Chilean Air Force take to UK skies

  |  Published: Jul 8th 2015
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The Royal Air Force Gliding and Soaring Association (RAFGSA) played host to visiting pilots from the Chilean Air Force (FACh) recently.  The invitation from the Chief of the Air Staff to the Chilean Air Force is an integral part of a long standing reciprocal arrangement between the RAF and FACh, which cements the UK/Chilean relationship at senior levels against the backdrop of wider defence diplomacy objectives.

The team of RAFGSA members, comprising of regulars, full-time reservists, university air squadron and ex-service personnel, were well supported by the Force Development Training Centre (Gliding) and the facilities of 613 Volunteer Gliding Squadron at RAF Halton.  Their aim was to deliver challenging flying opportunities and demonstrate how the RAFGSA operates and trains new pilots in the sport.

After a long journey from South America for the visitors, their first day was used to adjust to British Standard Time before the weather improved to conduct local area familiarisation flights from RAF Halton. The Chilean airmen were presented with challenging cross country flying conditions as the weather, specifically the thermic activity used to stay aloft, contrasts highly with that in Chile. All flights were around 250km in length with the gliders airborne for up to five hours. There was only one instance where the crew were unable to find enough lift to make it back to RAF Halton so they landed at Cranfield where the retrieval crew were despatched with the van and glider trailer.

With the weather outlook for Friday poor, a substitute activity was found in the form of G-Force tolerance training at Thorpe Park, which the visitors particularly enjoyed as it is something they don’t have the chance to do at home.  The weekend provided the opportunity for the FACh pilots to meet their Air Attaché in London as well as visit the Imperial War Museum in order to learn about the rich history of the British military.

The final flying day saw the Chileans operate alongside a Joint Service Adventurous Training (JSAT) gliding course run by the FDTC, and see first-hand how effective air power-related adventurous training is delivered at RAF Halton. This paves the way for service personnel of all ranks and abilities to find the gliding hands and feet they’ve had all along.  A barbecue that evening allowed the visitors to share service and gliding experiences with the British military personnel and provided a fitting conclusion to this important international exchange.

If you are interested in sampling gliding you can do it for free on a JSAT Course (booked through the usual channels) or for little cost at the weekend at one of the numerous RAFGSA clubs across the country.  For more information visit www.raf.mod.uk/rafgliding.

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