New squadrons set for Wittering take-off

Up to 25 Grob Tutor light aircraft that will be based at Wittering. Peter Davies (MOD) Photographer
Up to 25 Grob Tutor light aircraft that will be based at Wittering. Peter Davies (MOD) Photographer
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Aircraft will return to RAF Wittering for the first time in four years on today (14 April) as the base prepares to become a training centre.

Formerly the home of the famous Harrier, the runways at Wittering have been out of use since the Government axed the jump jet in 2010.

But on Monday several Grob Tutor planes will touch down at the base.

Station commander Group Captain Damian Alexander said: “RAF Wittering has a long and distinguished aviation history, so I am delighted that aircraft are returning to our station.

“Of course the Tutors are a significant change from the types of aircraft that have operated here in the past, but they have an important role - such as introducing undergraduates and cadets to the RAF and the world of military aviation - so the reactivation of our airfield is a really positive addition to our ongoing support and operational roles.”

Monday’s landings will mark the start of a period of preparation ahead of five training squadrons moving to the base.

By mid-April RAF Wittering will be operational again with the reintroduction of air traffic control services and a reactivated military air traffic zone.

From then on, five University Air Squadrons will begin to make the base their permanent homes. Cambridge University Air Squadron, University of London Air Squadron and No 5 Air Experience Flight will move to Wittering when RAF Wyton’s airfield closes. East Midlands University Air Squadron and No. 115 (Reserve) Squadron will relocate from RAF College Cranwell.

The Wyton squadrons should relocate permanently towards the end of this year, while the Cranwell squadrons should arrive by mid-2015.

Between 20 and 25 Grob Tutor propellor aircraft will be permanently stationed at Wittering by the time the squadrons move in.

The Tutor is a two-seater, piston-engine aircraft used for basic flying training.

But as was the case before 2010, military aircraft from other stations will fly through the airspace and land from time to time.

Wittering will maintain its core function of being the home of the RAF’s A4 (Expeditionary Logistics) Force.

The 504 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force, which is also based at Wittering, celebrates its first anniversary this month.

It was the first logistics support squadron in the RAF reserve and achieved initial operating capability in October 2013 - a full two years ahead of schedule.

Squadron Leader Maris Hodge, 41, said: “An ongoing role is to ensure sufficient training and development work is carried out to enable Royal Auxiliary Air Force personnel to be interoperable with their regular counterparts.”

A FOD (Foreign Objects and Debris) Plod will be held at the base on Friday, when personnel will comb the runway for litter.