The Big Interview: Teen cadet flies for Queen’s birthday

Tom Joseph of 47F Grantham Squadron ATC.
Tom Joseph of 47F Grantham Squadron ATC.
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A cadet from Grantham’s 47F Squadron Air Training Corps took to the skies at the weekend as the RAF celebrated the Queen’s birthday.

Tom Joseph, 17, of Sunningdale in Grantham was one of around 50 cadets from across the country who were given a place on one of the aircraft taking part in the royal fly-past of Buckingham Palace on Saturday.

At 1pm a formation of 30 aircraft, led by Chinook and Merlin helicopters flew down the Mall and over Buckingham Palace to mark the end of the Queen’s birthday parade.

Millions watched on TV but we caught up with Tom this week to find out what it was like from the air and to hear how his fellow passengers reacted.

** How did the opportunity come about?

I was asked, and told to be outside at 5am! But I was pleased to get the chance. I’m not the type of person who usually gets recognised. I’m usually in the background.

** Was there any jealousy from other cadets?

Not really. Everyone was just pleased for me. There’s always going to be a bit of jealousy but, if anything, they would like to be given the chance. I remember once missing out on a trip to Gibraltar and feeling jealous but it also gave me something to aspire to. I wanted to do the same thing.

** How did the day begin for you?

We went outside at about 5.45am and then we went to pick up other cadets from around the region. We then went to RAF Brize Norton and were processed and checked to make sure we were okay to fly. There was quite a lot of waiting time.

** Which plane did you fly in?

We were either going to be going on the Voyager or the VC-10 - I’d been on the VC-10 before so I really wanted to go on the Voyager. Luckily, I was the first person off the bus so I got right to the front of the aircraft so every time the pilot opened the door we could sneak in and have a look!

** What was the moment like when you flew over the Mall and Buckingham Palace?

Well, when we were going over London the weather was really bad and a lot of people on the flight were sick. So when we went over Buckingham Palace I didn’t even realise because I was too busy dealing with people who were being sick! It’s quite funny really. We were flying at about 500ft over Buckingham Palace and the reason everyone was being sick was the wind which was causing the aircraft to go from side to side.

** Did you feel sick?

If I’m being honest I did feel a little sick at times. I fly gliders all the time and never feel sick but seeing other people being sick...

** Yeah, I know what you mean. How long were you in the air for?

Four hours and 20 minutes...that’s one of the reasons people started being sick. I slept all of the way home. Like I say, there was a lot of waiting, but it was worth it.

** Is it nice to think you were part of the Queen’s birthday celebrations?

It’s brilliant. But when I watched it back on television it felt quite unreal that we were flying over. I watch it every year on the television because I’m a bit patriotic like that so it was just weird to be a part of it.