Dream flying scholarships for Tom and Alex

Two Senior Aircraftmen (SAC) are learning to fly with the Pathfinder Flying Club at RAF Wyton thanks to winning flying scholarships from the RAF Charitable Trust (RAFCT). SACs Tom Miller and Alex Wright Otero are a duo of just 30 serving RAF Junior Ranks (JRs) to receive a 2017 flying scholarship.

Tom said to Eagle Eye:
“The Junior Ranks Pilot Scholarship Scheme (JRPSS) is an amazing award and I personally can’t thank the organisers and the RAF Charitable Trust enough for selecting me for this year’s scheme. I believe it is in its 3rd year and to be honest I still feel proud to be one of the 30 that were chosen. It is a fantastic opportunity for airmen such as me to experience flight at first hand and there’s nothing like the first time taking control of an aircraft, and flying it yourself! A memory I will never forget. All of this would be out of reach or at least very difficult simply due to the heavy financial commitment flying training requires. But thanks to the JRPSS, they have given 30 very lucky people this incredible opportunity for free.”
The training comprises 15 hours flying training on a light aircraft as well as ground study and examinations in core subjects such as Air Law, Meteorology and Navigation. Following a recognised syllabus, the training may count towards the award of a Light Aircraft Pilot License (LAPL). Selected RAF Flying Clubs deliver the flying training on behalf of the RAFCT. Training study packs, supporting documentation and apparel are provided to Scholarship winners. Upon successful completion of their flying scholarship, those JRs wishing to do so are invited to apply for the JRPSS Top-Up-Scheme (TUS). Also funded by the RAFCT, the aim of the TUS is designed to help a selected few JRPSS scholars continue their flying training course and achieve the LAPL.

Alex explained his early fascination with aeroplanes and what the JRPSS means to him:
“Ever since I was a small child I was fascinated by flight and airplanes. I have always been curious as to how aircraft can fly and what an amazing experience seeing the world from the air could be. The JRPSS has directly enabled me to finally find out what this could be like by helping me achieve a goal which I would easily consider one of the best in my life.
“Having been in the RAF for just over 2 years I have learnt so much and have had a chance to continuously work on aircraft as an engineer, I hope to continue my career further in the Air Force to learn about mechanical engineering and take advantage of the many qualifications that the RAF has to offer. All of my family were very excited for me when I immediately called them to tell them I had been offered the scholarship, and my friends have been very supportive.
Once I complete the 15 hours from the scholarship, I hope to continue my flying training to eventually get a private pilot’s licence (PPL) this will allow me to rent out aircraft in other countries and continue developing my knowledge. A career as a pilot is also something that I have considered.”

Justine Morton, RAFCT director, said:
“Firstly, I’d like to say congratulations to Tom, Alex and all those who were selected for this year’s scholarship intake. They have a very exciting few months ahead of them and I wish them the best of luck. The Trust sponsors the JRPSS each year to provide more flying opportunities for young personnel who otherwise may not get the chance. The success of the scheme over the past two years shows the difference this funding can make to the lives of our Junior Ranks, as well as highlighting just how much appetite there is for youngsters to get involved in aviation.”
RAFFCA project officer Flight
Lieutenant Chris Hives said:
“It’s great to see so many young people with an interest in aviation getting excited about the scheme, and this meant that the competition for this year’s JRPSS was tougher than ever – we received a record total of 468 applications. All of this year’s scholars should be extremely proud to have got through such a robust selection process. Since the JRPSS began we have already seen three scholars achieve their full PPL, with many more completing their final steps, and
nine personnel have been accepted
at OASC (Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre) for commissioning and
officer training.”
The 2 airmen began their training in April with the Pathfinder Flying Club based here at RAF Wyton. Since its formation in 1997, a flying club has been operating on the Airfield and in 2000 the Club was honoured by the Pathfinder Association, when permission was given for it to be renamed the Pathfinder Flying Club.
The club operates 3 aircraft; 2 Slingsby T67 Firefly training and aerobatic aircraft, and a Robin DR400 4-seat touring aircraft. The Club exists to provide flying training to any Regular and Reserve Service personnel and Civil Service staff based at
RAF Wyton. The Club is open to all ranks and trades working at RAF Wyton and nearby
units, and is able to provide flying training to obtain the Private Pilot’s Licence and advanced training in aerobatics and instrument flying. All that is required of the individual is the dedication and commitment to complete the training.Tom talked to us about his first

impressions of the Club:
“Pathfinder Flying Club, at RAF Wyton,
is a great place to learn to fly and it has been a pleasure to carry out my instruction there. The instructors at the club are second to none and have an absolute wealth of knowledge and experience between
them, most of them being former RAF pilots, and then flying instructors, then having full
careers as civilian commercial pilots and before finally teaching student pilots at RAF Wyton! I don’t believe
many flying clubs can boast as having that calibre of instructor at their disposal! I’ve been mainly learning with David Parsons and Bobby German,
both very experienced and, might I add, very patient! I can imagine it hasn’t been the smoothest of sorties with me at
the controls!”

The two students are now approaching the huge milestone of their first solo flight. Alex tells us what it’s like to
be airborne:
“There are several aircraft available in the club, the Slingsby T-67B I have been learning on is very fast and fun to fly this also makes it very sensitive to any movements. Having a glass canopy gives you a great view which not only makes it more exciting it also helps you orientate yourself when you’re doing circuits. Flight training itself I found very challenging, we quickly learned how relevant the weather is in aviation as some of the days it stopped us from flying, and when we were flying we had to deal with crosswinds which added to the pressure, there are many things you have to watch out for anyway such as keeping the right speed and height and then when wind is involved you have to compensate for this, I often found myself shattered after the flying days I can only imagine it was from concentrating
so much.”

Eagle Eye will report in the next edition on the remainder of Tom and Alex’s training, but we should leave the final words
to Alex:
“The JRPSS is the best scheme I have come across as it has significantly helped me in achieving something that I have wanted for very long and couldn’t imagine giving up any time soon. I have friends who want to learn to fly and have told them not to hesitate to apply for it.”

By Wing Commander Andy March

To find out more about the JRPSS, visit: www.jrfly.co.uk

To find out more about learning to fly with the Pathfinder
flying Club, visit: www.pathfinderflyingclub.co.uk
or Email: pathfinderflyingclub@gmail.com