An Air Cadet Organisation Pilot Scholarship

Cadet Sergeant Luke Arpino

358 Welling Squadron

Air Training Corps

Kent Wing


Flown at Tayside Aviation, Dundee, The Air Cadet Pilot Training School.


On the 4th March I left home at 07.00hrs and started the long journey to Dundee by train, arriving at 17.30hrs. After arriving at Dundee I met another Air Cadet at the train station Flight Sergeant Ryan Staple, of 41F Taunton & District squadron, Devon & Somerset Wing ATC, and we agreed to share a cab to the hotel; we checked in. The hotel was fantastic, the service friendly and welcoming. As we wouldn't be reporting to Tayside Aviation until the next day, Ryan and I explored the hotel, had a session in the gymnasium and a lovely meal. We were both excited about the following day and the prospect of flying.


On the first day we were introduced to a Cadet Sergeant Alex Lawernson, of London Wing who would be doing her scholarship with us. Each morning we were collected by mini-bus that took us to Tayside Aviation.


On arrival we met the staff, everyone was friendly and hospitable, and next we were introduced to our allocated instructor. My pilot was Henri Liilunen from Finland. Coming from the South East I found that he was he was difficult to understand with an unusual mix of Scottish and Finnish accent. We then had our first briefing which was the usual combination of health & safety and common sense, and then the interesting stuff began.


The first ground lesson was basic ailerons, equal roll and so on. Afterwards we were shown our cadet room, this is where we stayed for the rest of the day because the bad weather prevented flying. This was to be the story for the next week, lectures and study and no flying. The weather went from bad to worse, first a little rain and a little wind, nearing the end of the week we had thick heavy snow and blizzard conditions.


On Sunday 10th March, although still snowing on and off there was no wind, perfect for flying. That morning as we arrived at Tayside Aviation our morale was high – we were finally going to fly. The usual check s on the aircraft were undertaken which included fuel testing to that there was no water or dirt within the tanks, operational checks and so on. Also, I had to have a flying briefing and oddly for the first time I had butterflies in my stomach, I put this down to the long wait and now we were finally about to fly. I had worried that the school would stand down and the students sent home due to the bad weather. I was about to fly and I hoped that wouldn't happen now. For the first flight I didn't have to do much, it was more of a 'familiarisation' flight, for the aircraft and local landmarks.


On Monday, new cadets arrived and all seemed friendly enough, as it turned out I was the youngest cadet at the age of sixteen. The day just literally 'flew' past, lessons and three hours of sorties mad every day tough. Nearing the end of the three hours my mental stamina started to show signs of exhaustion. Every thing Henri told me went straight through my head and out the other side; stupid mistakes were made.


The days passed too quickly and before I knew it Friday had come around and Henri had the day off! My secondary instructor Ms Root Jovani from Spain, watched me do everything so I could prove that I could fly on my own without assistance. All went well except one mistake on the radio, my landing and circuit was 'perfect'. I had another sortie that day where I had to demonstrate to the instructor that I could complete EFATO (engine failure after takeoff) and this went well: completed exercise at 200ft above sea level. On landing, Root said in a distinct Spanish accent that I was capable of flying solo, she asked me if I had any questions, when I said “no” she jumped out of the plane and wished me to “Good Luck!”. The time had come for me to do my first solo.


First and foremost I had to complete power checks, once completed I asked Air Traffic Control (ATC) for clearance to taxi to holding point Alpha. Following that I was given permission to line up and wait on the runway. Clearance came for take-off, I was relaxed with no stress at all and the song 'Dancing in the Moonlight” by Top Loader was running through my head.  All went well, radio calls were correct, my only problem was a cross wind which put me off on the circuit but was easily corrected. On landing the relief and excitement grew, I was in such high spirits I'm sure a tear fell. The ATC called over the radio “congratulations Tayside 1 Hotel Foxtrot”, I shall never forget this moment. I taxied to the hanger and all my new friends were there applauding me, it was so special. Had the best debrief ever, full of praise and congratulations.


That night at the hotel we stayed up late celebrating my solo flight; a great day, and one that shall be imprinted on my memory for a long time to come.


The next day I was given the opportunity to utilise the one hour fifty minutes of unused flying time I had been allocated. We planned to fly to Edinburgh but the weather closed in and in the end my last day would be non-flying. Before departing for home Henri presented me with the coveted pilot wings, this was quiet and emotional event, it was also time to go home. I would like to thank all those involved with providing me with this opportunity.