News Section

Cadets Fly 50 States in 50 Hours

Article posted: Nov 21, 2011 by Sqn Ldr Utting

After the success of Hamilton Air cadets fundraising virtual flight around the world for the Royal Air Forces Associations wings appeal 2010, the question was asked, what do we do next? So the planning for the next fundraising adventure on the squadron flight simulator began!

The cadets from Hamilton Squadron have come up with a unique way of raising funds for the Royal Air Force Associations Wings Appeal 2011. Over the Battle of Britain weekend in September this year, cadets flew in real time with real weather downloaded on the flight simulator. For just over 50 hours, cadets landed or performed a touching and go in 49 of the 50 states of America.

Caption: The Start: Juneau International

Cadets and staff spent many hours planning each leg of the journey, just the same way a pilot would have on an actual flight. Before taking off they will look at the real time weather and work out how much fuel they would required for the flight and calculate the weights of the baggage, passengers and fuel, to ensure they had enough fuel for each leg. During the flight the cadets would have to complete fuel checks every 15 minutes and navigate between ground level radio beacons. Cadets were in constant contact with the Air Traffic Controllers in the purpose built Air Traffic Control suite within the squadron, following international ATC procedures throughout the flight.

Caption: Air Traffic Control

At 1800 hours on Thursday 15th September they took off from Alaska’s Juneau International Airport and 50 hours and 49 minutes later, landed at Honolulu International, Hawaii. In between they had touched down in 49 states of America. Unfortunately 1 state was missed due poor visibility being less than 50 meters, so after two failed attempts to land at Hertford-Brainard, in Connecticut, they followed aviation regulations and diverted to the next airport on the list. Over the 50 hours, 17 cadets and 4 members of staff, took it in turn to man the legs, with the cadets and staff consuming over 40 in-flight meals, and with the aircraft virtually consuming over 400,000 lbs of fuel which equates to approx 49,900 gallons.

Caption: In-flight Meals

The flight plan took the cadets from Alaska down the west coast and across the top of the states going from west to east. Taking in airports in Washington, Montana, Minnesota, Michigan and New York, with refuel stops in North Dakota and Vermont. Making good time going from west to east it was time to fight against prevailing winds and come down the east coast and track across Central America taking in many more airports including Maine, Rhode Island, Delaware and more. These legs would put us nearly 2 hours behind due to the weather and strong head winds. During this trip the Secretary General for the RAFA, Jane Easton popped into see how we were all getting along and brought Wings Appeal goody bags for all the cadets and staff taking part.

Caption: In the Captains’ seat!

Reaching the western states again, the crews would have to turn eastward bound to take in the more central states, crossing Utah, Nevada and Colorado. Many of these airports have partial Instrument Landing Systems (ILS), giving only localiser approaches (whether you are left or right of the runway). These became especially tricky in lower visibility and night flying, using the markers and approach charts to dictate their heights at each approach marker or fix to ensure they descended onto the runway and not into the ground. The workload within the simulator was very intense during these landings, adding to the fact that some crew by this stage had been flying 4-5 hours on their leg as well as it being early hours of the morning, the cadets and staff flying put everything they had and more into getting the landing right, and they did.

Caption: Landing at Night

The final leg across the southern states of Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona would push the crews and their skills to the limit being some 40 hours in, with little sleep and some of the staff already having been up for some 50 plus hours instructing and helping the crews. Cadets finally arrive at Los Angeles, with a 25 minute turnaround and about an hour behind schedule. They then set off on the final flight that would be about 5 hours 40 minutes. With this leg being a direct flight to Honolulu, compared with the pervious legs, this flight was a doddle, with 30 minute fuel checks and an in-flight meal or two to serve, the workload was much easier. The other crews changed into their Hawaiian shirts and shorts. With a favourable wind over the Pacific Ocean, the flight made Hawaii in a little over 5 hours, completing the trip in 5 hour 49 minutes.

Caption: A spot of Night Flying

To celebrate this achievement, that cadets hosted a landing party. This was held at Laser Force in Leicester, where members of the squadron and RAFA Melton Mowbray branch gathered. With an Hawaiian theme, loud shirts, shorts and flip-flops was the regulation dress for the evening.

The main purpose of this challenge was to raise money for the Royal Air Force Associations Wings Appeal 2011. Each of the cadets and staff were sponsored for flying their legs. When the cadets were featured on British Forces Radio, in an interview, Flt Lt Faulkner set the cadets a target to raise £1,000. Through their long hours and hard work the cadets surpassed their target and managed to raise £1,150 for this years Wings Appeal. This has now been added to other monies raised by the Melton Mowbray branch of the Royal Air Force Association.

The funds raised were presented to the RAFA Branch meeting in October. When the OC 2502 announced how much was raised, many of the committee members were astounded and stunned at such a significant amount.

OC 2502 Flt Lt Andy Faulkner said: “It is not until you tell the RAFA committee members how much you have raised and see their faces, how much this amount of money means to them. You clearly see the effect when the Secretary, tearfully struggles to find the words to say how thankful they are. His expression and handshake was good enough for me.”

A huge amount of effort, time and commitment is put into planning these types of fundraisers to make it possible. With squadron staff, cadets, flight planning at RAF Brize Norton, RAFA members, friends and family, all committing as much as they can. It is with huge thanks to all involved, that it is possible to achieve such things. Thank you to all who helped and sponsored the cadets or gave money.

Flt Lt Andy Faulkner OC 2502 Hamilton Sqn ATC