Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Air Cadet Gliding Program

I fly gliders as a hobby.  I learned how to do so 30 years ago by attending the Gliding Scholarship Course offered by the Air Cadets.  That course is part of the Air Cadet Gliding Program, a program that has been awarding glider licences to about 300 kids a year for about 50 years.

Many of these kids then participate in the Spring and Fall programs of the ACGP to build time and nurture their passion for flying.  Many like me will devote years to the program during these seasons (30 years for me) taking young Air Cadets up in the air to introduce them to gliding and to encourage them to attend the Glider Scholarship Course when they reach their 16th birthday.

You may recall Rick Mercer did a segment on this in the Fall when he visited a gliding centre in Alberta. 

Did I mention that all of this is free of charge for the kids?

I mention this because on the weekend it was revealed that the military is considering cutting this wonderful program as a cost cutting exercise and I seek anybody's assistance to convince them that such action would be a colossal mistake.  Many of us who are either still participating in the program or who participated in it in the past have started a Facebook Page to save the program and it has grown to over 11,000 members since Saturday but we still need to find other ways to put pressure on the military and its political masters to realize the program is extremely valuable.  It only costs around $25 million dollars a year to run, which is a rounding error in an $18 billion dollar defence budget.

We have made a good start as Peter Mackey has received questions two days running about this issue during QP but that is just the beginning.  We need to launch a sustained effort to stop this decision if we are to be successful.

Many Canadians have benefited from it and Canada has as well.  Countless airline and military pilots discovered and nurtured their passion for flying in Air Cadet Gliders.  Many Snowbird pilots, the pilot who landed the 767 in Gimli Manitoba when it ran out of fuel a few years ago, Chris Hadfield and even Peter Mackay's wife have benefited from this program.  In short its cost is a pittance in the grand scheme of the Defence budget but its value is incalculable. 

I would urge anyone who cares about saving a youth program that has been a resounding success for half-a-century to take whatever steps you think would be appropriate to help us save it.

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