Air Training Corps

Not to be confused with New Zealand Air Training Corps.
Air Training Corps (ATC)

Country United Kingdom
Type Volunteer Youth Organisation RAF
Size 1,009 Squadrons
32,860 Cadets[1]
10,410 Cadet Force Adult Volunteers[1]
Part of Air Cadet Organisation
Headquarters RAF Cranwell
Patron Queen Elizabeth II
Motto(s) Venture Adventure
Honorary Air Commodore-in-Chief HRH The Duchess of Cambridge
Commandant Air Cadets Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty
Aircraft flown
Trainer Grob Tutor
Grob Viking
Grob Vigilant

The Air Training Corps (ATC) is a British youth organisation sponsored by the Ministry of Defence and the Royal Air Force. A Full Time Reserve Service RAF officer serves as Commandant Air Cadets at the rank of Air Commodore.[2] The majority of staff are volunteers although some are paid for full-time work.[3] Although many ATC cadets go on to join the RAF or other services, the ATC is no longer set up as a recruiting organisation.

Activities include sport, adventurous training (such as walking and paddle-sports), ceremonial drill, rifle shooting, fieldcraft; powered aircraft and glider flying; and other outdoor activities, as well classification training leading up to a BTEC in Aviation Studies. Week-long trips to RAF stations, or camps offering adventure training or music, allow the opportunity for cadets to gain a taste of military life and often to gain some flying experience in RAF gliders and RAF training aircraft such as the Grob Tutor.

Cadet membership can begin from the start of school Year 8 (England and Wales), Or equivalent in Scotland and Northern Ireland. New members will join as a junior cadet (probationer) and can earn positions of increasing responsibility in a military rank structure, as well as having increasing skill and competence recognised in a classification scheme (First Class, Leading, Senior, Master and Instructor) . Service as a cadet ends at the age of 20. As of 2014, the ATC numbered 33,590 Cadets[4] and 10,430 Cadet Force Adult Volunteers.[4] In addition, there are approximately 5,000 civilian committee members.

Together with the RAF contingents of the Combined Cadet Force, the ATC form the Air Cadet Organisation.

The ATC is part of the Community Cadet Forces.



Main article: John Adrian Chamier

Air Commodore Sir John Chamier is affectionately known as the "father of the air cadet movement".[5] He joined the Royal Flying Corps (the forerunner of the Royal Air Force) where he served as a pilot in World War I, transferred to the Royal Air Force in 1918 and after retiring from the service in 1929, become Secretary-General of the Air League - an organisation made up of people who wanted to make the British public aware of the importance of military aviation. With the clouds of war beginning to form over Europe, and the personal memory of how young men with only a few hours of training had been sent into air combat only to fall victim to well-trained enemy aviators, he conceived the idea of an aviation cadet corps.

Air Defence Cadet Corps

Air cadets learn the basics of flight at RNAS St Merryn in Cornwall, February 1944

The purpose of the Air Defence Cadet Corps (ADCC), set up in 1938 by Air Commodore Chamier, was to train young men in various aviation-related skills.[6] The ADCC proved popular, with thousands joining up. In 1941, in order to provide the means of giving part-time air training to teenagers and young men who might later join the Royal Air Force, the ADCC was formally established as the Air Training Corps by Royal Warrant.

Air Training Corps

Slingsby Cadet TX.3 glider used by the ATC from 1953 to 1986.

On 5 February 1941 the Air Training Corps (ATC) was officially established, with King George VI agreeing to be the Air Commodore-in-Chief, and issuing a Royal Warrant setting out the Corps' aims. Within the first month of its existence, the size of the old ADCC, now the ATC, virtually doubled to more than 400 squadrons and continued to grow thereafter. A new badge was designed for the ATC and, once approved by the King, was distributed in August 1941. The motto ' Venture Adventure ', devised by Air Commodore Chamier, was adopted by the ATC and incorporated into the badge.

The new ATC squadrons adopted training programmes to prepare young men for entry to the Royal Air Force. Squadrons arranged visits to RAF and Fleet Air Arm stations as part of the cadets' training, where a flight might be a possibility. Such opportunities were not widely available, however, and many cadets were disappointed. One solution was to introduce opportunities for gliding, as a way to allow a cadet to get the feel of an aircraft in flight and to handle an aircraft's controls whilst airborne. After the end of the Second World War, gliding lessons became available.[7]

Prior to the 1980s, females were unable to join the ATC, although they were able to join an attached unit of the Girls Venture Corps (GVC) which had been formed in the early years of the Second World War, if one was available at that location.[8] As of 2013, the GVCAC still exists, although in greatly reduced numbers due to competition from the ATC, and the two organisations no longer share a site.

