Motor gliders that trained RAF Air Cadets are to get a new lease of life and bring joy to people with disabilities and injured ex-military personnel.
The MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation has sold 63 decommissioned Vigilant T1 aircraft to Aerobility. The charity provides flying experiences to those who might otherwise never get a chance to take to the skies.
The first batch of 10 gliders will undergo modifications by German company GROB Aircraft SE – the original manufacturer and design authority – to meet civil certification standards.
The remaining aircraft will be engineered and recertified in the UK, where the charity has identified a qualified engineering partner in Southern Sailplanes, based in West Berkshire.
Hampshire-based Aerobility will more than double its fleet with eight Vigilants thanks to a grant from the Department for Transport. This means they can help about 2,600 people into the air every year, more than doubling the current 1,000.
"I am very pleased to see the RAF Vigilant T1 gliders move on to a new lease of life," said Clive Walker, Head of the Defence Equipment Sales Authority (DESA) in DE&S. "In particular, supporting the excellent work of Aerobility in creating flying experiences and opportunities for those who might otherwise never get the chance to fly."
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps shared his pleasure at the deal.
“General aviation is the engine room of the entire aviation sector, so it’s vital that people from all backgrounds can access it. Some of our most successful pilots learnt to fly in a glider and I’m encouraged to see the work of charities like Aerobility offering similar experiences to people who may otherwise miss out.”
Glider modifications will include new engines, propellers and refurbished cockpits. The charity hopes the first glider will be ready to fly in the summer of 2021.
They will sell some aircraft to generate revenue for the charity, pay for the ongoing costs of their fleet and help them branch out into other parts of the U.K.
"These aircraft will help us transform the lives of an even greater number of disabled people by giving them the unrivalled sense of freedom through the magic of flight," Aerobility’s CEO Mike Miller-Smith said.
The sale will create four full-time engineering jobs, one project management role and one administration position at the charity.