Glid­ing schol­ars

Pilot - - PILOT NOTES -

Give nine 16- to 18-year-olds in­tense glid­ing tu­ition for two weeks and see how many can get to solo stan­dard by the end

For the past four years, Boe­ing and The Air League (sup­ported by Bri­tish Air­ways and law firm Lin­klaters) have spon­sored schol­ar­ships giv­ing in­ner-lon­don school stu­dents aged six­teen to eigh­teen the chance to learn to glide – and hope­fully go solo – in an in­ten­sive two-week pro­gramme at the Lon­don Glid­ing Club. It’s aimed at stu­dents who would not nor­mally consider avi­a­tion as a ca­reer or get the chance to fly. This year’s nine suc­cess­ful stu­dents – three each from John Roan School (Green­wich), Skin­ners’ Academy (Hack­ney) and Kings­dale Foun­da­tion School (Dul­wich) – earned their places in a com­pet­i­tive selec­tion process.

Fol­low­ing pre­sen­ta­tions at each school, the whole class en­joyed a taster day at the glid­ing club, and in­ter­ested stu­dents ap­plied for the course. Based on that ap­pli­ca­tion, forty were cho­sen to at­tend an as­sess­ment day at BA’S head­quar­ters in late May. The day is in two parts. First, stu­dents have an in­ter­view with Boe­ing and BA per­son­nel in­clud­ing com­pe­tency-based ques­tions. Then there’s a group chal­lenge to see how well they can work with oth­ers, pre­sen­ta­tions from Boe­ing, and a ques­tion­naire about avi­a­tion. Up to nine stu­dents are then cho­sen for the course, based on their mo­ti­va­tion, effort and com­mit­ment.

Boe­ing UK Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Man­ager, Ka­te­rina Gian­nini said: “We call them 21st cen­tury skills — they don’t fit into par­tic­u­lar sub­jects but are vi­tal to their fu­ture, for ex­am­ple crit­i­cal think­ing and prob­lem solv­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and pre­sen­ta­tion skills. Even stu­dents not se­lected gain rel­e­vant skills to put on their CV.”

The young­sters live to­gether on the air­field, learn­ing fly­ing the­ory and tak­ing to the air ev­ery fly­able day with in­struc­tors. They also check cor­rect con­trol move­ments for col­leagues about to go fly­ing (which are dif­fi­cult to see once seated in the glider), as well as driv­ing the bug­gies to re­trieve and re-po­si­tion the glid­ers – of­ten the first time they have driven any ve­hi­cle! In past years, stu­dents have also en­joyed a visit to Lu­ton’s ATC to see how a large air­port op­er­ates.

Pi­lot vis­ited the stu­dents on their third day. Said Em­manuel Si­woku, 17, from Kings­dale, “I’ve had three flights to­day and have done seven so far. I’m re­ally en­joy­ing it. I’m shar­ing a room with a school mate.” Kelell Dav­i­sonThomas from Skin­ners’ added, “It’s been re­ally cool so far and it’s good fun. We’re all get­ting on to­gether and I’m learn­ing a lot.”

Club in­struc­tors, most of them vol­un­teers, teach stu­dents the ef­fects of con­trols, gen­eral han­dling, how to turn and bank, how to read clouds and find lift — and even­tu­ally how to land. The aim is to get them ready to go solo within the two-week course, as sev­eral have done in pre­vi­ous years. Air League trus­tee and glid­ing in­struc­tor, Andy Perkins, whose day job is as a BA Boe­ing 777 se­nior first of­fi­cer, is pas­sion­ate about giv­ing young peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity to learn to fly. “One of The Air League’s aims is to ex­cite young peo­ple’s in­ter­est in avi­a­tion and aerospace,” he said. “As well as these schol­ar­ships, we of­fer around 200 school stu­dents glid­ing taster days with the op­por­tu­nity to join the Air Cadets.”

This year’s in­take is all boys but the first year was all girls and other years a mix­ture. The club has learned a lot over four years and in­struc­tors en­joy tak­ing stu­dents from zero to solo in just ten days. Says in­struc­tor Alan Har­ri­son, “We’ve had the priv­i­lege of work­ing with some fine young peo­ple from a di­verse in­ner-city area. To watch them grow in self-con­fi­dence and re­spond pos­i­tively to be­ing given real re­spon­si­bil­ity is enough to make any in­struc­tor proud!”

Jeavon Moo-young, Kings­dale learn­ing men­tor, summed up the rel­e­vance of the ex­pe­ri­ences to the stu­dents and to the school, “This is the peak of their ex­tra cur­ric­u­lar ex­pe­ri­ences. The in­struc­tors even write ref­er­ences for them for univer­sity. It helps them un­der­stand that there are things be­yond what you can see.”

Above: Em­manuel Si­woku pre­pares for takeoff (top) and In­struc­tor Alan Har­ri­son briefs Michael Odetola

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