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Trust Ambassador Flies The Flag

Published: 29 Jul 2016

The 2015 RAF Charitable Trust (RAFCT) Flying Excellence Trophy winner Tom Willis was on hand to greet visitors to the charity's stand in the Techno Zone at the Royal International Air Tattoo. 

Acting as an Ambassador for RAFCT, he said: "I've been showing people around, talking to members of the public and telling them about the Air Cadets, the charity and all the good things that we do. The Trust have done a lot for me in the past six months, it's just as well I give something back."

Growing up in Carlton Colville, Suffolk, Tom enjoyed family visits to the Lowestoft Air Festival as a child and at age 13 joined the 759 (Beccles) Squadron ATC. He applied to the Air Cadet Pilot Scheme (ACPS), which awards scholarships to assist cadets towards a flying career, and planned on joining the RAF. However, when his A-level results came in, he didn't get the grades he needed. 

Tom completed his first solo in September 2015 and clearly impressed his instructors because the following month he received a call from RAFCT Director Amanda Butcher, telling him he had won the Flying Excellence trophy. Awarded annually by the RAFCT, the Flying Excellence trophy is given to the air cadet who, in the opinion of the Air Cadet Organisation, has shown outstanding flying ability and exceptional personal qualities.

The award from the Trust proved life-changing for Tom. He said: "When I got my A-level results, I thought I'd blown my chances of joining the RAF but then I won the award. At the ceremony I met people who had failed their A-levels, retaken them and then gone in to the RAF." Tom received his award from Sqn Ldr Dunc Mason, formerly Officer Commanding at the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. "Speaking to him, I learned he had a very similar story to me but went on to be in the Red Arrows and the BBMF so that was quite inspirational. It spurred me on."

Tom decided to re-sit his A-levels. After collecting his Flying Excellence trophy in November 2015, he received more good news the following month. "I got a letter from the Geoffrey de Havilland Flying Foundation saying I had been awarded the John Cunningham flying scholarship. Known as 'Top Grob' amongst the air cadets, it's where the top four pilots from the ACPS go through for another 13 hours flying."

Tom decided to write to Amanda Butcher to ask for further sponsorship. As a result, the Trust is giving him an additional 17 hours. With 30 hours of flying to look forward to this summer and his A-level results due in August, Tom has reapplied to join the RAF. Amanda said "It was clear when we first met Tom that he is an exceptional young man. We have been delighted to be able to help him on to the next stage of his flying career and look forward to hearing of his progress - and the result of his application to join the RAF"

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