Cadet corps spreads wings
Shek Kong base closure forces training changes on eager young flyers. MIRANDA
Air cadets will be spreading their wings and flying to Australia for training.
Hong Kong Air Cadet Corps used to fly from Shek Kong when it was home to the Royal Air Force (RAF). But the airfield, which was open to cadets about four times a year, is now under PLA control.
Len Leung Koon-ping, wing commander at the corps, said: 'We have to develop an independent training system now that the RAF has left.' He said the new training had been tailor-made for 1,200 cadets, who are aged 12 to 21.
They will study aviation theory, qualifying them to receive practical training from the Australian Flying College.
Two cadets will this year receive scholarships to learn to fly Down Under.
Derek Lee Wai-wing, an officer at the corps' training group, said: 'The climate and the fact there are more places available in Australia makes it suitable for training pilots.
'As the international aviation language is English, it is better to train pilots in Australia than in China.' The new curriculum is divided into two levels - intermediate, for cadets aged 15 to 18, and advanced, for the over-18s.
'The intermediate level is a mixture of training in basic flying knowledge and leadership skills and the advanced level focuses on theory,' said Mr Leung.
He said a closer relationship with China's air force was being forged.
'Our expenses for training young pilots are mainly covered by private donations, but this kind of programme is government-funded in Singapore,' he added.
The territory has been hosting 31 air cadets from the United States, Britain, Singapore, the Philippines and the Netherlands, as part of a summer exchange scheme.
Rosalind Choo Kai Chin, a member of Singapore's National Cadet Corps for five years, said: 'It is interesting to see how Hong Kong air cadets receive their training.' Kai Chin said she had her first pilot's experience last year.
Catelly Lee Yeuk-yang, a 19-year- old Hong Kong cadet, said: 'Pilot training is more common overseas and is an extra-curricular activity.
'There are plenty of chances for flying practice and it is easier to gain a licence in foreign countries.' Her first time in charge of an aircraft was when she took the controls of a glider in Britain.
'It was a wonderful experience. Although it was my first time, I did not feel frightened. When I looked down, things on the ground were just like toys,' she said.
A minimum 70 hours' flying experience is required to qualify for a private pilot's licence.