First flights for the new intake of Cambridge University Air Squadron students took to the skies from Royal Air Force Wittering in Cambridgeshire on Friday.
There are 15 RAF University Air Squadrons (UAS) and they offer undergraduates a chance to sample RAF life. Their main role is to attract talented undergraduates to regular and reserve RAF service, but membership of a UAS doesn’t mean students have to join the RAF after university.
Isaac Barnett (22) from Norfolk is studying politics at Anglia Ruskin University aspires to a career flying fast jets in the RAF, his family were delighted that he’d succeeded in joining Cambridge UAS.
Isaac said: “I’ve been pursuing this since I was 13, but they were really proud. Mostly I’m looking forward to the flying, I like to challenge myself and I like to be busy, it’s character building.”
As well as specialist training and the chance to fly, undergraduates learn valuable leadership and team-building skills. They also can take part in numerous sports and adventurous training such as rock climbing, skiing and sailing – in the UK and abroad.
Undergraduates do not have to be at Cambridge University to join the UAS. The Squadron recruits directly from University of East Anglia, Anglia Ruskin University, and the University of Essex. Regardless of university, all the students are treated the same way and have access to the same amazing opportunities.
The new Cambridge UAS intake has spent time learning the basics of military life at RAF College Cranwell and returned to RAF Wittering for some physical training and briefings. Before taking off, the undergraduates were given pre-flight training and properly fitted with their flying suits, helmets and parachutes.
Erin Gerrity (18) also from Norfolk is studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge University. She said: “I’ve always been interested in the forces. I saw the stall at the freshers’ fair and an inside experience of the Armed Forces seemed like a good idea.”
Squadron Leader Rich Kellett is Officer Commanding Cambridge University Air Squadron. He said: “Our students will have lots of memorable experiences with us, but nothing comes close to the first flight. It makes a massive difference because it’s a tangible insight into how their own futures could look.”
Group Captain Jo Lincoln is the Station Commander at RAF Wittering and was once a member of Bristol University Air Squadron. She said: “These days, it’s not just about graduating. Employers everywhere, including the Armed Forces, are looking for more than a degree. UAS experience proves that an undergraduate has made the most of their time at university and has more to offer.”
The Station Commander concluded: “I had a great time in a UAS and, if you’re going to university this year, I’d recommend it in a heartbeat. The skills you gain in terms of teamwork, leadership, even how to approach your academic studies, will stay with you for a lifetime.”