Haywards Heath Air Cadets are learning how to restore a Bulldog plane

The Haywards Heath Squadron Air Training Corps have spent this year learning on the job while restoring an old Bulldog plane.

Thursday, 14th November 2019, 1:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th November 2019, 2:06 pm
Haywards Heath Squadron Air Training Corps
Haywards Heath Squadron Air Training Corps

Haywards Heath Air Cadets have been restoring an old Scottish Aviation Bulldog throughout 2019, actively learning new engineering skills and putting their theoretical knowledge of aviation into practice.

The project started with a Scottish Aviation Bulldog that had been outside for 20 years, resulting in extensive UV damage to the paint, bearings seized to the bolts due to lack of lubrication, and the need for it to be stripped down and built back up.

Dave Emsley, Flight Lieutenant and deputy squadron commander, said: “Bulldog won’t fly at all, it’s for teaching, showing, and letting people play around with.”

Cadet Matt Girvan (left), Sid Gosling (right)

Cadets from the ages of 12 to 20 are involved in the project, with very strict safety regulations in place.

Across the twelve cadets involved they have to rig, sand and paint the plane, funded in part from a £5,000 Royal Air Force (RAF) grant and a £2,000 grant from Gatwick Airport.

One boy joined the project after safety masks had been fitted, so is unable to sand or paint the plane until the next round of masks are fitted – but that doesn’t mean he won’t have a lot to do.

Corporal Zach Kane, a 16-year-old at Collyer’s, wants to be a pilot and is involved with the Bulldog project.

Cadet William Marr

He said: “My favourite part of cadets is drill, because of the discipline and teamwork that it takes.

“When you all come together and pull it off, it’s really special.”

The Bulldog was first designed in the sixties for training purposes, and the first prototype flew in 1969.

Its biggest customer was the RAF, which placed an order for 130 Bulldogs in 1972.

Cadet Matt Girvan

It used them as a basic trainer and as the standard aircraft of the University Air Squadrons, and for Air Experience Flights, before being replaced by the Grob Tutor in 2001.

Cadet Will Marr, a 13-year-old at St Paul’s Catholic College, joined the cadets at 12 and works on the Bulldog project.

He said: “I’m really interested in aviation and want to be a commercial pilot.

“When this opportunity came up I just went for it.

Haywards Heath Squadron Air Training Corps

“It’s an amazing experience, you get to meet lots of new people and try so many new things.

“If someone wants to try then just sign up for everything available.”

There are around 30,000 people in the RAF, and 45,000 cadets across thousands of squadrons in the country, with approximately 95 per cent of the RAF coming from the air cadets.

A common way for cadets at the squadron to come across the Air Cadets is through airshows - like flight sergeant Sophie Hinton, a 17 year old student at Collyer's, who went to Shoreham Air Show when she was 9 years old.

She said: “I wanted to get involved when I first saw them, and I joined when I was 12.

“I like drill and parade, I enjoy the formality of it and trying to get it all right and showing them off.

Cadets working on the Bulldog

“I want to go into intelligence, looking at satellite images and anticipating what’s going to happen.”

Corporal Matilda Pardoe, a 17-year-old at Varndean, said: “I wanted to be a pilot but wear hearing aids so I can’t.

“But I can still experience it through cadets and not feel like I’ve missed out.”

Some cadets are involved because they have family members in the armed forces, like Sergeant Molly Lacey, aged 15, at Warden Park, who recently placed fifth in the country at British Shooting’s Target Spring National Series Final.

She said: “There’s so much to think about when you’re shooting, it calms you down and takes your mind off of your worries and everything else that’s going on.

“My grandparents were in the forces. I like that their memories are being kept alive, I know they would be proud.”

To get in touch with the Haywards Heath Squadron Air Training Corps, click here.

From left to right: Corporal Micheal Klein, Corporal Yacine Sedour, Corporal Rohan Burman.
Haywards Heath Squadron Air Training Corps