There was Iceman and Maverick, but now there are Kaylin Woods and Ashley Taylor, Guelph’s own glider pilots.
Woods and Taylor are in Grade 11 and 12 at Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School. They are both 16, the minimum age a person has to be to obtain their glider pilot license.
They applied for the Glider Pilot Scholarship, a seven week program part of the Air Cadet Gliding Program.
Only 90 people in Canada are chosen for the program each summer. It just so happened Woods and Taylor both from 121 Red Arrows Squadron and the same high school got in after countless tests and interviews.
During the summer in Trenton the cadets had many hours of ground school and had to take a Transport Canada exam. Taylor was one of three out of 30 air cadets who scored 98 per cent on the exam. She said she would have scored 100 per cent if the exam proctor brought the correct maps for one of the multiple choice questions.
They had to complete 24 flights with an instructor and 20 solo flights.
“When I did my first fight with the instructor, it was obviously super cool. But I was sitting there being like, I cannot believe they expect me to do this myself in like three weeks time. And when I went on my first solo flight, I kid you not I got up in the air and I looked behind me because I was convinced someone would be there,” said Taylor.
“Nobody in my family is a pilot. No one in my family is in the military. So it’s definitely a really big moment for me,” said Woods.
“I'm very laid back. I don't really stress. And for me … there's nothing more relaxing than flying,” she said.
Woods and Taylor flew a Schweizer SGS 2-33. Glider planes don’t have engines. The plane is taken up by another plane with an engine and is released into the air. The plane flies on pure momentum.
When you’re at camp surrounded by other air cadets and flying during the summer it seems normal, said Taylor. But when she came home and told her friends what she did during summer break her friends were pretty shocked.
Woods and Taylor joined air cadets at 12 years old. How they came to the cadet program was quite different.
Woods first got her introduction to flying through the Girls Can Fly program in Waterloo. “I went up with a pilot and just kind of fell in love with aviation,” she said.
She looked for different flying programs to find the best option since it can be expensive. “It's something when you're passionate about it, you can't stop thinking about it. So you know, 12-year-old me was super excited and enthusiastic about it,” said Woods.
Her father mentioned the air cadet program and Woods has been making her way through it ever since.
“For me, a crazy amount of my family are pilots and were air cadets. Not even exaggeration, pilot wise; my grandpa, my aunts, my uncles, my dad, my brother,” said Taylor.
It is a part of Taylor’s life so when she turned 12 starting air cadets was a no-brainer. Taylor’s older brother Zachary took her up in a plane for the first time.
“I was terrified.” He went pretty fast and did a couple of crazy turns. “And I got out of that plane and I told my parents I never want to do glider,” Taylor said.
She continued with the air cadet program and eventually was taken up by another pilot which was a better experience than the first.
The next step for the cadets is getting their private pilot licenses. They’ll have the chance in February to write the exam and if they are accepted they are in for another summer of flying but this time in engine powered planes.
“Before I came into the program, I was like, commercial all the way. After being in the program spending the last few summers at these air force bases, my goal is to go to Royal Military College and get into the air force,” Woods said.
“She’s going to be Maverick with her fighter jet,” said Taylor.
“The dream job for me is to fly an F/A-18. To be in the air force flying a jet,” said Woods.
Taylor is going to apply to the University of British Columbia for a combined neuroscience and psychology program. She plans to come back during the summers to teach other cadets how to fly gliders.
Woods and Taylor have a set of wings pinned to their uniforms and are ready to take flight.