Cadets walking back after glider flight

Air Cadet Organisation

Commandant ACO The RAF's Air Cadets is one of the country's premier youth organisations and the world's largest youth air training organisation, supported by thousands of dedicated volunteer staff. Air Commodore McCafferty is the current Commandant Air Cadet Organisation.

The Air Cadets Organisation (ACO) is a national volunteer youth organisation within the Training Group that is part public funded and part self-funded. The organisation comprises the Air Training Corps (ATC), sponsored by the Royal Air Force, and the Royal Air Force Sections of the Combined Cadet Force (CCF). From units spread throughout the country the organisation draws its male and female cadet membership from all social and ethnic backgrounds.

Air Cadet & Combined Cadet Force Crests The mission of the ACO is to be a modern, dynamic, sustainable air-minded youth organisation of choice that offers fun and challenging opportunities.

The ATC was formed in 1941 by Royal Warrant and last amended in Feb 1990; the Air Commodore-in-Chief is HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. The CCF was formed in 1948, its aims are similar to those of the ATC, but units are largely integrated into private schools, with 20% from the state sector. The Corps' aims to:

• promote and encourage among young people a practical interest in aviation and the RAF.

• provide training that will be useful in the Services and civilian life.

• foster the spirit of adventure and develop qualities of leadership and good citizenship.


The Corps conducts an aviation orientated academic syllabus recognized by BTEC, and by providing air experience flying in powered and glider aircraft. Flying and leadership courses are also provided. There is representative competition in seven major sports at all age groups, as well as small and full bore shooting. Adventure training includes downhill and Nordic skiing, sailing, canoeing, hill walking and rock-climbing. There are Easter, Summer and Autumn camps at RAF bases, overseas expeditions, and training on Marine Society Ships.

Each year, some 3000 cadets receive the Duke of Edinburgh's Award and more than 85 cadets participate in the International Air Cadet Exchange scheme.

Key Dimensions

The ACO comprises approximately 920 ATC squadrons and 30 Detached Flights formed into 34 Wings and covered by six Regions who all have non-public funds with charitable status. There are additionally around 210 Combined Cadet Force (CCF) (RAF) sections in six geographic areas.

Total cadet membership is about 42,000 young men and women aged from 13 to 20 yrs old inclusive, from all social backgrounds and ethnic groups. They are supervised by some 15,000 uniformed and civilian volunteers. Around 98% of the organisation's members are volunteers.


The Air Cadet Council (ACC), the governing body of the ATC, makes recommendations to the Air Force Board on matters of general policy. The Council is also responsible to the Air Force Board for the overall running of the ATC. The ACC Steering Group (ACCSG) advises the ACC on corporate strategy and funding. Further advice on funding is provided by the Finance & General Purposes Committee and governed by the Trustees who answer to the Charity Commissioners.

Comdt AC is a serving Air Cdre and she and her staff are based at Headquarters Air Cadets (HQ AC), a lodger unit at RAFC Cranwell, based in Daedulus House. As her representational duties cause her to spend much of her time visiting the ACO throughout the country, the Chief of Staff (COS) runs the day-to-day business of the organisation.

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