Next generation of RAF officers training at RAF Wittering

The next generation of RAF officers and flying instructors are being trained at RAF Wittering.

By Stephen Briggs
Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 1:06 pm
An RAF Hercules
An RAF Hercules

No 115 Squadron is working with the Cambridge University Air Squadron (CUAS) to ensure the graduates get the best possible training ahead of their future career.

CUAS was the first of the University Air Squadrons (UAS). Today there are 15 UAS across the United Kingdom and they offer undergraduates a unique chance to sample RAF life, including learning how to fly. Their role is to inspire students into a career as an RAF officer, but joining a UAS doesn’t necessarily mean joining the RAF.

Squadron Leader Mark Hammond (53) has just taken command of CUAS and comes to the role with a wealth of experience. Originally from Whissendine in Rutland, Squadron Leader Hammond flew helicopters with the Royal Marines. He has amassed an impressive 4000 flying hours and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for a courageous rescue mission in Afghanistan.

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Mark Hammond

Squadron Leader Hammond said: “You can’t fail to be impressed by how CUAS transforms young people. We teach them how to pilot an aircraft, teach them life skills, adventurous training, enhance their university education, and they leave with a positive impression of the RAF. Even the ones who choose not to join up become brilliant ambassadors for the Air Force, and the skills they develop are highly valued by civilian employers.”

The University Air Squadrons teach their cadets to fly in Grob Tutor aircraft and rely heavily on their corps of flying instructors. No 115 Squadron at RAF Wittering teaches already qualified pilots to become instructors on the Grob Tutor. No 115 Squadron is a world leading organisation, which delivers an excellent syllabus and first-class tuition to its students.

Squadron Leader Rich Kellett has just taken over the reins at 115 Squadron from Squadron Leader Andy Tagg, who retires after more than 30 distinguished years of service. Having commanded CUAS, and with ten years at the controls of RAF Hercules aircraft, Squadron Leader Kellett knows exactly what the University Air Squadrons need from their flying instructors.

Teaching prospective flying instructors is not an overnight process. Qualified pilots will spend around 6 months with 115 Squadron before taking up an instructor’s post with a UAS.

Squadron Leader Kellett said: “We’re not teaching people how to fly; we’re teaching them how to instruct. It’s a good progression, there’s no doubt about that, and I’m looking forward to the experience of working with these pilots. What we do on 115 Squadron enables the RAF to make a real difference to so many young people.”

In addition to CUAS and No 115 Squadron, three other flying units are based at RAF Wittering. No 16 Squadron trains the next generation of RAF pilots, the Station is also home to the University of London Air Squadron, and No 5 Air Experience Flight gives Air Cadets their first flying experiences.

CUAS and No 115 Squadron are part of No 6 Flying Training School (6FTS); Group Captain Ian Sharrocks is the Commandant. He said: “I am very pleased to have two such experienced officers joining 6 FTS. They will be commanding two of the most important squadrons in my organisation and the leadership they will provide will be key in ensuring that we continue to attract and inspire the most talented students in our universities to join the next generation Air Force.”

Group Captain Jo Lincoln is the Station Commander at RAF Wittering. She said: “I am delighted to welcome Squadron Leader Hammond to the Station and to CUAS, and I wish Squadron Leader Kellett every success in his new role as OC 115 Squadron. We are fortunate to have so many skilled and experienced flying instructors here at Wittering, through them we are making a real difference to the next generation of pilots and RAF officers.”