On the 24th January Brize Norton Air Cadets had the privilege of a tour around the latest Voyager aircraft to be delivered to AirTanker Services and the associated facilities that will support the fleet at RAF Brize Norton. 50 of the 90 cadets who parade at the resident Air Cadet unit were split into two groups across the evening to take the opportunity to have a personal guided tour of the facilities at the AirTanker Hub by Lindsay Harbottle, Corporate Communications Officer at AirTanker.
The tour started with some background behind the company and how it will operate the Voyager aircraft in various roles for the RAF such as Air Transport, Aeromed and Air-to-Air Refuelling. The groups were then shown the facilities of resident unit No. 10 Squadron and had the long history behind the unit explained, as well as how the RAF will be working alongside civilians in Voyager’s day to day operations, something very different for the RAF and the civilian staff employed by AirTanker.
The cadets then got a look at the briefing rooms used by the crew including the maps and vast amounts of manuals that are required reading by the pilots and the crew. Moving further along they were able to visit the heart of the daily activities by going inside the operations room where all the fleet and crew are monitored and controlled no matter where they are across the globe. This provided a great insight into the complexity that is involved in the operations of the aircraft and the various different teams that come together to ensure a smooth operation.
The groups then had a personal tour by two of the RAF engineers who are ensuring that the Voyager fleet remains in excellence condition to meet the needs of the RAF. Starting on the ground the groups got an excellence insight into the Rolls Royce engines that power the Voyager fleet. Cpl Paul Allen talked the cadets through how an engine operates which allowed them to apply their theory knowledge from classification training into a live context. After lots of questions the cadets added to their knowledge about the technical aspects of the aircraft with a great view of the landing gear bay before finding out about what is in all that space under the seats! Being able to go into the cargo hold and discover that even this area of the aircraft has many technical features was a new discovery for all, including the staff.
From ground level we moved up into the cabin, where the cadets were then able to board Voyager 3 for a full tour of the cabin and mostly importantly the cockpit! Flt Sgt Paul Heane explained the differences between a civilian A330 (which Voyager is based on) compared to the military configuration that AirTanker has on-board. One key aspect was the panels which supports the Air-to-Air Refuelling aspect of Voyager’s operating capability, housing the screens for the cameras that provide the crew with a complete picture of what is happening outside the aircraft. The cadets were very lucky to find that part of the cabin had been kitted out with stretchers, highlighting the important aspect of the Aero-Med role which Voyager will operate.
Fg Off RAFVR(T) Holden one of the cadet squadron staff, provided some insight into what happens after take-off as in his day job, he is one of the civilian cabin crew operating for AirTanker Services on board the A330. The cadets then had the chance to explore the cabin, enjoy the leg room that the passengers are provided with and explore all the different buttons and features across the vast cabin which can seat 291 passengers.
The cadets had an amazing evening and learnt a lot about the latest addition to the RAF and provided some insight into the operations that happen from RAF Brize Norton, as well as giving the opportunity to get up and close to Voyager. The squadron hopes to continue to support AirTanker and the Voyager fleet as they become a bigger part of RAF Brize Norton and the exciting future ahead. All the cadets reported they had a great evening and they plus all the staff want to pass on their thanks to Lindsay Harbottle for organising this opportunity and AirTanker for allowing them to visit.