Newly qualified pilots have successfully graduated from the Elementary Flying Training (EFT) course at Royal Air Force Wittering.
No 16 Squadron trains student pilots and is one of Britain’s most historic flying units, predating the formation of the Royal Air Force. The Squadron was formed in 1915 as part of the Royal Flying Corps at Saint Omer in northern France; hence its nickname ‘The Saints’.
During EFT the students have had to master aircraft handling, navigation, aircraft systems and the rules of the air. Whilst at RAF Wittering, the trainee pilots took their first solo flights; initially a brief circuit of the airfield and then longer flights requiring more navigation.
Squadron Leader Mark Pickles is Officer Commanding No 16 Squadron and a former Sea King Search & Rescue Pilot. He said: “It is not an easy course. This is a challenging and dynamic educational environment, nonetheless the syllabus carefully guides students towards achieving excellence in the air.”
After the end of their 26 weeks of training, eleven junior officers from No 16 Squadron have been streamed into advanced training. During advanced training, they will train to become fast jet or multi-engine pilots. Only when they complete this phase, will the trainee pilots be entitled to wear their wings.
Flying Officer Alexander Humble said: “Completing EFT takes time and effort for any Student Pilot, but the end result is worthwhile. This is just the first step in our flying careers but has set us up for the next stage of our flying training. Learning to fly at Wittering has been a great experience for our course and the wealth of instructor experience has helped us perform to our best”
Squadron Leader Pickles continued: “Completing EFT is the beginning of a longer and more difficult phase, nobody leaves here and jumps straight into an F35 or C17. At RAF Wittering our students are given a solid foundation; safety underpins everything we do here.”
In addition to No 16 Squadron, five flying units are based at RAF Wittering. No 115 Squadron teaches qualified pilots to become instructors on the Grob Tutor, No 5 Air Experience Flight gives Air Cadets their first flying experiences and there are two University Air Squadrons; Cambridge and London.
Group Captain Tony Keeling is the Station Commander at RAF Wittering. He said: “In many ways this Station is busier than it’s ever been. Today the engineering and logistics squadrons of the A4 Force have personnel deployed to 8 operations across 13 countries on four continents and we are also training the pilots of tomorrow. RAF Wittering is a positive contributor to Defence.”
The Group Captain continued: “Well, congratulations to our students of course. Taking the first steps towards gaining those wings is not easy, but our success is due to the determination of our students, the skill of our instructors and the world class Royal Air Force training system.”