This Wednesday (24 November), at the Beauvechain base, Belgium the ‘Air Cadets‘ wings were handed over to the class of 2020 and 2021. Due to the COVID crisis, the 2020 ceremony could not be held as planned.
They were 80 to receive their wings during this ceremony which also marked the 65th anniversary of the ASBL “Les Cadets de l’Air de Belgique”. This civilian association is supported by the Defence Air Component.
The purpose of this association is to arouse and encourage young people’s enthusiasm for aviation in a spirit of camaraderie. It is also a gateway to a career as a pilot in the Air Component. Each year, about 50 young boys and girls between the ages of 15 and 16 can join the association for glider pilot training for a period of three years. After this period, the best cadets have the possibility to stay in the association for another three years. Currently there are 200 cadets and almost as many executive members in the association. Training is provided by a cadre of active and reserve military and civilians.
The President of the Belgian Air Cadets, retired General Guido Van Hecke: I would like to congratulate the graduates for the years 2020 and 2021 as well as their parents who have supported them during their training. Whether your dream is to become an Air Force pilot on an F-35, an A400M or a helicopter, or whether your dream is to become a civilian pilot or an engineer, the fact that you have been free as a bird in the sky, no one can take that away from you. Whatever happens later, don’t forget to dream and make your dreams come true.
The discipline that we instill to your children is well thought out and necessary to achieve their dream and in complete safety. Being a pilot is not without its dangers and requires this sometimes rigid approach. Whatever they do later this training will remain an enrichment for the rest of their lives.
I would also like to thank the executives and instructors of our association without whom your dream would not come true. Despite the difficult health situation, this staff was still able to carry out a program allowing the cadets to make this dream come true.
A little history :
Following the First World War, many planes passed into the hands of individuals and flying clubs. This is how the “National Aeronautical Propaganda Committee” was born at the end of the 1920s. The “Belgian Air Scouts” were born and were quickly renamed “Belgian Air Cadets”. In 1939 a first squadron led by Gérard Tremerie was created in Evere.
In 1955, the Belgian Air Force officially agreed to support the association. This was also observed in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. In 1956, the non-profit organization “Les Cadets de l’Air de Belgique” was founded. This association is still a civil youth movement which is actively supported by the Belgian Air Component.
A few words from Alexis, one of this year’s licensed cadets: It all started with the dream of becoming a pilot. When I heard about the Air Cadets and being able to fly a glider solo, I said to myself that this is for me. After passing through the military hospital we all hoped to be selected and start our base camp in Leopoldsburg, but unfortunately the Covid crisis decided otherwise. We had to take courses via video conference and our Easter camp was cancelled. During the summer holidays we found ourselves in Weelde and we didn’t know anyone.
As a midshipman I would like to thank our instructors without whom this would not be possible. They also instilled in us this team spirit, discipline and respect. Although we are alone in the plane, it is a team sport as our instructors remind us. It is also during our first solo that they are very necessary, indeed being alone first time in a cockpit is scary. In case of error, nobody is there… That’s why their support and confidence is essential. So that’s what flying alone is all about…
We thought we were leaving Weelde with a flying skill, but on top of that we had friends, memories, and unique experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything.