How I Got My Aviation Wings

How I Got My Aviation Wings

In February, I was lucky enough to be awarded the Daedalus Trophy for achieving top student on the Cadet Naval Aviation Course (CNAC)!

Where the journey started

I discovered I’d been accepted on the course in mid-December. There was an email sent to me with a list of names, one of which was my own. I was given a kit list, travel instructions, and a list of pre-course work to be done by the time I’d left for Weymouth (where the Basic CNAC was going to take place). The topics that were Principles of Flight, Radiotelephony, Basic Aircraft Instruments, Meteorology, and airmanship.

The Course

We woke at 0600h in order to have breakfast at 0730h. Usually, we would start lectures at 0800h. Our first lecture was Navigation from 0800h to 1000h (most of our lectures were 2 hours long). If you have done the basic navigation specialisation then this part of the course should be fairly simple for you. 

Our next lecture was Radiotelephony. This was probably the most difficult lecture of the entire course, not because it was a difficult subject but because the instructors had to talk exceptionally fast making it very difficult to take notes. Radiotelephony covered everything from Q-codes to callsigns as well as the Circuit.

Before dinner, we were asked to make a meteorology (MET) brief. We hadn’t been taught how to do that but I think that was part of the exercise. My flight’s MET brief was under-detailed, un-organised and disappointing, but it was our first and I don’t think the staff were expecting it to be any good, especially because we only had 15 minutes to prepare it.

Our last lecture of the day was the history of the fleet air arm (FAA). We were told about the FAA and all its major achievements and battles from when it was formed as the Royal Naval Air Service up until it’s newest aircraft carrier and her achievements. We finished that day at 2200h and were encouraged to do revision. We went to bed just after 2300h.

The next day was almost as difficult, we started the day with Airmanship and air law. We studied the different organisations linked with aviation in the UK and the EU as well as things like NOTAMs and airborne collision avoidance. We then studied the runway and all of its symbols and their definitions. After that, we had a lecture on the principles of flight.

On Tuesday, we spent a lot of the day on revision, however, we did study more MET and were told how to improve our MET briefs. We also studied the Radiotelephony transmitted in the circuit. We prepared our third MET brief but we wouldn’t be presenting it until the morning as a lot of the staff weren’t back from Yeovilton yet. For the first time that week, we got some free time to relax, although a lot of it was spent on personal revision!

On Wednesday, the first deal of the day was to do our group MET brief. I was more than nervous. We presented it, this time in an organised, structured fashion. We were given criticisms from most of the staff and the CO said nothing - I assumed no news meant good news. We were given lectures in the morning on human factors while flying, We were taught about Hypoxia, Aerotitis, and other difficulties of changes in pressure such as the bends. We were also taught about propulsion but only from the propeller. We then prepared our individual MET briefs for our exam in the afternoon. We were allowed to work on them together but we needed to present them individually.


There were four exams, MET, Radiotelephony in the circuit, Navigation and a written exam that covered all of the other topics we had learned. I will point out. However, not all of our assessment was on our exams, we were constantly assessed throughout the week on our knowledge and understanding, presentation and confidence, and most importantly our officer qualities.

Every exam was 1 hour. Our exams were done on flights, my first one was navigation. It went well, I plotted everything on the graph then filled out the route card and was finished and checked over with 15 minutes to spare. My second exam was my MET brief. It went better than I thought it would and I was told that I’d passed afterwards. I was pleased that I’d managed to improve my MET briefs since the second one. The next exam was Radiotelephony. A mock circuit was set up and we walked around it making various radio calls to the “tower” as we did so after which we were informed that we were the best group that had gone through it so far. Our last exam was a written exam.

Since we had no more studying to do, we got the evening off.


We got up at 0500h and left SCTC Weymouth at 0600h for RNAS Yeovilton. We got there in time for the 0800h MET brief from the staff there. We then went through training on how to exit the Grob Tutor in the event of an emergency. We were also weighed to see if we were heavy enough or too heavy to fly in the aircraft. I was only just heavy enough even after they’d added the weight of the 10kg parachute. We then had a quick tour of one of the hangars with the Commanding Officer of the base.

