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Royal Air Force Grob G103A Viking T1 conventional glider takes off at RM Condor, Scotland.
Royal Air Force Grob G109B Vigilant T1 motor glider lands at RIAT 2008, England.

Volunteer Gliding Squadrons (VGSs) are Royal Air Force flying training units, operating military Viking TX.1 (conventional) and Vigilant T.1 (motor) gliders to train Air Cadets from the Combined Cadet Force and the Air Training Corps.

The VGSs operate under the administration of the Air Cadet Organisation's Flying Branch, but come under No.22 (Training) Group, formerly the Royal Air Force Training Defence Agency, of the Royal Air Force Air Command. The 28 Units, along with the Air Cadet Central Gliding School, are standardised annually by the Royal Air Force Central Flying School.

VGSs are made up of volunteer staff. Each is headed by a Commanding Officer and several executives, all of whom are commissioned into the Training Branch of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Instructors comprise a mixture of regular RAF/RN/Army personnel, Reservists, civilian gliding instructors (CGIs) and Flight Staff Cadets (FSCs).


Brief History



Gliding was first introduced around 1939, but formally became part of the official training after 1943. Post 1946, 87 Gliding Schools (GSs) came under the Reserve Command.


Initially the gliding schools were established under RAF Reserve Command (later to become RAF Home Command). In 1955, RAF Flying Training Command took over the responsibility and amalgamated them into 27 gliding schools under Headquarters Air Cadets. At the same time the gliding schools were renumbered with three-digit numbers, the first two digits being the parent Home Command Group (Nos. 61, 62, 63, 64, 66 or 67).[1] In 1968, RAF Training Command was established, incorporating Flying Training Command. This was later to become part of Personnel and Training Command and in turn subsumed into Air Command in March 2007, where the gliding schools rest today.

Under Air Command, the chain of command for these units are regulated through No.22 (Training) Group RAF. On behalf of AOC No.22 (Training) Group RAF, the Volunteer Gliding Squadrons and Air Cadet Central Gliding School are the collective responsibility of the Air Cadets Chief-of-Staff, who is appointed as Commander Gliding.

Formation of the Central Gliding School (CGS)

Formulated in 1946, the Home Command Gliding Instructors School (HCGIS) was established in 1949 at RAF Detling to train Qualified Gliding Instructors for the gliding schools. With the disestablishment of Home Command, HCGIS was split into two Gliding Centres to accommodate the gliding schools in the north and south of the UK. A further reorganisation amalgamated the Gliding Centres into the Central Gliding School in 1972 at RAF Spitalgate, where it renamed into its present title of the Air Cadet Central Gliding School (ACCGS) in 1974.

The ACCGS is commanded by a Wing Commander RAF, who also acts as OC Flying for RAF Syerston. The Chief Instructor is a Squadron Leader RAF. The examiners of the ACCGS, are Flight Lieutenant RAFR and Squadron Leader RAFR officers.

From Wood to GRP

The RAF chose to re-equip the ageing fleet with the first of the modern GRP gliders. In order to achieve this, in 1983 the RAF acquired an initial batch of 10 Schleicher ASK 21 named Vanguard T Mk 1. The first examples were delivered to the ACCGS at Syerston in time for the new Instructors' courses to take place. The first VGS to equip with these was 618 VGS at RAF West Malling. Instructors from this unit were converted to the new training syllabus and flying the type during July and August of that year. The first Vanguards were delivered to West Malling in July 1983 and training for Cadets began in August.

After the initial 10 were delivered Alexander Schleicher was unwilling to open a production line for the MoD as they did not want to sideline their civilian market. A tender was issued and Grob Aerospace was awarded the contract to supply 100 Grob G 103 Twin II Acro Gliders which the RAF named Viking T Mk 1 in Air Cadet service. A single specimen was delivered to Slingsby Aviation in the UK for fatigue life testing.

Introduction of Motor Gliders

The Venture T.1 was trialed at the ACCGS at RAF Spitalgate in 1971/73. 10 GSs were first issued with the T.1 variant in 1977, but were quickly upgraded with the TX.2. With the development of many sites and closures of many RAF aerodromes put strain on many conventional VGS. Further GSs were allocated with the TX.2s. In 1991 the Venture TX.2 was replaced with the Vigilant T.1. Originally designated the Vigilant T.1, . The number of VGSs now operating Viking T.1 to Vigilant T.1 are 12:16.

Disbandment of the Competition Fleet

In 2000, ACO-COS Group Captain Mike Cross announced the sale of the Valiant T.1 and Janus T.1 fleets. This concluded the RAF's many successful years competing in National Gliding Competitions and setting World Records.

Schools to Squadrons

Initially established as Gliding Schools, the GSs were re-designated Volunteer Gliding Schools (VGSs) in 1978. In 2005, following a decision by the Royal Air Force Board, the VGSs were placed into the Elementary Flying Training Unit register, and consequently were renamed Volunteer Gliding Squadrons, keeping their VGS acronym. Note that some of these Volunter Gliding Squadron numbers now duplicated those of past or present RAF flying squadrons, such as the famous No. 617 Squadron RAF.


Present Conventional Glider VGSs

  • 611 VGS (STANTA Airfield), formerly 102 GS
  • 614 VGS (MDP Wethersfield), formerly 142 GS, 146 GS and 147 GS
  • 615 VGS (RAF Kenley), formerly 141 GS and 168 GS
  • 617 VGS Currently Homeless (formerly at RAF Manston)
  • 621 VGS (Hullavington), formerly 87 GS and formerly at Locking Airfield W-S-M
  • 622 VGS (Trenchard Lines), formerly 89 GS
  • 625 VGS (Hullavington), formerly 83 GS
  • 626 VGS (Predannack), formerly 82 GS
  • 643 VGS (RAF Syerston), formerly 107 EGS
  • 661 VGS (RAF Kirknewton), formerly 1 EGS
  • 662 VGS (RMB Condor), formerly 2 GS and 5 GS

Present Motor Glider VGSs


Conventional Gliders

In service

No longer in service

Non-GRP construction
GRP construction

Motor Gliders

In service

No longer in service

  • Slingsby Venture TX.1 (One entered service, mainly used at ACCGS)
  • Slingsby Venture TX.2 (15 entered service, followed by a further 25)

See also


External links

Volunteer Gliding Squadrons


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