Air Cadet glider program may be grounded
Potential cuts to the program could mean cadets' glider days are numbered
Potential cuts to the Air Cadet Gliding Program could mean the days of soaring cadets are coming to an end.
In Department of National Defence emails obtained by the CBC, the department proposes cuts to the Air Cadet Gliding Program, saying the "ACGP has become the primary target for cost reductions within the cadet program."
The email says the decision to close the glider program "will come as a complete surprise."
"This is indeed a dark day for the Air Cadet Program," it says. For many young cadets, the gliding program gave them their first taste of flight.
The memos make it clear that the decision to cut the glider program is only being considered at this time, but that the program is viewed as unaffordable by leadership in the Canadian Forces.
The program could be cancelled across the country as early as next year.
In question period Monday, NDP defence critic Jack Harris grilled Defence Minister Peter MacKay on the topic of possible cuts to the glider program.
"Mr. Speaker, what I can assure the honourable member is that we will not be cutting the cadet program, and I can assure the member that we will continue to make increases in the budget of the Department of National Defence," said MacKay.
Harris countered that people who run the gliding program are being told that cuts are possible.
"Is he, or is he not, slashing this important glider training program for young air cadets?" asked Harris.
MacKay said that a decision on the glider program had yet to be made.
"I can assure the House that the cadet program will continue to enjoy this important use of gliders. In fact, we continue to review and assess the effectiveness of programs, but there is no decision with respect to the cadet glider program," he said.
The glider program is a partnership between the Air Cadet League of Canada and the Department of National Defence.
There are five glider schools across Canada, including: Comox, B.C., Gimli, Man., St-Jean-sur-Ric
After earning glider wings, many cadets go on to fly powered aircraft.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who is currently the commander of the International Space Station, was a member of the Air Cadets in the 1970s. At the age of 15, Hadfield earned a glider pilot scholarship. He went on to earn a powered pilot scholarship at 16 years old.