I had a quick bite to eat before going up and met my instructor, a civilian captain. I was given a parachute, sunglasses and gloves. I tried to make conversation with him but it was quite difficult to make out over the chatter from the tower and other aircraft around. We took off quickly and were above the clouds within a minute. He taught me the basic controls; pitching, yawing and banking. He then did a loop where we pulled about 3G. We then did another loop where I was following through and then I did one independently which I will admit was not as smooth as either of his. To finish the half hour off, We did a Cuban eight which, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a half loop followed by rolling onto your front and doing a dive, then another half loop followed by rolling back onto your front. We did two of those, I was told we’d pulled nearly 4G. Although it was good fun, it was like being in a washing machine. Unfortunately, the half hour I had in the aircraft was over. 

Once I was back on the ground we had a tour of the FAA museum hangar. We were shown around the Swordfish Torpedo Bomber of the second world war, the Sea Fury, the Chipmunk training aircraft, the Sea Vixen, the Harrier jump jet and the F-4 Phantom. After that, we waited for everyone to finish their flights and went back to Weymouth.


We were given a quick individual brief telling us if we had passed and if we were through to the intermediate course, I was lucky enough to get through. At the presentation, everyone was given their wings and the awards were given out. The third best student and second best student were given the various prizes they’d won. Finally, the Daedelus award was called and to my utter surprise, my name was called. I went up and received the prizes, I was given the trophy with my name engraved on it, a Seconda 50 metre pilot’s watch, a Pooley’s flight equipment bag, four books which I was told had all the information that I needed if I wanted to get my private pilot’s license, and a foam toy disposable aeroplane which I still have.

I would encourage all cadets to apply for this course. It is difficult, but if you have self-discipline then it is entirely possible. Although there is a lot of course to cover, it is far better and far more satisfying than being at school as you are being pushed to be better and better. There are long, intensive hours to work but it is all interesting and worth it in the end, especially since you have the opportunity to fly at the end of the week. The course is entirely possible if you have no prior experience but a few qualifications would help, those being basic marine engineering, basic navigation and basic meteorology. I can absolutely say, this is the most challenging, most satisfying, best qualification I have achieved within or outwith the Sea Cadet Corps and that is why the SCC is one of the best charities founded!

The Ship's Cat On TS Royalist

The Ship's Cat On TS Royalist

I was delighted to have been invited to visit Sea Cadets flagship TS Royalist, which is traditional tall ship. Sea cadets and royal marines cadets can spend a week on board this training ship, developing new skills and making new friends.

At one-year and three-months-old I was definitely the youngest on board.

Sister ships TS John Jerwood and TS Jack Petchey can take cadets from 12-years-old because they are powered vessels. The rope handling on a tall ship is a bit more physical so TS Royalist trains cadets aged 13 to 17-years-old.

Given my youthfulness I was a little surprised to be told that I reminded one cadet of his grandma! But he quickly explained that he meant “wise and experienced”. This seems plausible. I am a pretty magnificent moggy. Hello to grandma!

As an experienced prowler of Royal Navy warships, I had never been on board a sail ship or met any sea cadets or royal marines cadets before. I needn’t have worried as they were all very welcoming and most of them were on their first sailing trip too. My cadet shipmates were from units all over the UK and so day one was spent settling in, getting to know their new cabin mates, with the help of the experienced and friendly permanent staff.

I joined for day two which was the first day at sea. We spent the morning learning some essential safety rules, practicing putting on safety harnesses and having our first go at climbing the rigging; which is an important part of setting the sails at sea.

Sailing a tall ship is completely different to being at school and was new to all of us. Some cadets quickly discovered a hidden talent which they didn’t know they had while the rest of us needed a little longer and a bit more practice to master new things. This is fine; there were ten staff on board to assist us and fellow cadets encouraged each other well.

Every small step forward (or upward!) is celebrated. As soon as they climb onto the very first rung of the rigging ladders cadets have achieved something new and with a whole week in which to gain confidence, everyone enjoys personal progress.

I had a few difficulties with my claws getting stuck in the rope but I made it to the ‘first floor’ of the rigging, about a third of the way up. The sea breeze really gets in your whiskers up there – lovely!

Teamwork is an important part of the training. This can be anything from taking your turn as duty mess cadet, helping to serve hot food to those who have been out on deck; making sure that you’re pulling the right rope at the right time to coordinate with everyone else, or heaving heavier ropes as part of a group. ‘Learning the ropes’ is a phrase which has its origins in sailing and with one hundred and twenty “ropes with jobs” on TS Royalist, I can see why!

