I very much enjoyed Dave Unwin`s article on the T31 and am hungry for more on the magic of gliding especially on vintage types.
My flying started in 1963 at the recently re-homed Kent Gliding Club, Challock. Whilst not my first flight experience (that was on the venerable T21) much of my early training was on the T31, an admirable mount on which to learn circuit discipline, given its brick-like quality. However, the club’s policy at that time was to put members into the Slingsby Prefect for their first solo. I can recall to this day the mixture of excitement and apprehension as I sampled solo aviation for the first time on a machine with which I was previously unacquainted. I needn’t have worried: the Prefect was a pussycat and proved the soundness of the club’s policy. I wonder, are there any Prefects still flying and available for review? Failing this, an account of the T21 would be appreciated. David Scrutton by email I very much enjoyed reading the article on the Kirby Cadet TX Mk 3, which brought back many fond memories for me. No doubt you will be inundated with responses on this article as there will be a great many ex-cadets out there whose first experience of (solo) flight was in the Mk 3, or ‘flying brick’ as we affectionately called it! I got my gliding proficiency wings (and BGA A and B endorsements) way back in 1975 at 643 VGS, then based at RAF Lindholme, and stayed on for a time as a staff cadet, taking other cadets on air experience flights as a Grade 1 pilot. My favourite manoeuvre in the Mk 3 was the medium height launch failure, which required a relatively steep S-turn to land within the airfield boundary and provided an adrenaline rush for a sixteen-year-old pre-solo student! I once managed to soar a Mk 3 for 32 minutes, earning a Bronze C leg, by scratching around some very weak thermals, beating an instructor in a more capable T21 Sedbergh!
After a few years out of the organisation (including spending a few years with the RAFGSA at RAF Dishforth), I rejoined the Air Cadet gliding movement in 2002, instructing on the Vigilant (Grob109b) motor glider at 618 VGS, RAF Odiham, then subsequently at Kinloss (663 VGS) and Syerston (644 VGS) as I was posted around the country with the RAF. Sadly, I hung up my gliding overalls a couple of years ago but managed one last flight in a Vigilant at RAF Syerston to commemorate my time with the air cadets. Although I didn’t go on to be an RAF ‘Top Gun’ or airline pilot due to an eyesight issue, I nonetheless take pride at having been able to make a contribution to the careers of some of those who have gone on to greater things in the world of aviation, plus I still enjoy flying on my PPL.
One tiny point if I may: the VGS at Kinloss (which is no more) was 663 VGS, so assume that a typo found its way into your article. Bob Jackson, Lincoln
Just read Dave Unwin’s great report in Pilot magazine on the T-31. As he says, thousands of us first tasted solo flight in these machines – mine was at 661GS at Kirknewton, just outside Edinburgh, on 15 February 1975 in XE801. Solo aged sixteen after, yes, 1hr 21min dual time total! That certainly would not happen today!
Still flying after forty years of professional time in over 230 different types from balloons to C-5 and gliders to F-15. The T-31 certainly put me on that first step. Keep up the good work at the mag. Gordon Mcclymont by email