Before May 2008, cadets would spend a lot of time in the classroom before obtaining First Class classification, studying the following subjects: The Air Training Corps, The Royal Air Force, History of Flight, Initial Expedition Training, Basic Communications and Airmanship I. After a number of lectures and when the cadet felt ready, they would take a multiple choice examination, either on paper or on a computer. Some wings ran courses that would involve the cadet spending a few solid days learning and then awarded the appropriate classification if successful in their exams. In May 2008, HQAC decided to change the training programme for junior and second class cadets, sensing that new recruits were being deterred by exams.

Air Cadet Organisation

Advertising material such as leaflets and official websites brand the Air Training Corps and Combined Cadet Force together as the Air Cadet Organisation (or ACO). Members of the ATC may refer to themselves as Royal Air Force Air Cadets, although to the general population they are more commonly known as "Air Cadets".

Structure and organisation

The Air Training Corps is formed of six Regions across the United Kingdom and each of these regions are made up of five or six wings. As of 2015 there are 1009 ATC squadrons and detached flights, each assigned to a wing. The ATC is the largest part of the Air Cadet Organisation (ACO), along with the RAF sections of the Combined Cadet Force. The ACO forms one of the seven functional areas of No 22 Group RAF, which is responsible for the recruitment and selection of all RAF personnel and for the policy and delivery of RAF non-operational training (including flying training). A FTRS RAF Air Commodore serves as Commandant Air Cadets.


Air Training Corps, Rothes
Albion Road, London N16 - Air Training Corps, Army Cadet Force These premises have been used by the Air Training Corps (ATC) and Army Cadets for training since at least 1940
The HQ of 1465 (Gwynedd) Air Training Corps in Dale Street
ATC 300 (Axholme) Sqn. The ATC training centre is located in the grounds of Axholme school, on Wharf Road


Central & East[9] London & South East[10] North[11] Scotland & Northern Ireland[12] South West[13] Wales & West[14]
Bedfordshire & Cambridgeshire Wing London Wing Central & East Yorkshire Wing North East Scotland Wing Bristol & Gloucestershire Wing Merseyside Wing
Hertfordshire & Buckinghamshire Wing Kent Wing Cumbria & Lancashire Wing South East Scotland Wing Devon & Somerset Wing No. 1 Welsh Wing
Norfolk & Suffolk Wing Essex Wing Durham & Northumberland Wing West Scotland Wing Dorset & Wilts Wing No. 2 Welsh Wing
South & East Midlands Wing Middlesex Wing Greater Manchester Wing Highland Wing Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wing No. 3 Welsh Wing
Trent Wing Surrey Wing South & West Yorkshire Wing Northern Ireland Wing Plymouth & Cornwall Wing Staffordshire Wing
Warwickshire & Birmingham Wing Sussex Wing Thames Valley Wing West Mercian Wing


Headquarters Air Cadets (HQAC) is based at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire. There are subordinate headquarters at region and wing levels staffed by officers of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training Branch) and civil servants. HQAC controls two Air Cadet National Adventure Training Centres at Llanbedr, Gwynedd, Wales and Windermere, Cumbria, England. These provide a range of adventure training courses and accommodation for squadron and wing expeditions. HQAC also controls 28 Volunteer Gliding Squadrons around the UK, through the Air Cadet Central Gliding School at RAF Syerston, and 12 Air Experience Flights.

The ATC is divided geographically into six regions (each commanded by a retired Group Captain in the RAF Reserves), and each region is sub-divided into a number of wings. There were historically six wings per region, however, as of 2013 there are 34 wings, most named after the one or two counties of the United Kingdom that they operate in. Wings are further sub-divided into Sectors. And within the sectors, lie squadrons, and it is the squadron that is the focal point for the majority of members of the Corps.


ATC Squadrons are established in most large towns in the United Kingdom. There are also units in Cyprus, Germany, Gibraltar and the Channel Islands. In towns not large enough to sustain a squadron of 30 cadets, or as a supplement to an existing squadron in a larger town or city, a Detached Flight (DF) may be formed. A detached flight operates much like any other unit, but is technically a component part of a nearby, larger squadron. As of March 2013 there are over 900 ATC squadrons and 32 detached flights.[15]

Each squadron is commanded by a Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training Branch) RAFVR(T) officer, or sometimes a warrant officer. The commanding officer has a good deal of autonomy in running his or her unit, along with the responsibility that goes with it. Where a unit has other members of staff, the commanding officer allocates duties and provides recommendations on appointments, retentions and promotions. A Commanding Officer of an ATC Squadron can appoint Cadets up to the rank of Cadet Flight Sergeant (Cdt FS)without any external influence. Further Cadet promotion to the rank of Cadet Warrant Officer (CWO) requires recommendation being sent to their Squadron's Wing HQ.

The Squadron Warrant Officer (Sqn WO) commonly holds the rank of warrant officer, or may be a senior non-commissioned officer (SNCO) if no warrant officer is available, and will typically have spent many years working within the squadron or at least within the ATC. In the case where no commissioned officers are present, the Sqn WO or SNCO will take charge of the unit. The squadron warrant officer usually has a closer relationship with the cadets than the commanding officer.

The establishment of officers, WOs, senior NCOs and cadet NCOs is dependent on the size of the squadron or detached flight and this basic structure has many permutations varying with the number of cadets and staff, accommodation and facilities. A typical small detached flight may consist only of the Officer Commanding and fifteen cadets and is often housed in rented accommodation. At the other end of the scale, a large squadron can consist of 120 cadets or more, four commissioned officers, two non-commissioned officers and a half dozen civilian instructors. Civilian Instructors (many of whom are retired RAF regulars) form the backbone of the ACO.

Civilian committees

For every squadron and wing there is an associated civilian committee. The Wing Committee is drawn from squadron civilian committee members and there is an annual AGM at squadron and wing level. The job of a civilian committee is to manage and act as trustees of the financial resources of the squadron or wing, since the uniformed officers and civilian instructors in the ATC have no financial responsibilities and need money to manage and provide cadet activities, e.g. annual and overseas camps, and adventure training. Nearly all civilian committees welcome support from members of the public, parents, school managers, local councillors, ex-service personnel, the RAFA and The Royal British Legion. A civilian committee is responsible for overseeing the initial unit formation and direction, and will monitor the welfare of cadets. Civilian committees often include parents of cadets and retired ATC staff. A squadron's civilian committee can provide a link to the Wing Committee and the Regional Chairman.

The ATC is a charitable organisation.[note 1] The Royal Air Force provides funds for a few of the key activities such as flying and glider pilot training, but the great range of other activities offered by the ATC have to be financed from other sources. Here the civilian committees play their part to seek and manage the necessary finance by way of fund-raising. Schemes might include: cadets packing bags for money at the local supermarket; 'spare change' collections at local events; marshalling duties at public events.

A minimum of 5 members make up a civilian committee, and at the annual general meeting the committee officers a chairman, treasurer and secretary must be elected; for larger committees an additional officer, the deputy chairman may also be elected. The OC and chaplain are ex-officio members of their civilian committee and as such whilst they have no voting rights they may advise in committee matters. The minutes for meetings are generally taken by the committee secretary. The rules governing Civilian Committees are found in a publication known as ACP11.


Aims and motto

Cadets from the Air Training Corps and Army Cadet Force during Remembrance Sunday, 2006

The Aims of the Air Training Corps, as set out in the Royal Warrant and approved by HM the Queen, the British sovereign, are:

The Air Training Corp's motto is "Venture, Adventure".[5]

In late December, HRH The Prince Phillip resigned from his role as honorary Air Commodore-in-Chief - having served in this role since 1953. It was announced on 16 December 2015 that HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is being succeeded as honorary Air Commodore-in-Chief by The Duchess of Cambridge.[17]


Upon enrolment into the ATC, every cadet has to make the following promise, usually at a ceremony presided over by the unit's padre or commanding officer:

"I, *Full Name*, hereby solemnly promise on my honour to serve my Unit loyally and to be faithful to my obligations as a member of the Air Training Corps. I further promise to be a good citizen and to do my duty to (God and^) the Queen, my Country and my Flag."[18]

This promise is recorded by the cadet's signature in his or her Cadet Record of Service Book (RAF Form 3822)

(^ The promise has recently been rewritten to accommodate everyone, whether or not they are religious.)


Air Training Corps Ensign

The Air Training Corps Ensign is hoisted for every parade and hauled-down at dusk. It is expected that it should be treated with the same respect and dignity afforded to the Royal Air Force Ensign. In the event of poor weather conditions e.g. heavy rain or snowfall, the ensign would not be raised. If poor weather conditions are present whilst the ensign is raised, it would be hauled down at the soonest possible point.This is to avoid damage to the ensign and also as a mark of respect and discipline.

