Heritage: The great success of Fairlop’s flight school

PUBLISHED: 10:00 15 April 2018

Boys of the Air Training Corps inspect a Kirby cadet glider at Denham Gliding School, Buckinghamshire. Photo: Imperial War Museum

Boys of the Air Training Corps inspect a Kirby cadet glider at Denham Gliding School, Buckinghamshire. Photo: Imperial War Museum


In this week’s heritage column, local historian David Martin of the Fairlop Heritage Group reproduces a Recorder article published in May 1946.

The Fairlop Air Training Corps (ATC) gliding school achieved such an overwhelming success teaching young cadets to fly, that the Air Ministry strengthened this branch of flying, as qualified ATC Glider pilots will form the backbone of future RAF aircrew personnel.

ATC gliding lessons started at Fairlop during the war. The idea being to train boys with a view to becoming operational aircrew.

Training takes place at the airfield on Tuesday and Friday evenings and at weekends, directed by fully qualified instructors.

Fairlop is one of the more successful glider schools in the country because training is continued in all weathers, whether it be maintenance, ground instruction or when weather permits, actual flying.

There are 40 boys in a class for 4 to 6 weeks depending on the weather. All the lads are as keen as mustard and camp out on the aerodrome each weekend, cooking their own meals, generally roughing it and thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Each new recruit starts with ground instruction, which includes taking the Kirby Cadet gliders to pieces and reassembling them.

Next, the recruits go through all the flying routine by moving along the ground in a glider and learning how to manipulate the controls and the general idea of flight.

Gliders are fixed by a steel cable to winches at the other end of the airfield and as experienced operators wind up the winches, the glider moves across the airfield almost completely controlled by the winch.

When the recruit is competent with handling the controls, the winch is wound up a little faster and the glider leaves the ground in short hops.

The gliding is taught in easy stages, higher and higher until the instructor is perfectly sure of his recruits’ ability to handle the machine.

When 100 per cent confidence has been achieved, the recruits are allowed to do their first small circuit of the airfield.

As soon as the glider reaches the required height, the pilot pulls a switch that releases the cable.

He is guided if necessary by signals from his instructor on the ground whom he can clearly see, then the glider flies smoothly around the aerodrome until the pilot lands, always with perfect ease.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Ilford Recorder visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Ilford Recorder staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Ilford Recorder account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Ilford Stories


Essex batsman Varun Chopra was delighted to do his bit for the team in their Royal London One-Day Cup win over Somerset at Chelmsford on Friday night.

Wondering what the weather has in store for us this bank holiday weekend? Watch our three-minute Met Office video forecast.

Last week I told you that I was leaving one radio station. Like a bad smell but in audio form, I’m hard to get rid of.

It is perhaps unthinkable to suggest that we could become inured to the horror of the loss of so many young lives on our streets recently; however, the memory of these incidents, the pain and distress they have caused will become less acute with the passage of time.

Yesterday, 21:31

A monumental innings of 160, the highest List A score of his career, by Varun Chopra helped Essex Eagles revive their Royal London Cup campaign against Somerset at Chelmsford.

Yesterday, 16:34

Redbridge Council has applied for a High Court interim injunction to ban travellers from settling in the borough.

Yesterday, 16:31

Green-fingered community members have the opportunity to grow edible plants with medicinal properties at a Hainault garden in aid of refugees.

Yesterday, 16:00

After a tough start to 2018, the recently relegated side will aim to enjoy success in two different formats over the Bank Holiday weekend


An Ilford shoe retailer and podiatry practice is taking the next step with a move to a new shop just a few doors down.

Redbridge estate agents Sandra Davidson answer the common questions homeowners have when it comes to selling their home, and reveals how you can make sure the sale is stress-free

Redbridge Estate agents Sandra Davidson’s hassle-free service guarantees rental income for your property, whether it is occupied or not. Here they share details of the Guaranteed Rent Scheme and how it can help you avoid the regular stresses associated with managing a let.

Newsletter Sign Up

Ilford Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read news

Show Job Lists


Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Ilford Recorder
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now