My membership of Edinburgh University Air Squadron had a very great influence on me at the time and led directly to a career in aviation spanning some 50 years. After graduation I joined the RAF, and served both at home and overseas flying Canberras, Hunters, Phantoms and Jaguars. I retired from the RAF in 1980 in the rank of Wing Commander. I then continued my flying career in Britannia Airways and then easyJet, increasingly involved in pilot training throughout that period. My final appointment was as Pilot Training Manager for the easyJet 737 fleet.
I had been interested in aircraft from an early age, but had ruled out the possibility of joining the RAF as a pilot as I had thought that a commission in the RAF would be out of reach. The UAS showed me that this was not the case, and I decided at an early stage to make the RAF my future career. The UAS staff were not only first class instructors but also excellent role models. My first CO, Sqn Ldr Colin Doak, and the Chief Flying Instructor John Russell had both seen wartime service and had learned their trade in a very hard school. They and their colleagues made sure that the UAS maintained the highest standards of flight instruction, and at the same time made the whole experience good fun. There were many high spots, good times and lasting friendships. I remember travelling as a passenger in Barry Taylor’s mini (new to the market at that time). I would swear that he could pull as much G going round corners in his mini as he did when looping the loop in a Chipmunk!
RAF policy at the time was to use the University Air Squadrons both for recruitment, and also to publicise and promote the RAF amongst those who they saw as future policy makers. Although the percentage of members who eventually signed on was small, the wider objective of publicising and promoting the RAF was certainly achieved, and at the same time all members benefited greatly from the challenges and discipline of flight instruction. The comments made at the recent reunion some 50-60 years on bears testimony to the influence which the UAS experience had on all who attended.
Times have changed and the number of University Air Squadrons is fewer than before. I do hope that present and future generations of university students will continue to experience the RAF ethos at first hand. University is a wonderful opportunity for a young person to broaden horizons and to grow in confidence and maturity. I look back on my time in the UAS with great affection.