The ATC ensign is raised and lowered by a nominated member of the squadron, sometimes a cadet non-commissioned officer (NCO), member of staff, or simply a cadet who has been chosen, with the salute being taken by any commissioned officer, normally the squadron's Officer Commanding. All officers within view or earshot of the ensign are expected to salute during the hoisting and hauling down.

Most ATC wings and squadrons also have a banner, in addition to an ensign, which is paraded on formal occasions. The ATC also has a Corps Banner, which is afforded the same courtesies as an RAF Squadron Standard or the RAF Queens Colour, although its status is different.


Parade and church service in Saint Peter Port, Guernsey, 16 September 2012

All cadets are issued with a uniform that is similar to that worn by RAF personnel and are regulated by similar dress regulations to the RAF. The Air Training Corps' dress regulations can be found in AP1358C. Occasionally alterations have been made to the dress regulations as the organisation has developed over the years. One such example being the authorisation CFAVs and Cadets to wear Multi-Terrain Pattern (MTP)uniform in 2014.

The standard uniform consists of a dark blue shirt and brassard, blue-grey trousers (male cadets) or skirt/slacks (female cadets), a blue-grey jumper: V-neck or round neck version, to be worn when required, and a dark blue beret with the Air Training Corps cap badge. Some Squadrons differentiate themselves from each other at a local level. One such example would be different coloured pieces of cloth behind the cap badges on the beret. This allowed Cadet NCOs and CFAV to distinguish between Cadets of differing Flights. This practise however is not officially authorised from HQAC and therefore should not be practised. All uniform except black parade shoes and combat boots are provided at the expense of the ATC. Girls are also expected to provide their own hair nets, hair spray, hair ties etc. In order to keep it neat as well as 15 denier, matt, tights in the shade barely black. Boys hair must be kept short, maximum of a 3 back and sides, although some squadrons are now allowing long male hair to be tied in the same fashion as the girls however this is not widespread, plain black socks are also required.

Cadets are also issued with a light blue shirt and tie for formal occasions, and are usually either issued with or privately acquire a camouflage uniform, also known as a disruptive pattern material (DPM) uniform and more recently have been authorised to wear the modern Multi-Terrain Pattern (MTP). Cadets may be allowed or obliged to wear other specialist uniforms, such as flight suits or other forms of protective clothing, when required.

Squadron insignia

The first 50 squadrons that were formed retain an F to show they are "founder" squadrons, e.g. No 11F (Brooklands) Squadron or 1F, City of Leicester. Only 30 of these are still in existence; the other 20 have disbanded over time. Some founder squadrons have reformed under Roman numerals, having been refused permission to re-assume the F; the first Squadron to do so was XIX (19 Crawley) Squadron, Sussex Wing. Although Brooklands Squadron was the first Squadron to be established, it was given the Squadron number of 11F due to a clerical error.

A Detached Flight uses its parent squadron number followed by the letters DF to show that it is a detached flight e.g. No 1408DF for No 1408 (Cranleigh) Detached Flight, raised by No 1408 (Dorking) Squadron.


An Air Training Corps Formation - RIAT 2011
Grob Tutor T1 basic trainer
Grob Vigilant T1 motor-glider
An Air Training Corps Marching Band from City of York Squadron
Air Cadets stall at the 2009 Southport Air Show, Merseyside, England

Activities undertaken by cadets in the ATC are intended to provide experience and training in the skills and disciplines admired by the armed forces; however, instruction is designed to be useful to a teenager whether the cadet later chooses a military career or a civil one. The emphasis is on teamwork, leadership, physical fitness, discipline and the development of such virtues and talents as courage, dexterity and mental agility. Parade drill is taught and regularly practiced, outward bound activities such as hill walking and rock climbing are often available and community service is encouraged, in particular the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Opportunities exist to learn rifle shooting and marksmanship, first aid and radio communications. Team sports such as rugby, football and netball, or more individual challenges such as orienteering and cross country running, often involve rivalry between squadrons. Adventure training gives a cadet the opportunity to develop the skills of initiative and leadership.

There are also opportunities for band music and many camps offer teenagers the chance to spend a week away from parents practicing fieldcraft or receiving instruction in gliding and other outdoor pursuits. Many of these activities, including gliding, have a well-defined scale of achievement that a cadet can work to build up; this includes the leadership qualities reflected in an NCO structure.

