In 1960, the RAF’s No 623 Gliding School closed down at White Waltham aerodrome. Early in 1963 HQ Air Cadets decided to re-open the school at RAF Tangmere where it was to remain for the next twelve years. The task of the school was to offer air experience flying to Air Training Corps (ATC) cadets aged between 14 and 16 and to train selected cadets over 16 years old to fly gliders. Three solo flights were required before a cadet was awarded cadet gliding proficiency wings.
The school was staffed by Voluntary Reserve (VR) officers supported by VR officer instructors from local ATC units and civilian instructors, many of whom had served in the RAF. The gliders used were side by side Slingsby Sedburgh T21s and tandem configured Slingsby T31s. Two single drum winches were used to launch the gliders and a control van was provided for use at the launch point to log flights and provide signals to the winches.
Flying was carried out every weekend and five ten-day gliding training courses were run each year. The school was extremely successful rising to third place out of the 26 countrywide air cadet gliding schools for the number of cadets trained and launches flown. In the twelve years the school operated, over 80,000 launches were flown and hundreds of cadets went solo.
The school’s instructors were trained by the Air Cadet Central Gliding School (ACCGS) under the direction of the RAF Central Flying School (CFS), RAF Cranwell. ACCGS or CFS examiners carried out annual competence checks on the school’s instructors. Some of the cadets who achieved their gliding proficiency wings were taken on the school’s strength as staff cadets and trained as instructors. Many staff cadets went on in life to become RAF or civilian pilots.
The last flight of a No 623 Gliding School glider at RAF Tangmere took place at the end of 1975.
A MODEL OF A SLINGSBY T31 GLIDER IS DISPLAYED IN THE MUSEUM’S MERSTON HALL