James Is Top Pilot!
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By Flight Lieutenant Gary Richardson RAFVR(T) - 2344 (Longbenton) Squadron
A Longbenton Air Cadet is flying high after being recognised as the best pilot out of over 40,000 youngsters in the Air Cadet Organisation and won a scholarship to gain his Private Pilot Licence!
The 19-year old from Westmoor, North Tyneside, joined dignitaries at the old RAF Second World War Fighter Command Headquarters at Bentley Priory for a dinner and presentation evening. The John Cunningham Bust is awarded annually to the cadet who is considered to be the best all-round individual pilot with their leadership skills, academic performance, air-mindedness, inter-personal qualities as well as flying ability being assessed.
James joined Longbenton Squadron in 2008 and fell in love with flying. He worked his way through the aviation activities at the squadron and competed his Gliding and Advanced Glider Scholarship Training at RAF Topcliffe before becoming a glider instructor a year ago having undertaken Grade1 glider pilot training – he now takes other cadets to the skies.
The ex-Longbenton Community College student continued to progress and learn new skills to earn a prestigious Flying Scholarship at Tayside Aviation in Dundee. James successfully completed his training in the Grob Tutor in record time and gained extra flying hours from the Geoffrey de Havilland Flying foundation. His skill, aptitude and commitment were recognised and James went on to learn further aerospace principles and emergency drills before his flying ability, accuracy, airmanship and instructional ability were stringently tested.
The top four scholars and their families were invited down to the presentation to find out who was the best pilot, known as ‘Top Grob.’ The Grob 115E, known by the RAF as the Tutor, is used for Elementary Flying Training and Air Experience Flights throughout the UK. The Top Air Cadet Pilot is named as Top Grob.
James attended the dinner with proud parents and was announced as Top Grob. “It was incredible just to get my flying wings,” said James, “But to then be told I was amongst the top four pilots was unbelievable.” “I was really proud of getting to the top four and never intended to get this far; I just had the aim of flying to my best and gaining my scholarship,” he added. “To have won, and be Top Grob, hasn’t really sunk-in. A friend at school had joined the Squadron and I remember him going flying and I liked the sound of doing that so joined myself. Six years on I’m told I’m the best pilot in the organisation and can earn my pilot licence; it’s incredible and I sincerely thank everyone who has helped and supported me over the years,” said James.
"Joining Longbenton Squadron is the best decision I've made as things could’ve turned-out differently; I love flying and will hopefully make a career out of it, but it’s also helped me in lots of other ways. I’ve gained confidence, and took part in leadership, weeks away and adventure sports, but it also made me focus at school and gain my G.C.S.E’s and three A Levels.”
Longbenton Squadron Commanding Officer, Flight Lieutenant Gary Richardson said; "To say we are proud of James is an understatement. He has worked hard over the years to enjoy doing something that he loves to do. Piloting an aircraft is never easy, and to do it at such a young age shows exceptional aptitude, maturity and gumption. James is an excellent role model to others and we all wish him continued success."
Longbenton Squadron is currently open to new members from the age 12 and in Year 8. Please visit www.2344.org.uk for further information.