Annual camps

The ATC runs numerous annual camps each year, run on RAF stations so that cadets may get a taste of service life. Annual camps are organised at wing level with place for all squadrons, so that every cadet who wishes to and who has achieved at least the First Class qualification may take part. Cadets usually stay in RAF barrack blocks and eat in the station's mess facilities. The itinerary is always packed with typical ATC activities such as air experience flying, shooting, adventure training and, of course, drill. Cadets also have the opportunity to visit various sections of the station and meet the people who work there.

Cadets may also have the opportunity to attend other sorts of annual camp, such as a locally (i.e. wing- or squadron-) organised camp based around adventure training or fieldcraft, or as guests on a camp run by one of the other cadet forces such as the Army Cadet Force or the Sea Cadet Corps. There are also Music camps for band members.

The largest camp of all is the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) camp held annually in July at RAF Fairford. Each year more than 500 cadets and their staff spend between 1 and 3 weeks doing essential work in the preparation and the taking-down of the infrastructure of RIAT. On display days cadets have jobs to do and after the show weekend they are able to meet the crews and see the aeroplanes at close range.

Work experience camps

Another option for more senior cadets are work experience camps. Whilst annual camps aim to give cadets a general taste of service life, the work experience camps cater for cadets who are interested in a specific trade, such as the RAF Regiment or RAF Police. However, in recent years, the opportunities for work experience placements have decreased. Cadets can however contact their local Armed Forces Careers Office (AFCO).

Overseas camps

For older and more experienced cadets who have achieved the Leading Cadet qualification and have attended a UK Annual Camp, the corps also offers overseas camps. These are generally more relaxed and seen as a reward for hard-working and long-serving cadets. Since the end of the Cold War, and the closure of RAF stations in Germany, the number of overseas camp opportunities has decreased. As of 2007 the destinations for overseas camps are:


ATC squadrons each have a chance annually to win the two most prized trophies in the corps. The Sir Alan Lees trophy is awarded by the ATC commandant to the squadron with the best statistics and overall impression when inspected. The Morris Trophy is awarded to one of the 6 regional candidates upon inspection by the commandant.

Sir Alan Lees Trophy
Year Winner Officer Commanding
2000 No. 230 (Congleton) Squadron, Staffordshire Wing Flight Lieutenant Rod Goodier RAFVR(T)
2001 No. 215 (City of Swansea) Squadron, No.3 Welsh Wing Squadron Leader Phillip Flower MBE RAFVR(T)
2005 No. 215 (City of Swansea) Squadron, No.3 Welsh Wing Squadron Leader Phillip Flower MBE RAFVR(T)
2008 No. 241 (Wanstead and Woodford) Squadron, London Wing Squadron Leader Jerry Godden RAFVR(T)
2009 No. 610 (Chester) Squadron, Merseyside Wing Flight Lieutenant John Kendal RAFVR(T)
2010 No. 1475 (Dulwich) Squadron, London Wing Squadron Leader Kevin Mehmet MBE RAFVR(T)
2011 No. 215 (City of Swansea) Squadron, No. 3 Welsh Wing[19] Squadron Leader Phillip Flower MBE RAFVR(T)
2012 No. 2160 (Sleaford) Squadron, Trent Wing Flight Lieutenant Mel Walker RAFVR(T)
2013 No. 2344 (Longbenton) Squadron, Durham & Northumberland Wing [20] Flight Lieutenant Gary Richardson RAFVR(T)
2014 No. 1349 (Woking) Squadron, Surrey Wing Flight Lieutenant Ben White RAFVR(T)
2015 No. 56 (Woolwich) Squadron, London Wing Flight Lieutenant Mark Bird RAFVR(T)
2016 No. 31 (Tower Hamlets) Squadron, London Wing Flight Lieutenant Rex Nicholls RAFVR(T)
The Morris Trophy
Year Winner Officer Commanding
2006 No. 2409(Halton) Squadron, Herts and Bucks Wing[21] Squadron Leader Jerry Davies RAFVR(T)[21]
2008 No. 1855 (Royton) Squadron, East Lancashire Wing Flight Lieutenant Mark Hamilton RAFVR(T)
2009 No. 1211 (Swadlincote) Squadron, South and East Midlands Wing Flight Lieutenant Alyn Thompson RAFVR(T)
2010 No. 126 (City of Derby) Squadron, South and East Midlands Wing Squadron Leader Ian Marshall RAFVR(T)[22]
2011 No. 1855 (Royton) Squadron, East Lancashire Wing[19] Flight Lieutenant Mark Hamilton RAFVR(T)
2012 No. 633 (West Swindon) Squadron, Dorset & Wiltshire Wing Flight Lieutenant Helene Woodham RAFVR(T)
2013 No. 2516 (Droitwich) Squadron, West Mercian Wing [23] Flight Lieutenant Paul Wilde RAFVR(T)
2014 No. 184 (Manchester South) Squadron, Greater Manchester Wing Flight Lieutenant Tom Warner RAFVR(T)
2015 No. 1271 (Bathgate) Squadron, West Scotland Wing Flight Lieutenant Margaret Greer RAFVR(T)
2016 No. 126 (City of Derby) Squadron, South and East Midlands Wing Squadron Leader Ian Marshall MBE RAFVR(T)

