Going Solo – Air Force Cadets in the air

As an air-minded youth organisation, the AAFC has the mission of developing young Australians in a military and aviation environment.

CAPTION: Cadet Corporal Benjamin Dunk (right) after achieving solo status in the DG-1000S glider on 6 October 2017 during a gliding camp at Balaklava, SA; with Cadet Corporal Tomasz Kocimski (left) and their instructor Pilot Officer (AAFC) Dennis Medlow. Photo supplied by No 600 Aviation Training Squadron.

The pinnacle of this training would have to be gaining the right to fly an aircraft solo.

Benjamin Dunk has achieved that status in his AAFC career: he is a solo glider pilot, ‘C’ Certificate qualified, and provides instructional support to No 906 Aviation Training Squadron.

Dux of the Cadet Under Officer Course: CFSGT Benjamin Dunk from 613 Squadron (RAAF Edinburgh). Photo by Aircraftman (AAFC) Josh Watson, Assistant Public Affairs Officer No 6 Wing AAFC.
Dux of the Cadet Under Officer Course CFSGT Benjamin Dunk from 613 Squadron (RAAF Edinburgh). Photo by Aircraftman (AAFC) Josh Watson, Assistant Public Affairs Officer No 6 Wing AAFC.

In addition, he has risen to the rank of Cadet Under Officer and is now serving as the Cadet Executive Officer of No 613 Squadron, AAFC (RAAF Edinburgh).

Ben’s first experience in a rotary-wing aircraft was when South Australian cadets were given a flight in a Royal Australian Navy Bell 429 utility helicopter.

Then Leading Cadet Dunk was one of eight chosen through a competitive selection process from a number of cadets who expressed an interest in pursuing an aviation career in the Australian Defence Force.

The Bell 429 came from 723 Squadron at HMAS Albatross at Nowra.

Ben recently spoke to the 6 Wing Public Affairs & Communication Officer, Flying Officer (AAFC) Paul Rosenzweig, about some highlights of his training.

What is one of your best memories of cadets?

One of my fondest memories is when, after completing my glider pilot training and achieving my A, B, and C Certificate, I was called to the front of my fellow cadets and presented with my wings by my Commanding Officer who congratulated me on behalf of the squadron.

To stand in my Service Dress uniform with a set of wings over my heart was arguably one of the proudest moments in my life.

What was your first experience of flying (gliding)?

My first flight in a glider is a memory that will stick with me fondly. After following my instructor around our aircraft in our pre-flight checks I strapped in and listened as my instructor explained the procedures he was following to prepare us for take-off.

Upon lift off I got a feel for how a small plane interacted with the environment around us and after the release from our tow plane I took the controls.

Benjamin Dunk from No 613 Squadron in November 2016, a Leading Cadet at the time, prepares for an Air Experience Flight in a Royal Australian Navy Bell 429 utility helicopter. Photo by Flying Officer (AAFC) Paul Rosenzweig.
Benjamin Dunk from No 613 Squadron in November 2016, a Leading Cadet at the time, prepares for an Air Experience Flight in a Royal Australian Navy Bell 429 utility helicopter. Photo by Flying Officer (AAFC) Paul Rosenzweig.

Now I’ll admit, my first chance at controlling an aircraft wasn’t as smooth as I’d like to remember as I focused all my attention onto simply balancing the aircraft and keeping us pointed along the same heading.

But within minutes I felt I had begun to get the hang of things, particularly with the reassuring voice of my instructor coaching me through the entire experience.

What was your experience of going solo?

My first solo is an experience I will never forget. After seven hours of flight time my chief instructor exited our glider and told me the words I’ll never forget – “you don’t need me back here”.

We pushed the vehicles to the launch point and after I made my most thorough pre-flight check yet, then I went on my way…

Only to find the sky was full of three biplanes who had arrived unannounced and now were requesting to land.

Thankfully my instructor had my back and instinctively requested them to wait as a young pilot was taking to the air by himself for the first time. The biplanes were only too happy to oblige.

After a short but enjoyable flight, I turned in for my approach and made a landing which even today I consider one of my smoothest – before hopping out to find…

I was receiving a flyover by the three biplanes, the last of which happened to be a De Havilland Tiger Moth, a vintage trainer used to train pilots during the Second World War.

A fitting end to what at the time was the greatest achievement of my life.

What would you tell a new recruit joining today?

I would tell them the Australian Air Force Cadets has a wealth of experience and knowledge that they have the ability to tailor into an experience that suits them most. Even I haven’t been able to fully experience every activity or event that the AAFC has had to offer.

I have chosen to focus mainly towards aviation and leadership, but I could name countless other opportunities such as all of the national competitions, the adventure and survival opportunities run in conjunction with the Australian Army Cadets, the many training camps that are available nation-wide, and the exchanges that can happen both locally and internationally.

The cadets can cater for nearly whatever you are looking for, but most importantly, the AAFC will transform you into a mature young adult who is ready to enter the adult world with a range of incredible experiences and abilities.

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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

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