Like quite a few things the PTTs seem to have appeared without any planning strategy to how they would really contribute to what we do. They have produced some photo opportunities though. Add in everything else going on around them it now appears even more of a mess. Initially they had no support to speak of, eventually a syllabus appeared, they are scattered around the country and we now have a load of them based on an aircraft we don’t operate. Dare I also mention the immobile ACE platforms?
When describing the Cadet aviation offering, even taking into account the new younger cadets who aren’t allowed on the airfield who were to use them, the PTT was always going to create a bottle neck. Was this ever looked into? Now there is only conventional gliding available you really want everyone out on the airfield making the magic happen with cadets that can get out there. On a gliding day who really wants to be stuck inside in a hot room sitting in a bath tub? Also, they are single points of failure in the system in certain locations.
In terms of teaching for Silver Wings, the PTT does have great potential to nail and program into a cadet some basic principles that would save valuable time in the air, but there are also big limitations with the device. It would now be good, having operated them for a bit of time now, for 2FTS to get some feedback so the syllabus can be refined from Instructors’ experiences. It was suggested last year, and then never happened.
The Fam and Blue courses, often combined, could do with a little adjustment but it kills me to see pictures of 12 cadets sitting around a PTT looking pretty vacant whilst one of them goes through the motions. Also, not so great is the deflating disappointment of not being able to fly the approach and landing bit at the end, which with some small changes could generally be achieved. This needs to be a positive experience.
From the Aerospace Camp a couple of years ago I note that 614 VGS had adjusted some of the Fam and Blue content based on what is taught in the air to counteract these issues. They also conducted the sessions in smaller half day groups with other activities for the cadets to do. One Officer there put a lot of effort into arranging all this along with trying to intercept Squadrons about to or had recently been flying. I understand the feedback on the PTT visits was generally quite positive because of his efforts. Unfortunately, they now cannot offer such sessions as in the past due to their new relocation.
It would be great if the simulators at the Squadron could be utilised more with materials and people trained to teach on them. One important component part of the system is standardisation in terms lessons, teaching process and phraseology. It is really hard to re-program all this if done incorrectly when a student rocks up for their Silver Wings course, putting them at a big disadvantage. I overheard the results of this issue this last summer as a local Flying Instructor was de-briefing to a cadet’s parents following a trial flying lessons. He was good at flying, but the Instructor was very concerned that his head was permanently stuck in the cockpit looking at the instruments after spending hours on his Squadron’s flight simulator. Dangerous, and it now will take now a bit longer to de-program this out of him. Teaching correctly is really important to achieving success, and why the CFS/ CGS/ VGS teams worked extremely hard on their instructing standards. Trust me it is not a Sky God complex, it is to get as many Cadets as possible to that all important life changing solo.
At Squadron level it may takes some effort to do this, but not impossible. You may find that you need to ask (insist and insist again) that your BA Training Captain/ Flying Instructor/ Flight Sim Expert, or whoever who would love to do this has to learnt some standard phraseology, patter, ensure the teaching points are made and follow a correct syllabus. As I said, this can be hard, but not impossible with some help, 2FTS?
However, that all said, what Air Cadets really need is to get their backsides into the air, and not in a PTT, badges awarded, or not. The message everyone should be sending/ pushing is to get gliding and flying meaningfully back into the Air Cadets, leave the PTTs for rainy days and supporting training and not taking over it.