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Suffolk Town's Triple Whammy Of Aviation Success

Published: 24 Nov 2015

Carlton Colville boasts a parish church dating back to the 13th century, a Site of Special Scientific Interest . . . and a growing reputation as a hotbed of aviation excellence.

The small Suffolk town has just served up a triple whammy of success: not only is it home to this year's highest-achieving Air Cadet, it's also the base for a pilot who has learnt to fly with Flying Scholarships for Disabled People, and the HQ of an active Air Scouts group which helped run an airshow in America this summer.

Its fame has also spread to radio and tv, with interviews featuring Carlton Colville's top Air Cadet and the Air Scouts. 

The most recent aviation success has been claimed by 19-year-old Tom Willis, a Cadet Warrant Officer with 759 (Beccles) Sqn, who has just received the RAF Charitable Trust's Flying Excellence trophy for demonstrating outstanding flying ability and personal qualities.

Tom received the impressive silver trophy at the RAF Bands in Concert performance in London; it was presented by Squadron Leader Dunc Mason, formerly Officer Commanding the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Tom was interviewed beforehand on Radio Suffolk with Radio 2 presenter and concert compere Ken Bruce. 

A former pupil at Lowestoft Sixth Form, Tom said: "The news came as a big surprise. I was shocked - and when I told my dad he was even more ecstatic! I really enjoyed the concert and it was a great honour to meet Sqn Ldr Mason. It's been one of the best experiences of my life."

In his end of course report, Tom was rated 'outstanding' for personal qualities and 'exceptional' for flying. He's currently working as a volunteer with the Coastguard while his application to join the RAF is being considered; eventually he hopes to become a fast jet pilot.

Kevin Ogilvie, 25, was serving in the RAF Regiment when he was injured on active service in Afghanistan in 2012. The vehicle he was driving hit an IED, and Kevin was left paralysed from the chest down. 

Facing life in a wheelchair, he thought his dream of learning to fly was over, until relatives bought him a trial flight in an adapted aircraft. He says: "I was able to forget about my disability and immerse myself in something else."

After applying for a scholarship with the Flying Scholarships for Disabled People charity (FSDP), Kevin was selected for one of two 2015 scholarships sponsored by the RAF Charitable Trust. This summer he started pilot training with Gryphon Aero Club at Kemble in Gloucestershire, flying a specially-adapted PA-28 Cherokee light aircraft, and went solo at the end of his course. 

The third aviation success story comes from the 1st Carlton Colville Air Scouts who achieved a spectacular first by sending representatives to two airshows on two continents.

Helped by a grant of £3,000 from the RAF Charitable Trust, eight of the Scouts travelled over 3,900 miles to volunteer at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in Wisconsin, USA. Meanwhile those who couldn't go to America played their part by helping on the Trust stand at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, to say thank you for the charity's support. 

The American contingent became the first UK Scouts to volunteer at the event as part of the Aviation Explorer Base, and they hit the headlines, appearing on local tv news channel WJFW NBC and revelling in their celebrity status. Their week on duty was followed by seven days camping on the Ma Ka Ja Wan Scout reservation where they stayed with an American troop and enjoyed a range of activities. 

Amanda Butcher, Director of the RAF Charitable Trust, said: "Having supported the Carlton Colville Air Scouts earlier in the year I was really surprised when I realised that our selected FSDP Scholar came from the same town.   Imagine how I felt when I discovered that the winner of the Flying Excellence Award was also from there!  

"To be honest, I hadn't heard of Carlton Colville at the beginning of the year - I now feel as though I've met most of the population, and I hope that the people of Carlton Colville also now know a lot more about the work of the RAF Charitable Trust."

Caption: Cadet WO Tom Willis from 759 (Beccles) Sqn, with the RAF Charitable Trust's Flying Excellence trophy.

“It was an epic spectacle, as magical as anything you've ever seen in the West End, and as loud as anything you've ever heard at Knebworth.”

Jeremy Clarkson, Television Presenter

“All the thrills, excitement and noise of a Grand Prix, but in the air!”

Jenson Button, Former Formula 1 Racing Driver

“Probably the most complete air show I’ve ever been to!”

Al Worden, Apollo 15 Astronaut

“This is THE best airshow!”

Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 Astronaut

“Text TRUST to 70490 to donate £5!”

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