The flight of a lifetime with the Red Arrows

That one time I got the flight of a lifetime and chosen over thousands of other cadets to fly with the Red Arrows…

I am going to be honest here, this isn’t a recent event but one I can assure you as being a very memorable experience from six years ago! Flashback to six years ago and barely 18, I just turned staff ┬áin the Sea Cadets in which I had spent most of my teenage years travelling up and down the country to sail, learn to fix engines, instruct drill and rowing, learn to fly planes, enter various competitions, etc, etc. In the text below, I enclosed this in one of my journalism assignments at university but I thought considering it was such a rare opportunity, why not share not it in a blog post? So here you can read all about my little adventure in Red 4…

People always assume that being a Sea Cadet means that you do nothing more than sail boats and tie knots. However, in my experience of being a cadet, this would prove a lot of people wrong! I was one of those cadets that took a different path and would fly with aircraft at every given opportunity. I was lucky enough to have my cadet unit based at RNAS Yeovilton where the Royal Naval Air Squadrons would give cadets the opportunity to fly in their aircraft.

One evening in May 2010 after I had got home from a day of exams at college, my Sea Cadet Commanding Officer phoned my Mum asking to speak to me. Wondering what earth for, I answered the phone and had the most surreal conversation: “Izzy, are you free on 6th July? I have just been on the phone to the Commodore of the Sea Cadets and he would like you to participate in a Cadet 150 flyover in the Red Arrows of Buckingham Palace. “Lost for words, I replied with, “Oh okay, I do have my driving test that day!” The CO responded with, “Well, you can either cancel your driving test and participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity or potentially pass your driving test.” From that response, I knew that cancelling my driving test was the best option.

After having participated on the first national Sea Cadet aviation course, myself and one other cadet, along with two Army and three Air Cadets, were chosen to represent the 23,000 Sea Cadets and volunteers across the country, for the fly past over Buckingham Palace in the event of Cadet 150.

The day before the Cadet 150 event, I travelled up to RAF Cranwell – home of the RAF’s basic training – by train. I was given a single room to stay in which is usually given to RAF officers. I then had to wait until the next morning for a medical check up to make sure that I was healthy enough to fly. For the rest of that evening, the other six cadets and I were taken out for a bowling trip to calm our nerves for the following day and to get to know each other.

lebellelavie - The flight of a lifetime with the Red Arrows

lebellelavie - The flight of a lifetime with the Red Arrows

The day had arrived. I could hardly contain my excitement or nerves! After breakfast, we were taken to RAF Scampton – the squadron home of the red Arrows. Upon arrival, we were taken to the medical centre for health checks. To my relief, I passed everything. The only thing they were slightly unsure of was that my height and weight were slightly below the minimum spectrum! Luckily enough for me, they were able to give me equipment and boots so I was able to meet these minimum requirements. All seven of us passed and were able to fly. It was now time for us to meet the pilots that we would be flying with. My pilot was Flight Lieutenant “Horse” Davies, pilot of Red 4. Prior to our flight, the pilots did a flight display for our benefit to show us what the Red Arrows were capable of.

lebellelavie - The flight of a lifetime with the Red Arrows

lebellelavie - The flight of a lifetime with the Red Arrows

lebellelavie - The flight of a lifetime with the Red Arrows

Once they landed, it was now time for the big event – flying!

lebellelavie - The flight of a lifetime with the Red Arrows

Once I was buckled in and the plane checks had been carried out, the planes one at a time with Red 1 leading the way to the runway. I could hardly contain my excitement – this was actually real and happening to me! Flying at 400 miles per hour and at G-Force 4, before we knew it, we were having an exclusive, aerial view of London.

Only a few metres a part, the Red Arrows flight formation makes it feel like you could reach out and touch the other planes.

We could see all the landmarks of London; Lordes, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace. Although I had seen London from high up inside the London Eye before but this didn’t compare!

lebellelavie - The flight of a lifetime with the Red Arrows

lebellelavie - The flight of a lifetime with the Red Arrows

Flying back in to RAF Scampton was a rather peculiar event – for the pilots to land safely, they have to force the aircrafts to quickly break formation. My pilot asked if I was okay as which I replied, “Yeah, I’m fine!” This caused me to have a couple of seconds blackout and took me a minute or two to feel normal again – luckily I didn’t pass out or vomit! Once safely back on the ground and having left the aircraft, the seven of us were surrounded by photographers and journalists eager to find out our experiences. It was an unbelievable experience definitely worth cancelling my driving test for!

lebellelavie - The flight of a lifetime with the Red Arrows

Watch this video below to see the coverage from BBC News, I believe the conversation my friend Paul and I were having as we were walking to the aircraft was all about how we felt like we were real life Top Gun pilots! :p

If you liked this post, please do comment below and let me know if you would like me to write about anymore of my Sea Cadet adventures.

What once in a lifetime opportunities have you had?

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