Last month, Haywards Heath Royal Air Force Air Cadets visited the world’s largest military air show, the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT).
The event, held annually at RAF Fairford, this year included aircraft and crew from 22 international forces along with civilian and RAF planes.
On Friday evening, the squadron set up its tents at a nearby campsite, fittingly named ‘Fly By Camping’ along with hundreds of other campers looking forward to the weekend ahead.
The programme for Saturday was vast and varied, covering 7.5 hours of flying including the highly anticipated F-35B Lightening II (of which the RAF have ordered 138), the F-22 ‘Raptor’, the Eurofighter Typhoon and an air show favourite, the RAF’s aerobatics team, the Red Arrows. The cadets assembled at the airfield around an hour before the flying was due to commence and for those who hadn’t attended the event before, the sheer scale of the Air Tattoo was a real surprise. It is not your average air show where the audience simply watch the aircraft in action; at RIAT there is a huge array of aircraft sitting on the taxiways, some of which the public can ‘crawl’ over and look inside. As RAF cadets we were in a more fortunate position as we had access to aircraft not open to the general public. This insight was great for young aviation enthusiasts and for the cadets who hadn’t attended an air show of this scale before.
Cadet Abbie Dronfield said: “I really enjoyed it. To be honest, I wasn’t that interested in aviation when I joined cadets and I was convinced that I never would be. However, after this weekend I have fallen in love with Ospreys, Atlases and F-35s (military aircraft). The pilots of all the various air forces were exceedingly welcoming, and when they found out that we were cadets they quite often allowed us to go behind the barriers and look round the aircraft. I would definitely do it next year and it’s an experience I will never forget.”
Even after RIAT had finished, it wasn’t the end of weekend. On Sunday, the cadets made a stop enroute home at the Battle of Britain Bunker at the former RAF Uxbridge in London to mark the 76th anniversary to the day of the start of the Battle of Britain.
The RAF No. 11 Group Fighter Command used the bunker or ‘the hole’ as it was known was in control of the airfield of London and the South East. The cadets received an in-depth presentation which painted a picture of the events of the Battle and the role the bunker played during that time. The original operations room was fascinating and was extremely well maintained. Afterwards, the squadron watched a short film about World War Two fighter pilots and their perspectives, equally as insightful telling of the bravery of the men. Finally, cadets and staff visited the bunker museum before returning home.
Overall, the weekend was thoroughly enjoyable with many looking forward to the possibility of attending RIAT next year!
If you are interested in joining the Air Cadets you must be aged between 12 (and in school year 8) and 17 years old. Haywards Heath Squadron parades Tuesday and Thursday nights, 7pm till 9.30pm.
The squadron is also in need of more staff to enable more activities to be run for the cadets and would welcome anyone interested. For details email firstname.lastname@example.org