Lunch, cooked by the full time chef, was soup followed by pulled pork baps. On Sunday evening we had a traditional roast dinner. The smell of turkey had been wafting through the ship all day so it was a relief to finally get my paws on some. Several cadets had vegetarian meals and having let him know in advance, the very nice chef also catered for my feline needs. Purr-fect!

As well as being a lot of fun, TS Royalist provides a very different environment in which to discover and develop your individual strengths and identify and work on areas for improvement. For me a strength was that I am comfortable with heights. It’s a cat speciality. My main area for improvement was team work as I can be quite easily distracted by food and warmth. After my tail had been trodden on a couple of times I learnt to pay more attention to where I was in relation to feet and moving ropes!

All in all, it was a brilliant trip in a fascinating vessel. The staff are wonderful and have years of experience of working with young people at sea; they make sure that everyone is well looked after, including this Ship’s Cat. A big thank you to Captain Sea Cadets for the invite on board, and also to the lovely staff and cadets who made me so welcome. Enjoy the rest of your training season, TS Royalist!


Author: The Ship's Cat 

Follow The Ship's Cat on Twitter! @R08Cat 

Marines Cadet Laurelle talks courage

Marines Cadet Laurelle talks courage

Royal Marines Cadet Second Class is Laurelle is the face of our newest value - courage. She tells us how it feels and what courage means to her.

I, myself, to be frank- was incredibly astonished to find that a photo of myself, in my Royal Marine Cadet parade uniform, was chosen as one of the Sea Cadet Corp value posters. The photo, in its own right, was unknown of; considering that I was focusing very hard on the task at hand at that present time- taking a squad “dressing”. For that matter, this photo was taken on the 21st October 2018- during the Trafalgar Parade; taking place annually in Trafalgar Square at Nelson’s Column, commemorating the Battle of Trafalgar itself. There was, as expected, a selection process and a few days of drill practice and training that had to be completed and, even so, there were further selections within the practices for the Companies that we’d represent. The parade itself was not only worthwhile but absolutely phenomenal: the training, what we’d learnt, the experience of being onboard HMS Excellent and the parade itself- marching from Horse Guards Parade, through Pall Mall and right past Buckingham Palace.

In finding a photo of myself as the face of the Corp value “Courage”, aside from honoured and humbled, it reminded me and prompted me to think of where I had demonstrated such a key value in my life thus far. In the Sea Cadet and Royal Marine Cadet Corp, and in life, courage is defined as “doing what we know is right”- especially in the face of adversity. For myself, this has ranged from reporting incidents to standing up for others, putting myself on the forefront for the sake of those who require defending or someone who has no voice. It definitely makes me smile in realising that, in fact, I have and I can demonstrate courage in my everyday activities and relations.

I do believe that, however, I have learnt something new- despite the obvious that, in any event, the paparazzi have their eyes on you, even if you didn’t expect them; but that courage comes in many forms and is a key value that mustn’t be taken lightly. In the SCC and RMC, we learn about many Victoria Cross Winners- with the Victoria Cross being the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system. In order to be awarded this, one must demonstrate “gallantry in the face of the enemy”, an “act of self-sacrifice and valour, and devotion to one’s duty”. More often than not, these winners are embossed with these awards in their selfless death- in serving those whom they protected. Although these aren’t handed out freely, young people can still take these values and ethics and implement them habitually. I think that courage is a pertinent morale that can help anybody- helped by it or demonstrating it. As Harper Lee said in To Kill a Mockingbird: “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. - Atticus Finch”

I would recommend the Sea Cadets and Royal Marines Cadets with my whole heart- as they have not only done so much for so many young people, but also enriched the lives of so many young people and adults alike. My experience has been wonderful so far; I would never have been able to take part in such a large-scaled and national event, like the Trafalgar Parade if I had stayed at home or done anything else! The SCC and RMC Corp has truly opened up so many doors for me and exposed me to new opportunities and skills. Having also been embarked onto the National Aviation course last year, with all thanks to my unit, I must say, we rarely do the “every day” and, in all honesty, I love it. From sailing to Physical Training and offshore voyages, from Marine Engineering to Communication-Information systems and shooting weekends; these are only the tip of the iceberg as to what the SCC and RMC offer. It truly adds value and depth to my skills and knowledge, as well as teaching me something new and allowing me to channel and focus on my current and newly made interests. I would have little to say without the RMC and SCC and I must emphasise, with heartfelt sincerity, that they have changed my life and made me a stronger and more confident individual- and I am more than grateful.

