Licensed to fly: Nick Webster gets his wings

Not many teenagers can boast having their pilot's licence before their driver's licence.

Not many teenagers can boast having their pilot’s licence before their driver’s licence.

Nick Webster — check that — Flight Sergeant Nick Webster, can.

The 16-year-old Cowichan Secondary student finished up

Grade 10 with no licences to speak of, but he’ll be starting Grade 11 in September with both his glider pilot licence and his regular driver’s learner’s licence.

Though admittedly the driver’s licence is pretty much an afterthought for the member of Duncan’s 744 Cowichan Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron. It’s the glider’s licence he’s most proud of.

Webster was one of just 45 cadets, and just a handful of Islanders, who earned a six-week glider pilot scholarship at the Comox Cadet Flying Training Centre.

The program ran from late June through the first week of August.

“There’s a pretty intense selection process,” he said. “You have to go through an interview and an exam and that sort of thing.”

Webster learned to fly a Schweizer 2-33A, an intermediate training glider.

“It was a very intense program. It was very challenging. There were some hard days but in the end it definitely paid off,” he said. “It’s something a lot of kids don’t get the opportunity to do.”

Webster joined the Air Cadets four years ago at the suggestion of his father, a former cadet himself.

“He didn’t go through the program very far, just a few years, but he encouraged me to join and it’s been pretty amazing,” the younger Webster explained. “Especially that I got the opportunity to do this course.”

For his glider credentials Webster completed eight hours of instruction and four hours of solo time in the air — that’s on top of another 100 hours studying all aspects of navigation, flight theory, meteorology, air law, glider handling and more in a classroom on the ground.

But the sky is where it’s at, Webster said.

“It’s pretty amazing to be in the air. When you go on your first solo you go up to 2,000 feet all by yourself,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

But he wasn’t nervous.

“They make sure you’re safe before you go up solo. They make sure you can do everything on your own. It’s definitely an amazing feeling.”

As a result of his efforts, Webster was awarded the Flight Lieutenant Bruce (Duke MK1) Warren Memorial Trophy.

“It had to do with your final flight test and a couple of other factors,” he explained.

The award is given to the first runner-up glider cadet who displayed a high degree of flying skills, airmanship, maturity and self-discipline. In short, it means he was in the top three of his class. The acknowledgement comes with a bursary Webster can use to continue his flying education.

“That’s pretty exciting,” he said.

Webster plans to continue flying out of the Nanaimo airport.

“I’m still very new but after going to Nanaimo a bunch and doing some flying, I should be good,” he said

“Once you have 10 hours solo you can get your familiarization certification so you can take up younger cadets and passengers and show them around.”

Next year Webster aims to get his power pilot’s licence.

“That’s your real private pilot’s licence,” he explained. That’ll take more time and effort but he’s up for it. The sky’s the limit when it comes to his interest in aviation.

“I don’t know whether I want it to be a career or a hobby yet but there’s a ton of opportunity in the military and in the civilian world for aviation-type careers,” he said. “And even if it’s not a pilot — air traffic control, all that sort of stuff interests me for sure.”