Waddington Braves Great Success

On Saturday 14th September, RAF Waddington Flying Club played host to over 40 children from the Douglas Bader Foundation.

The foundation supports children with limb loss and other physical disabilities by offering unique experiences and improving life-skills to increase confidence. Taking to the air in the clubs fleet of light aircraft, the children followed in the footsteps of Battle of Britain pilot Douglas Bader.  Douglas lost both legs in a flying accident before the war, but was determined to overcome his disability and went on to become one of the most famous fighter pilots of all time.

Whilst airborne many got the chance to take the controls of an aircraft for the first time under the eagle eye of their instructor, whilst others took the opportunity to see their house from a bird’s eye perspective.  Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their flight and as soon as they landed, they were already looking forward to repeating the experience next year. The children, who all came from the Lincoln area were aged 6 to 16 and by the end of the day they were nearly all aspiring future pilots.

Once again the weather forecast wasn’t too promising for our Braves Young Aviators Day, but the Met department at the station obviously new far more about the local climatic conditions than did our chums at the BBC or, indeed, my seaweed!! Once again as I pulled back the curtains in my Lincoln hotel Saturday welcomed me with grey skies and appeared to be rather blustery but a quick call from Gary Mennell at the airfield eased my concerns; he assured me that it was going to brighten up around mid-morning and it would be a great day for flying. I was still a bit doubtful as we drove the short distance to the rendezvous point but, just as our guests for the day started to arrive, the clouds began to break and by the time everyone had been escorted to our base for the day and received a briefing, the sun broke through and, sure enough, the day was transformed just as those in the know had predicted!!

The club made three of their aeroplanes available to us for the day, two Cessna 172s and a PA-28 Warrior. As the first wave of flights disappeared into the distance towards Lincoln, excitement on the ground grew as group number two readied themselves for their turn. The circuit took in much of the local countryside and afforded some superb views of the City of Lincoln, particularly the Cathedral, Castle and soccer stadium. When the first flight returned it was reported that visibility was excellent and that the wind speed had really dropped. The ground support team had everything brilliantly organised and everyone was put completely at ease by Club Chairman Chris Hives, who had assumed the mantel of chief steward at “Air Waddington” for the day, as he prepared the Braves for their first flight in a light aircraft. Before we knew where we were it was time for our lunch break and we welcomed our afternoon aviators before the morning group could eat all of the sandwiches and smashing cakes cooked by the wives of some of the members, and leave for home. Whilst the two groups were together the Station Fire & Rescue Team paid us a visit and everyone was given the opportunity to have a look at the very specialised equipment that is always “at readiness” on station.

The weather held fair throughout the afternoon, indeed, it probably improved a bit as time went on. Looking across the vast expanses of the station everything was so peaceful; there was no other flying activity apart from the Bader Braves and it was difficult to imagine just how different the station must be on a normal working day. The Cessnas looked rather insignificant trundling along the ten thousand foot long runway designed to handle the very biggest of our military aircraft but to all those who took a flight, the Cessna became Bader’s Spitfire!!

By 16.00 everyone had been treated to a flight and our wonderful day drew to a close. The aircraft were returned to their home at the Flying Club HQ, 54 Squadron HQ which had been our home for the day, was cleared and locked up, the safety barriers dismantled and stored and, by the time I left the station, it was a picture of perfect peace and quietness as the early autumn sunshine began to drop towards the horizon. I bet it was a different story on Monday morning though!

As always we are indebted to all of our friends at Waddington, particularly everyone at the Flying Club all of whom had worked so hard to make sure that our Waddington Bader Braves had an absolutely fantastic and unforgettable day. Thanks guys, it was brilliant. “It’s clear to see from all the happy smiling faces just how much everyone enjoyed it.”

Flight Lieutenant Chris Hives said, “As Chairman of The RAF Waddington Flying Club, I was delighted that the Club was able to share the joy of flight with so many of the Bader Braves on Saturday.  Judging by the size of their post-flight smiles, it was obvious that the children had really enjoyed the chance to take control of an aeroplane and to have seen the City of Lincoln from a birds-eye perspective.“