As I close, it is important to remember that courage itself is a beautiful thing- it separates the wheat from the chaff, highlights those who are happy to stand up for what is right, helps societies and groups to come together and build better relationships. I hope that, as we go on with our daily lives, that we’d see courage being demonstrated and shown more often- especially with the rise in youth crime and fatal incidents and attacks. To be frank, doing what is right is worth it all.

Sea Cadets have six values - loyalty, self-discipline, respect, commitment, honesty & integrity and courage.

How Sea Cadets landed me my dream job

How Sea Cadets landed me my dream job

Little did Rachel know when she joined Sea Cadets at 14 that it would lead to her landing her dream job as an adult. Here's her story...

I first joined the Sea Cadets in 2012 when I was 14 years old. I stayed with Staines Sea Cadets until I turned 18 and it was time to go to University, where I transferred to Welwyn & Hatfield Sea Cadets as a member of staff.

The experiences and qualifications I gained through the cadets have assisted me in getting to where I am today.

Through the cadets, I learnt to kayak. I got through to the National Regatta and came away with gold medals. I became a paddlesports instructor and went on to teach the cadets what I had been taught when I was their age. Becoming an instructor through the cadets helped me get a job in a Watersports Activity Centre, Stanborough Park, close to Uni and Welwyn Cadets, where I teach kayaking, rafting, stand-up paddle boarding and team building sessions for corporate companies, schools and groups. Similar to the Sea Cadets, but on a much larger scale.

As part of Welwyn cadets I had the opportunity to get more qualifications in watersports such as windsurfing and sailing, and also went on to become a powerboat instructor and a higher level of kayaking coach. 

With the opportunities and qualifications, I gained from the Sea Cadets, and the experience I gained from my job at Stanborough Park, I have since been offered a job at a beach resort in Greece for the remainder of 2019 with a very popular holiday company.

I can’t express just how happy I am with my 14-year-old self for joining the cadets. If I had never joined the cadets, I wouldn’t have learnt to paddle. If I hadn’t learnt to paddle I wouldn’t have picked a University with a kayak club, with whom I have since travelled around the country finding the biggest whitewater I can paddle.  My paddlesports knowledge also meant I was voted as Chairman of the Uni Kayak Club for two years running. If I hadn’t picked the University I did, I wouldn’t have transferred to Welwyn cadets. If I hadn’t gone to Welwyn cadets, I wouldn’t have got the job at Stanborough Park. And finally, if that never happened, I wouldn’t currently be preparing to move to Greece to work as a paddlesports instructor, doing the job I love.

I have my dream job because I joined the Sea Cadets as a 14-year-old and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

If you're interested in becoming a Sea Cadet or a volunteer visit the Join Us section to find out more. 

Shannon's story

Shannon's story

Shannon tells us what she got out of Sea Cadets, and why girls should think about joining. 

I joined the Sea cadets when I was 11 because my nan and grandad were both in the Navy and they thought it was a good place to make friends and develop my confidence. I developed skills such as teamwork and commitment and it helped me to gain more confidence and leadership abilities.

In 2015, I was the North West area Navy Board Cadet, one of only six in the country. We were chosen for outstanding commitment, achievement and dedication. I represented all cadets at competitions, ceremonies and meetings. I was also selected to carry Nelson’s ensign at the national Trafalgar parade in London, which was a big highlight of my cadet career.

I am keen for other girls to join Sea Cadets. It’s a place where you are accepted and encouraged to learn and become a leader. There isn’t anything that girls can’t do, whether it’s taking charge of a rowing crew, being part of the football team or going shooting – it’s open to all.

Fundraising is a huge element of Sea Cadets. As a charity, we rely on the time and effort of people to go out and fundraise and on the generosity of the public to give what they can. I was inspired to see how much people gave, people we didn’t know. Even though the Sea Cadets are a charity, the cadets and volunteers endlessly fundraise for others such as the Royal British Legion, Macmillan cancer support and SSAFA.

Throughout my time in Sea Cadets, my confidence grew and I learnt I was good with people and I could talk to them, and they felt like they could talk to me. This sparked my passion to help people. I am now a student nurse at Edge Hill University, and loving every second. I would have never made it without the skills and support I gained through cadets. I am forever grateful.

For more information about joining Sea Cadets visit the join us section on our website.

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