the way of donations.

Krusti Whelan, pilot with Vintage Wings is at the old base this week.

“We’re here to try and instill a little bit of aviation in them by way of this 70-year-old biplane that was used for training for those fighting in the Second World War. They also learn about the history of the plane, the wonder of flight and they also get some talking to about the importance of staying in school. We hope they become the future leaders of Canada.”

Vintage Wings of Canada is giving this opportunity to youth across Canada. Officials are hoping to fly about 500 cadets by the end of the summer.

Cadet Mallory Schafer, 16, of Coronation, had a chance to fly in the plane earlier this week.

“It was absolutely breathtaking,” she said.

Schafer is going into her sixth year as a cadet and said she initially got involved because of her grandfather.

“I enjoy the whole experience and everything it brings with it. It’s unique and it’s something that not everyone can experience,” she said, adding she hopes to one day join the military and become a search and rescue technician.

Cadet Gregory Esman, 17, from Ottawa, also had the opportunity to fly the vintage plane.

“It was amazing. Air cadets gives you a lot of cool opportunities. It was really cool to have your hands out of the cockpit and feel the air and I like how everything is old-fashioned – the headsets are old-fashioned,” he said, adding he hopes to incorporate flying into his future even if it just as a hobby. “It was great to have this opportunity.”

Esman has been apart of cadets for more than five years.

“I enjoy the new people you get to meet, very important life skills that you learn and you get a lot of leadership skills.”

Pilot Derek Blatchford said the opportunity these cadets get by flying in a vintage plane is a once in a lifetime experience.

“When you watch them at the end of the flight, you see their faces and it’s just amazing.”

Pilot Jeff Bell, who was a basic cadet in 1992 at the base said it’s a great experience to be back to inspire today’s youth.

“It’s great to come back and to be involved in this organization – it’s a phenomenal organization. We didn’t get to do stuff like this when I was in cadets, so this would have been really great to do back then. It’s an awesome opportunity,” he said. “I really like seeing their faces and their interaction and their interest. They are all here because they have a high level of interest and it is really inspiring to talk to somebody at this stage, who is ready to make all of these important life decisions.”

For more information about the program check out www.yellowwings.ca. There is also a facebook page called ‘500 Dreams Take Wing’ set up for the cadets chosen across Canada to fly in the vintage planes where participants are posting their experiences and photos.