ORIGINAL ARTICLE BY GEORGE EVANS
In 1945 the Air Cadet League of Manitoba Committee for 82nd Brandon Collegiate Squadron decided to buy a glider for Air Cadet training. They purchased a Schweizer 1-19 single place glider. Alex Venables, who was the high school science teacher and an Air Cadet officer, went to Arnprior, Ontario, for a course on how to fly and instruct on gliders.
When he returned, a gliding course was started at the Chater airport. This was an auxiliary field for the RCAF’s #12 Service Flying Training School at Brandon. If you drive down the Trans-Canada you can still see the hangar north of the highway near Chater.
CHALLENGE NUMBER 1: TOWING
To launch the glider we used 5,000 feet of jute rope and a van to tow the glider. The first van was used by the Air Force for controlling aircraft and had a glass tower on the roof. This van had to go to Army Surplus disposal, so for a while we used a two-ton beer truck which took about five gear changes to get up to 30 miles an hour. It was not the best tow vehicle and the brewery drivers were not too happy at giving up their weekends. We then borrowed half-ton trucks from the Manitoba Power Commission. When the novelty wore off for them, we bought a jeep from the Shilo army base and were independent.
The training was done in stages. First, you learned how to use the controls and balance the glider in a wind. Next, you were towed down the runway at moderate speed without becoming airborne. Finally, you were pulled into the air, climbed to about 100 feet and then landed straight ahead. Eventually you got up to 600 feet and did a circuit.
Our maximum tow altitude was about 1,000 feet.
A FLIGHT TO REMEMBER
One flight I remember well. I was towed to about 600 feet where a thermal began to lift me so I released the tow rope. While I was going up I had let the nose stay above the horizon. The next thing I knew I was diving at the ground and pulled the stick right back – and nothing happened! I thought the control cable to the elevators had broken. Of course, the glider built up speed and started to climb again. Bang! Another dive!
Fortunately for me I had always studied flying and at the time there was a radio programme about flying on CKRCX called ‘Howie Wing’, sponsored by Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. I started to think. ‘What would Howie Wing do?’ I remembered he had said what I was experiencing was a stall and “to put the stick forward to regain flying speed”. I did and recovered control. So, you might say: ‘Corn Flakes saved my life!’
We had a few minor incidents during the three years we flew at Chater. The
funniest was when a cadet named Ron Finley misjudged the wind and landed in a farmer’s back yard — left wing by the garage, right wing by the chicken coop and tail on the doghouse.
OUT OF COMMISSION
In 1948, the Department of Transport (DOT) found out we were flying a glider.
As this was an aircraft, it must have a Certificate of Airworthiness. Unfortunately we had done our own repairs for three years and DOT did not appreciate our efforts. It would have cost $1,500 to get a Certificate for the glider and the committee had no money to repair it, so “gliding with Air Cadets at Brandon” was ended. The glider, CF-ZAG was given to an Edmonton-based RCAF officer.
It was not until the 1960s that I got back into gliding and assisted in starting a
new Air Cadet gliding program – but that is another story.