Cadets to glide over Athabasca this weekend

Athabasca Air Cadet Colby Gauthier earned his glider wings as part of an Alberta Air Cadet League Gliding Scholarship last summer. He will be working as part of the gliding zone staff this weekend to provide air cadets an opportunity to experience gliding.

Gliders and tow planes will be taking to the skies above Athabasca

The Athabasca Regional Airport will be the site of some new activity over the weekend of May 12 to 13. About 75 Royal Canadian Air Cadets from Fort McMurray, Cold Lake, and Athabasca will be gathering to experience flying in a glider.

It’s all part of the aviation experience provided to air cadets for being part of the national youth program. The gliders are owned by the Air Cadet League of Alberta and maintained through a partnership with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Two gliders will be flown by pilots who attained their glider wings through the program and are towed by a pair of Scout tow planes before releasing to glide back to the ground.

Area residents will be able to easily recognize the gliders and tow planes by their distinctive yellow and blue paint. The temporary gliding zone was authorized by Transport Canada to take place this weekend. The gliders and tow planes are being brought to Athabasca from the Villeneuve Airport where they normally operate.

“We’re very excited to be able to host the cadets and glider zone staff at our airport,” says Norm De Wet, airport administrator. “We always strive to look for new ways to bring people to our airport and the overall aviation experience.”

One local air cadet from 230 Athabasca, Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron will be working as a member of the gliding staff at the airport. Flight Sergeant Colby Gauthier attained his Glider Pilot’s License last summer in Gimli, Manitoba after being selected for an Air Cadet League scholarship. Since that time he has been volunteering at gliding zones to work towards gaining enough hours behind the stick to become passenger rated and take other cadets up for a unique aviation experience.

“Flying in a glider is an experience like no other,” says Captain Dawn Bucholz, commanding officer of 230 Royal Canadian Air Cadets Squadron. “Once the glider releases from the tow plane its absolute silence and all you can hear is the whistling of the wind over the canopy. It’s very unforgettable.”

Hosting a gliding operation is a first for the Athabasca Regional Airport and was done to shorten travel time for cadets from communities in northern Alberta.

As with most aviation activity, the only thing that can hold back the experience is mother nature. If winds become too strong, or it begins to rain, the gliding weekend will be put off or postponed until conditions improve.