New Gliding School Launches for Air Cadets

31 January 2014

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Delivery of RAF Air Cadet’s national gliding – which involves the world’s largest fleet of gliders – today switches to the command of the newly reformed No.2 Flying Training School (No. 2 FTS).

The school becomes a new centre of excellence in which young people can win their wings – often before they pass their driving test.

With its headquarters at RAF Syerston in Nottinghamshire, No. 2 FTS will oversee the gliding training programme for up to 45,000 air cadets aged 13-19. With 25 volunteer gliding squadrons around the UK, it provides training for the Air Training Corps’ 1,000 squadrons and 203 Combined Cadet Force (RAF) Sections in schools.

Group Capt John “JC” Cunningham of No. 3 Flying Training School hands over responsibility for RAF Air Cadet gliding to Group Capt John Middleton

The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, endorsed the change. He said: “No 2 FTS has a long and distinguished unit history; I am delighted that it has become the new home of cadet gliding. The reformation of No 2 FTS is not just another milestone for Royal Air Force Air Cadet gliding it is also one for our Reserve organisation, with John Middleton becoming the first Full Time Reserve Service officer, at the rank of Group Captain, in a flying command appointment.”

Air Cadet gliding has been under the command of No. 3 Flying Training School, RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire, for several years with the latter also delivering initial flying training to Regular Armed Forces aircrew and to the University Air Squadrons.

In a poignant ceremony at RAF Syerston today (Jan 31st), Group Captain John “JC” Cunningham, the Officer Commanding No. 3 FTS, formally handed over responsibility for gliding operations to Group Captain John Middleton, an experienced RAF aviator.

Group Captain John Middleton, said: “I feel honoured to have the opportunity to take air cadet gliding forward into a new era and thank all at No. 3 Flying Training School for taking excellent care of air cadet gliding in recent years.

“My long-term aim is to mature RAF Syerston into the air cadet centre for aviation excellence, whilst maintaining the high safety standards of air cadet gliding “

Commandant of the Air Cadets, Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty said:

“It feels as if gliding is coming home – back to the Air Cadet Organisation where it belongs. For the gliding community to have its own dedicated FTS is a great tribute to the excellence of the gliding instructors up and down the country who do so much to keep the air in air cadets.”

In another demonstration of the value of reservists to the RAF, John is the first RAF Full-time Reserve Service (FTRS) officer to be authorised as a Delivery Duty Holder – the term attached to responsibility for flying – but he is no stranger to the Air Cadet Organisation, having recently commanded the North Region of the Air Training Corps.

No 2 FTS has a long and distinguished history. It was first formed in 1920 at RAF Duxford, it moved to RAF Digby in 1924, where it was commanded for two years by Wing Commander Tedder who later became Lord Tedder, Marshal of the RAF.

The unit disbanded for a brief period in 1933 and reformed in 1934 under the command of Gp Capt (later Air Chief Marshal Sir) Trafford Leigh Mallory. It relocated to RAF Brize Norton in 1937 and was re-designated No 2 (Pilots’) Advanced Flying Unit in 1942.

In 1947, the unit moved to RAF Church Lawford; in 1953 to RAF Clunthoe and a year later it went to RAF Hullavington and then to RAF Syerston. In 1960, it became the world’s first all-jet ab initio training school. In 1970, the school relocated again, this time to RAF Church Fenton before finally locating to RAF Ternhill where it stayed until its disbandment in 1997.

Throughout its illustrious journey, No 2 FTS has operated a wide range of aircraft, including, from the early days, the Avro 504K, the Vickers Vimy and the Bristol Bulldog, though to Avro Tutors, DH Tiger Moths, Hunting Jet Provosts, Westland Wessex and Westland Whirlwinds. In its new role, back at RAF Syerston for the first time in over 60 years, the school will operate the Vigilant and Viking gliders.

The establishment of a dedicated FTS for gliding provides a new focus on the safe and effective delivery of cadet gliding.

Air Vice Marshal Mike Lloyd, the Air Officer Commanding 22 (Training) Group which will oversee 2FTS, said: " I am delighted to see the gliding community recognised in this way and I look forward to many more cadets earning their wings under the expert guidance of John and his team".

Editor: Denise Parker Housby

Photograph: Handover day - Group Capt John “JC” Cunningham of No. 3 Flying Training School hands over responsibility for RAF Air Cadet gliding to Group Capt John Middleton, Officer Commanding the newly reformed No.2 Flying Training School at RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire. RAF Cranwell Photographic Section.

RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2014

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