On the morning of the 7th of July 2016, Cadet Bohdan Mandziuk, Cadet Dearna Hawthorn and Cadet Thomas Percival set off for RAF Fairford to attend the working camp for the Royal International Air Tattoo 2016.
We arrived at the camp early afternoon and settled in after a long journey there.
On the second day after an early start, breakfast was served and we headed out onto the showside to hand out maps of the displays to the public. Once we had completed this task we had about half an hour of free time before we had to catch a bus to lunch. During this half an hour we had one of our most memorable moments of our RIAT 2016.
I approached one of the RIAT groundcrew and politely asked if we could have a closer look at the A400M. The answer was ‘Yes’! So all three of us crossed the barrier and walked towards the A400M. A German airmen then invited us into the cargo bay and showed us around which was really quite something, then came the best part. He invited us into the cockpit. We were all trying to fight our way up the ladder to the cockpit at the same time! Once we got into the cockpit it was like living the dream. I grabbed the pilot’s seat, Cadet Thomas Percival was in the co-pilots seat and Cadet Dearna Hawthorne obtained the flight engineers seat.
If allowed we would have probably spent the rest of that day sat up there. Cadet Hawthorne said ‘We sat in the cockpit of the A400M and it was absolutely awesome’, Cadet Percival stated that ‘If I join the Royal Air Force I want to be a cargo pilot and getting into the A400M cockpit was a great insight to what it might be like, it was definitely the best part of my camp’. Once we had partially recovered from the excitement of getting to sit in the A400M we headed for lunch.
During our lunch hour we noticed something peculiar and at first we didn’t have a clue what was going on. There were police vans and cars driving around with sirens on. Then came the convoy. We concentrated on each car and the second car that came past was carrying Prince William, Princess Kate and George. We managed to get a wave from them and for the next two hours everyone was talking about who they had seen.
After lunch we had about 3 hours to wonder around the airshow. We visited the static displays which were amazing! We got the chance to meet pilots from different countries and they all told us a little bit about themselves and their role and aircraft which was most interesting! It was getting short for time so we headed into the RAF Village and there we got the Red Arrows to sign some prints for us. We then had dinner and returned to camp.
The next day another early start. The job for us today was to sit on the crowdline and ensure that the public do not cross. This was a nice and easy task and all cadets found it to be the best task of the camp because they could sit back and watch the airshow on the liveside of the airfield! The flypast that gave me shivers done my spine was the F-35. It came down the runway at lightning speed and then quickly manoeuvred into a 9g turn which was most impressive. Personally I enjoyed it so much so that when it was time to hand over to different cadets, I stayed and finished watching the airshow which was really incredible!
On Sunday morning we were tasked with cleaning the eating area that the general public used. This was not the most interesting part of the camp but we watched the airshow as well which was great! Also at the end of the working day we got given a pack of free doughnuts (which all cadets were happy about). We then got two hours of free time in which Cadet Percival and I met Honorary Group Captain Carol Vorderman. She signed the peaks of our baseball caps and we were treated to a selfie with her.
When we returned to our campsite the Camp commandant declared a BBQ and Disco. The BBQ was wonderful and the Disco was terrific. Everyone had an absolutely fantastic time. No one on camp got to sleep until midnight that night because they were up celebrating what they had achieved in the week.
Monday morning after breakfast we set out to do the ‘FOD Plod’ of RAF Fairford. This was departures day. The RIAT crew were tasked with getting over 300 aircraft off the airfield in 6 hours. That’s almost one aircraft every minute! We picked up any rubbish that the public had left from the showdays and then came the best part of the day. The F-16 display team were about to depart and the roar from the Rolls Royce F-100 engines deafened everyone as the pilots fed fuel into the mighty engines. All the cadets lined up on the crowdline fence and waved to the departing F-16s, we got a wave back from the pilots and a wingwave where the pilots roll the aircraft left and right.
On the final day breakfast was at 7:00. We gathered our belongings and assembled by the bus stop area. We said our goodbyes to all the new mates we had made and traded some of our merchandise we had gathered over the show period with each other.
It is true to say that everyone felt miserable about leaving due to all the new people they had met and the experiences they had.
All three of us would like to sincerely thank all the staff that made our visit to the Royal International Air Tattoo possible and all the staff and crew at the Air Tattoo for making our week such a good one.