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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



19 February 2018

While many teenagers have been spending their half term breaks catching up on sleep and computer games, Mark Gunning from Newtownards, Paul Cox from Lisburn,  Jonathan Irvine from Banbridge and Mark Woods from Comber have all been tackling something altogether more memorable.

They are amongst sixty Air Cadets from across Northern Ireland working together to build a Sting S4 plane at Ulster Aviation Society's Lisburn hangar.

The year-long project 'Centennial Wings', supported by funding from Boeing and the Air League, is giving the talented teens the opportunity to build a plane from scratch.  The completed, two-seater aircraft will be capable of a maximum speed of 177 miles per hour. To add to the challenge, the plane must be ready to fly over to The Royal International Air Tattoo, the world's largest military air show, this July.

As that all-important Summer deadline approaches, the pace of work is hotting up and so, too, is the Cadets’ enthusiasm for the task.

Mark Woods who is a Cadet Flight Sergeant with 1137 (East Belfast) Squadron says, “I couldn’t believe my ears when we were told about the project … that they were actually going to let Cadets tinker with thousands of pounds worth of aircraft and we’d actually make it fly in the end! How good is that?“To be able to come down here and not only see the aircraft up close, but actually to put a plane together … there’s just nothing I can compare that to!”

Cadet Corporal Mark Gunning, who hopes to build his future career in engineering adds, “We are learning from people who are at the top of their game and they are all really happy to be sharing their knowledge and skills with us Cadets which is really generous on their part.  This has been a great way for me to get a real feel for engineering and everything I have seen and experienced has just reinforced and added to my interest in the subject. 

Wing Commander Mike Miskimmin, Officer Commanding Northern Ireland Wing RAF Air Cadets, is delighted to see local Air Cadets involved in a key project to mark the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Air Force and he is impressed at the skill and enthusiasm which the teenagers have brought to the demanding task, guided and supported by the Ulster Aviation Society and engineers from Boeing UK.

He says, “No matter what we throw at them, our Cadets always rise to the challenge, combining a great sense of fun with an incredible appetite for learning.   I have watched with admiration as these young people have put their STEM subjects to use in the most dramatic way possible, plus they have taken on a wide range of new, practical skills. 

“The Cadets have also sharpened up their team and leadership skills and can look forward to their hard work and determination paying off in fine style when their plane is on display at the world-famous RIAT show.  As they build their plane, they are also laying down firm foundations for their next steps in education … and stocking up some priceless memories into the bargain!”

1137 (East Belfast) Squadron, which meets at 7pm on Tuesday evenings at the Clonaver Park Army Reserve Centre, are currently on a membership drive.  It may be too late for newcomers to sign up for the build-a-plane project, but the Squadrons promise no shortage of high-flying adventure, camaraderie and achievements for new members. Details of other RAF Air Cadet Squadrons in Northern Ireland can be found HERE