A BUDDING pilot with a passion for aviation has flown solo for the first time after finishing an intense flying course and finding his own set of wings.

Air Cadet Robert Gates of 158 Sqn Braintree Air Cadets completed the Cadet Flying Scholarship in Dundee, before taking to the skies for the first time without supervision.

The strict two-week course, which considers applicants based on their ability and experience, involves a series of pre-flying training sessions, numerous aviation exams and several practical flying lessons.

Many flyers reach the end of the course, but only pilots who are deemed to be talented and knowledgeable enough are awarded the highly sought-after Cadet Pilot Wings and are granted permission to fly unsupported.

Robert’s Commanding Officer Colin Johnson said the young cadet was more than ready to take to the skies.

He said: “Robert is a fine example of what a young person can achieve as an Air Cadet.

“I’m very pleased and proud of him for being awarded his Cadet Pilot Wings.

“He is now able to pass on his experiences to younger Cadets and this is a wonderful achievement and I hope he goes on to have a great future in aviation.”

Robert, who runs flight simulator training sessions at his squadron and didn’t take up flying until later in his service as a Cadet, initially doubted his ability to complete the course and suffered with low confidence.

But after digging deep, working and studying tirelessly, it paid off.

He had been drawing on the experience he had acquired from training days at the RAF Northolt in London and Aerospace Camp, and completing a powered flight in a RAF trainer aircraft.

He said flying on his own was a great experience.

He said: “Flying solo for the first time was the most amazing feeling ever and it was so freeing and surreal for me.

“When I was lined up on the runway waiting for take-off clearance without an instructor next to me was the moment I finally realised that I was going to fly solo.

“I was fulfilling a personal goal I have been working towards for the past four years throughout my Cadet career.”

The Cadet centre is based in Mountbatten Road, Braintree.

To join, visit www.raf.mod.uk/aircadets/interested-in-joining.