When I was young the stories my father told me about his days with the Royal Belgian Air Cadets inspired me to sign up and join myself. This ultimately led me to be where I am today.
It all started with the selection tests in September 2016 when I was 15 years old. I sat, stressing in the midst of 300 other candidates for the 50 slots. We were tested on our various physical abilities such as speed, power and endurance, also our educational capabilities in theoretical exams and finally a strict medical examination to determine if we were in perfect condition. During those weeks and the weeks that followed stress ruled me; when the brown envelope arrived saying I had been selected, I was euphoric. Little did I know that this was only the beginning.
During the Easter break, instead of going on a small vacation or chilling with friends like most people my age, me and my squadron were sent to a bootcamp on the military base of Leopoldsburg. It was an interesting experience to say the least. From the moment we stepped through the gate we were submerged into the harsh military regime. Every day we had 10 hours of lessons on everything we needed to know to fly gliders with one break in between. At the end of the 14 days we were expected to pass a massive exam on everything we had learnt, with 75% or higher. This would have naturally been easier if we weren't woken up in the middle of the night by trumpets and then having to do a 5k march - or do 50 pushups after breakfast because someone in the platoon didn't make his bed perfectly that morning! However, it made us physically and mentally stronger, it taught us discipline and respect. Believe it or not by the time I got home again I missed it… I felt like such a stranger to the modern day life I lived.
Finally, the summer vacation and the camp we had all been aiming… flying! During the 20 days we were taught by instructors on the gliders or sailplanes. From 7am - 8pm we were on the runway. The weather wasn’t too great during the camp, but that didn’t stop us from flying and enjoying ourselves to the fullest. I will never forget the moment on the 9th of August 17:30, it was my turn to do another flight and my instructor said “ Okay, good luck, I'll stay here and you just enjoy yourself.” And there I was five minutes later… In the Twin II Astir all alone at an altitude of 550m above the ground just souring on the wind.
Flying solo for me, is what made me decide, “This is what I want to do when I’m older”. I no longer need to listen to my dad's stories from ‘his day’ because I have my own wings now, I can tell my own story. The Royal Belgian Air Cadets and especially my Promotion; ‘The cobras’ are one big family… we all share one big passion and that is flying.
Flying is like an incurable addiction, Once you had a taste for it, you have it for life.