Hundreds of air cadets descended on Fife on Tuesday as part of the first flying muster of its kind to be held in Scotland.
While Leuchars Station may now be better known as an army base, it was clear its RAF legacy will linger for some time.
Around 1500 cadets and staff from Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North of England visited the Fife airfield over the past two days to help mark the RAF’s centenary year, and youngsters taking part even got to experience the thrill of taking to the skies in a Chinook helicopter.
The RAF’s 100th celebrations have focused on three themes — commemorate, celebrate and inspire — and the muster at Leuchars highlighted the latter as the next generation of the UK’s airmen and women came together.
Group Captain Jim Leggat, 59, the Regional Commandant for the Air Training Corps Scotland and Northern Ireland region, has come full circle, having started as an air cadet before his 35-year career in the RAF, and said the organisation is in safe hands.
“There are three themes of RAF100 and this event ticks all the boxes,” he said.
“We wondered if there would be any chance of having an event in Scotland so we put the request in, and the great and the good said yes, it would be a great way to inspire youth.
“It’s taken about a year to come to fruition, but it’s great to see so many young people here, from as far north as Stornoway.
“Leuchars is a military base and we’ve still got quite a large RAF footprint.
“We’ve got 100 staff that work on what’s called the Leuchars divert area, that’s in air traffic control and the fire section, but there’s also 612, the medical support squadron that’s here; we’ve got the university air squadron that flies here; we’ve got my ATC regional headquarters here as well; and there are people from all over the UK who come here.”
As well as a five-to-10-minute sortie around the airfield, cadets were treated to ground displays around the aircraft shelters and cold war aircraft still at the former RAF base. There was also a strong emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the so-called STEM careers – which have been affected by teaching staff shortages.
Capt Leggat said: “When you see the happy, smiling faces, and the beaming adults and cadets, it’s tremendous.
“Part of it is inspiring the cadets, motivating them and showing them what the aircraft can deliver.
“The two Chinooks flew up on Monday and as they were flying over my house in Dunfermline my wife texted me to say they were on their way.”
He concluded: “I was a cadet myself 40 years ago and I think with all the diverse things they do today, such as STEM activities, leadership, developing skills, the organisation is really providing great benefit.”
One of the excited air cadets taking a trip in the Chinook was Fiona Ewing, 16, from the Kirkcaldy Squadron, and she has seen the benefits the organisation has delivered.
“I wanted to get involved because my brother Callum originally got involved and he massively changed due to cadets,” she added.
“So I was like: ‘Hey, he’s gone through massive change so maybe it can do something good for me as well’.
“He was really shy beforehand but now he’s confident – it’s hard to believe he’s the same brother.”