Former Royal Navy pilot becomes instructor at RAF Wittering

Flt Lt Latchem and a student from 16 Sqn return from a sortie
Flt Lt Latchem and a student from 16 Sqn return from a sortie
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A student has become a teacher at Royal Air Force Wittering with a former Royal Navy pilot joining 16 Squadron to instruct the next generation of RAF pilots.

Flight Lieutenant Andy Latchem (36) flew Lynx helicopters with the Royal Navy before transferring to the Royal Air Force. Arriving at RAF Wittering in July 2018 Andy joined 115 Squadron and began the six month course for all qualified pilots who aim to become a flying instructor.

Andy Latchem in his Royal Navy days

Andy Latchem in his Royal Navy days

115 Squadron was formed in 1917 and has a long and illustrious military history, flying bombers in the first and second world wars. Today, the Squadron teaches pilots to become instructors on the Grob Tutor aircraft used by 16 Squadron and all 15 University Air Squadrons.

The course is not designed to be easy, but Flt Lt Latchem enjoyed the challenge. He said: “The Qualified Flying Instructor course is rewarding. You’re taught by experienced instructors with a wealth of instructing hours. It’s all about the learning though and 115 Squadron fosters a great training environment.”

During the course Andy needed to prove his skill as a pilot by safely performing all the manoeuvres required of a flying instructor, but also show his ability to safely teach the same exercises to someone who has never flown an aircraft.

Flt Lt Latchem is now a Qualified Flying Instructor and teaching the next generation of Royal Air Force pilots with 16 Squadron. It’s a job he loves, but there is no room for complacency when it comes to flying training.

He said: “I love it. There’s so much variety and a tremendous sense of achievement when a student reaches a milestone in their training and can do the things you’ve taught them. As instructors we need to stay sharp, so we regularly fly with senior instructors and go through our lesson plans to keep our teaching skills up to scratch.”

16 Squadron was formed during the First World War at St Omer in France. Over the years 16 Squadron has flown a series of famous combat aircraft including the Mustang, Spitfire, Tempest, Tornado and Jaguar. The Squadron was reformed in 2008 to teach newly graduated officers elementary flying training.

Flying lessons with 16 Squadron’s students can last between 45 to 90 minutes, depending on the syllabus, which includes every feature of aircraft handling; take-off, landing, navigation and basic aerobatics. Each lesson is followed by an in-depth evaluation of the student’s progress, and this is repeated two or three times every day.

In the longer term, Andy plans to fly the P-8A Poseidon aircraft when they are delivered to the Royal Air Force in 2020. For now, however, his experience as a helicopter pilot is highly valued at 16 Squadron.

Squadron Leader Mark Pickles is Officer Commanding 16 Squadron. He said: “In the flying training environment you need a wide range of experienced instructors to maximise the educational benefit to our students.

“We have former fast jet, helicopter and multi-engine pilots, and each one of them brings something different. With his flying ability and previous experience, Andy has a lot to offer 16 Squadron.”