Seventy-four new Air Cadets

On Sunday 31st October, at the Royal Technical School of Saffraanberg, retired Lt. Gen. Guido Van Hecke, President of the Belgian Air Cadets association, accompanied by Gen. Maj. Michel Audrit, Commanding Officer of the Belgian Air Component and President of the Executive Committee of the Belgian Air Cadets, have presented the glider pilot's licence to 74 candidate Flight Cadets so-called "Aspirants" of the 2004 promotion. The patent of this licence is symbolised by wings, which the young pilots will proudly display on their uniform. This also means that they are now fully entitled as Flight Cadets.

Among the recipients were no less than eight young girls, reflecting the sociological evolution of this youth movement founded nearly a half a century ago, on December 1955. It is to be noted that girls were admitted for the first time as Flight Cadets in 1991 after fierce internal debates and following the decision of the Belgian Air Force to accept female pilot candidates. A "revolution" forced by the then Air Force Chief of Staff... Lt. Gen. Van Hecke! That said, it is also rather funny to observe how challenging the presence of these young girls can be as they are often (for obvious biological reasons) more mature than the young boys of the same class of age.

Belgian Air Cadets

In his speech, Lt. Gen. Van Hecke has not only emphasized on the budgetary constraints and therefore organizational challenge that will be the result of newly announced cuts in the support of the Belgian Air Component but also on the outstanding achievement of the fleet re-equipment process started four years ago. The kingpin of this process being Cdt. Alain Knaepen, C.O. of the Military Gliding Centre of Goetsenhoven. The association has turned this year a page of its history with the withdrawal of its last vintage Schleicher ASK 13 and K8Bs gliders. The bulk of the fleet is now composed of modern gliders of composite construction such as: Grob G103 Twin Astir (09), G102 Astir Jeans (04), DG505 Elan Orion (04) and DG300 Elan (04). A fourth and last DG300 was purchased in Germany a few days before the ceremony, on Wednesday 27th October.

The Ministry of Defence award was handed to the Flight Cadets Kevin de Kroes and Denis Baix for their dedication to the association activities, their flying skills and their outstanding group spirit. The President of the Executive Committee award for the best Aspirant was handed to Arnaud Juwe for his general performance and spirit during his training. Also awarded, with the Belgian Air Cadets President prize, was retired Col. Gilbert Mullenders for his active and "everlasting" support to the association.

The Belgian Air Cadets currently consists of about 500 members divided into 200 training and support staff and 300 young (Senior) Flight Cadets and Aspirants. Every year it welcomes 75 new youngsters of both sexes, aged between 15 and 16 years to allows them to follow a three or four years gliding-training.

Belgian Air Cadets

The association's objective is to contribute to the moral, technical and physical training of the youngsters with a passion for aviation, with as ultimate target to see them eventually joining the Belgian Air Component. The result of this fundamental and qualitative work is that for years up to 50% of the Belgian graduate military pilots are former Flight Cadets. It is also worth noting that those who do not join the Air Component remain very air-minded; often embark on an aeronautical career and/or joining aero clubs and contributing therefore significantly to maintaining aviation in the country.

Text and pictures by

Vincent Pirard/Aviascribe

More info:

Belgian Air Cadets
Kwartier Lieutenant de BERSACQUES
Hannuitsesteenweg, 350
B-3330 Goetsenhoven
Tel: 016 / 80.48.62 from 09H00 until 11H30
Fax: 016/80.48.72

Last updated 11/07/05 11:03   Daniel Brackx