The Air League and Air Pilots projects at CGC 2020

Credit: Josh East

From a contact made at the BGA Club Management Conference in November 2019 I began working with the Air League to develop a programme at CGC for the benefit of young, sometimes socially disadvantaged, people.  The Air League’s remit covers a broad range of aviation related activities and depends upon sponsorship from commercial organisations, usually in the aviation sector although some funding comes from national and local government schemes. Fuller details, some more photographs and a video can be found here: . Having established the ‘Air League – Soaring to Success’ programme at sites in the north east they are seeking to expand their activities in south. The CGC project was to ascertain if we could become a significant provider for them; ideally commencing in Spring 2020. By March we had completed due diligence, a lot of paperwork, and agreed a total of four weeks during which we would welcome 20 pupils in each day for three days.

But then came COVID 19.

Credit: Josh East

In June Tiina Conacher, the Air League organiser, contacted us to say that she had funding available if we could find a way of ‘making it happen’. True to CGC’s attitude of ‘if we can we will’ Peter Joslin, Colin Cownden and I worked with her to develop a socially distanced protocol to enable us to aerotow 10 pupils per day (rather than 20), for three days. The pupils were all recommended to the Air League by Southend District Council. We did not know their individual circumstances except I overheard one saying that he was one of six people living in a one room flat – but you got used to it! On Day 1 thanks to the efficiency and enthusiasm of CGC pilots Stephen Phillips and Chris Barrott plus tuggie Andy Butterworth we flew all ten by 11:00! Based on this we agreed to increase the numbers to 15 for the next two days. At such short notice SDC could only find a further 15 pupils – all of whom we flew enabling one or two of their accompanying adults to fly too. Stephen and Chris again stepped-up as did tuggies Chris Sullivan and George Knight: and Stephen Rae stepped in when he had a moment.

To top this off Tiina ‘wondered’ if CGC could also provide three five-day gliding courses for which bursaries had been awarded but she had been unable to find a gliding club to provide them. True to ‘if we can we will’, and with major thanks to Haluk Yildiz and James Kellerman stepping-up at short notice, we did two courses and, thanks to Andy Beattie, the third in a subsequent week.

As Tiina Conacher kindly put it in a recent email :-

‘The Air League is immensely grateful to CGC for helping us deliver the DfT funded Soaring to Success Programme this year which saw young people from South Essex take to the skies. The feedback has been 100% positive from everyone involved with many of the young people wishing to continue with gliding. We would also like to thank CGC for stepping in last minute to deliver our gliding scholarships this year. These were a huge success. We are looking forward to continuing our involvement with CGC in 2021. Thank you to everyone at CGC for making these events possible and for being so welcoming to us’.

Many thanks to everyone who made this happen; for which, so far, there are two paybacks. The Air League are already discussing booking two weeks in April 2021 and Arkan Aqiil, one of the 5 Day course pupils, wrote the following article and provided the photographs.

Richard Brickwood