Air Cadets get set for take-off

At a flying experience day for RAF Cadets held at FS Adergrove.
At a flying experience day for RAF Cadets held at FS Adergrove.

The Air Cadets are calling for high flyers in Portadown to join their ranks with a new unit being formed in the town.

The new ‘Detached Flight’ will be based at the Army Reserve Centre at Charles Street with their first meeting on July 29.

Air Cadet Mark Woods celebrates his private pilot's licence.

Air Cadet Mark Woods celebrates his private pilot's licence.

And according to the commanding officer for Northern Ireland, Wing Commander Chris Hodges, a host of opportunities await those joining the ranks.

Of course, it’s not just about setting young people up on the ‘flightpath’ for a career in the RAF, the cadets offer invaluable opportunities and experience for life no matter what career a young person chooses.

Wing Commander Hodges said, “We have had Craigavon in our sights for a long time but it takes a while to get the infrastructure in place. Given the demographics in Craigavon it will be a huge boost.”

They already have a school squadron in Portadown College but that is continued to the school.

Chris Hodges, Commanding Officer Air Cadets.

Chris Hodges, Commanding Officer Air Cadets.

The new unit will be a ‘Detached Flight’ of 817 Lisburn Squadron - their largest in the province. It’s open to any interested young people in the wider Craigavon area.

He added: “We are hoping it will quickly develop into its own standalone squadron.”

The Air Cadets are very much part of the ‘RAF family’, along with the RAF Regulars and Auxiliary RAF.

Run by Cadet Force Adult Volunteers the cadets have 34 wings - one at Aldergrove. Northern Ireland has 15 units, the Portadown based unit will be their 16th.

They have 117 staff and 450 cadets in Northern Ireland.

Cadets can join from 12 years of age - as long as they are in year nine at school - and can continue up to the age of 20.

Wing Commander Hodges said they were not a recruiting body but a disciplined uniformed organisation offering a host of opportunities to young people - including Duke of Edinburgh Awards up to gold level (funded by the Air Cadets).

Of course, one of the biggest opportunities is the chance to learn to fly. Cadets can qualify on gliders at age 13 and can solo in powered aircraft at age 17. They have three aircraft based at Aldergrove and 800 flying slots available each year.

To learn more about the air cadets call 028 9445 2023 or see their Facebook page www.facebook.com/817PortadownDF

The first session of the new flight takes place at the Army Reserve Centre, Charles Street, Portadown on July 29, starting ay 7.15pm.