The weather in Colorado has not been very friendly to Soaring AM 251 these past few weeks. Between high winds and snow storms, it has been tough capturing Soaring AM 251. Webguy was able to get out to Davis Airfield the end of last week and the beginning of this week to capture both M and T days of soaring.
During the fourth-class academic year, the cadets will participate in the Introduction to Soaring Program (AM 250), which consists of 4 flights with one of them being an acrobatic flight. This gives the cadets an opportunity to see if aviation is a career they would like to pursue once they graduate from the Academy. During the summer before their third-class year, they can enroll in Basic Soaring (AM 251), which consists of 14 glider sorties with the opportunity for a solo flight (depending on proficiency). Approximately 330 cadets participate in the Basic Soaring Course. Basic Soaring graduates are eligible to apply to become Cadet Soaring Instructor Pilots (AM 461). Cadet Instructor Pilots conduct 95% of all glider flight instruction and go through a yearlong upgrade program during their third-class year to become Instructor Pilots (IPs). This earns them their G-Wings and the title of “Youngest IPs in the Air Force”. Some Cadet IP’s compete nationally in aerobatics and sailplane racing team competitions. The squadron operates 24 sailplanes (gliders) with 7 tow aircraft.
The 94th Flying Training Squadron conducts more than 20,000 training and competition glider sorties (flights) each year with the focus being on developing officers, leadership and character. During the morning AM 251 flight times, there are also Instructors getting flights to keep current or doing upgrades. Most instructors are cadets, but there are also Active duty or Reserve that instruct as well.
The glider is inspected prior to flight and flight plans are discussed between Instructor and student.
Students are seated in the front of the glider with the instructor directly behind them. Student and Instructor both have a full set of controls which allows for hands on learning and instruction.
Once the glider is positioned on the runway, the rope from the tow plane is connected to the glider. The rope is inspected by the student and IP and hand signals are used to let the student and IP know that the plane is hooked up properly and ready for takeoff.
There were some excellent landings on the synthetic landing field. The goal is to land as close as possible to where the gliders will take off from again, otherwise it is a long push to get it back to the runway. Sometimes the gator will come out and help tow them to their next location. The synthetic turf landing field is 430 feet wide and 3,000 feet long and is thought to be the largest single installation of synthetic turf in the world.
It was windy on the flying days which means someone always has to be holding onto a wing to prevent the wind from catching it and flipping it or smacking the wing into the ground, which could cause damage to the fiberglass. While it isn't a glamous job, someone has to do it!
To view the photos from this Soaring AM 251 session, go to Galleries > Airmanship > Soaring. Set photo order Oldest to Newest and then select start page. Or click on the links below.
Soaring M Day pg. 74-87 M Day
Soaring T Day pg. 87-102 T Day