The Foster Trophy is awarded to the cadet who has achieved the highest academic results in the entire corps over his/her time in the ATC, after finishing the cadet syllabus that leads to a Btec in Aviation Studies. In addition, there are also trophies presented annually by the Royal Air Forces Association. These trophies include the "Sir Douglas Bader Wings Appeal Trophy" for the ATC squadron collecting the most money on a per capita basis, The squadron achieving second place is awarded the “Sir Augustus Walker Trophy". The “Sir Robert Saundby Trophy” is awarded for collecting the highest net Wings Appeal amount.

The Quinton Memorial Trophy is a national award presented annually to the adult non-commissioned officer who has gained the top academic results in the senior non-commissioned officer initial courses held at the Air Cadet Adult Training Facility, Royal Air Force College, Cranwell. This trophy is named in honour of Flight Lieutenant John Quinton.[note 2]

Cadets and ranking


Young people who have begun their 2nd year of Secondary School (Year 8) and are under 16 3/4 years old can join the ATC. They are initially given the title 'Junior Cadet' and can go along to most meetings to get a feel for the ATC. Enrolment confers the status of Second Class Cadet and upon completion of the First Class syllabus, they become First Class Cadets and receive their First Class badge to be worn on their brassard. First class classification can take 3 to 6 months to reach, depending upon the squadron's activities and schedule. Once cadets have successfully completed lessons in a number of subjects and achieved first class classification, they are able to take part in almost all ATC activities. Those who stay on beyond 18 are known as Staff Cadets. All cadets over the age of 18 must complete BASIC (Basic Adult Staff Induction Course) prior to their 18th birthday and must be DBS cleared. Once a Cadet has completed the BASIC, their Cadet service is extended to their 20th birthday. After this point Cadet service is terminated.

All cadets are issued with a uniform and must each pay a small amount in subscriptions (or 'subs' as they are commonly known), usually around £50100 per year, although this can vary widely from squadron to squadron. Activities such as small and full bore target shooting, flying and gliding are paid for from the budget of the Royal Air Force.

Cadet NCOs

As cadets become more experienced, and if suitable, they can be promoted by their squadron's commanding officer (CO) to the status of cadet NCOs. Promotion to the rank of corporal, sergeant and flight sergeant is at the discretion of the Commanding Officer. They (or a representative) will make a decision based on merit and leadership potential many squadrons have formal selection procedures including interviews, whilst others select by observing potential during normal training. All cadets, regardless of rank, must leave by age 20.

The NCO ranks within the ATC mirror those of the RAF's non-technical/flying trades and are, in ascending order of seniority:

Cadet Corporal (Cpl)
Cadet Sergeant (Sgt)
Cadet Flight Sergeant (FS)
Cadet Warrant Officer (CWO)

It is common within the ATC to abbreviate these ranks by dropping the prefix "cadet". Cadet Warrant Officers are not addressed as Sir/Ma'am, but as "Warrant Officer", dropping the "cadet" prefix as with all other cadet ranks.[24] This is to distinguish them from the Adult Staff, as they are at least 18 years of age and could easily be confused with an adult member of staff, or a serving member of the RAF.

Promotion to Cadet Warrant Officer is decided by a panel at wing level once a recommendation form has been submitted by the Officer Commanding the prospective candidate's Squadron. Prospective candidates will be a Staff Cadet Flight Sergeant, preferably holding the Master Cadet classification (see below) and will be required to attend an interview with the wing commander or his/her representative. Once the Wing Commander approves the promotion to Cadet Warrant Officer, the recommendation is sent to HQAC at RAFC Cranwell. The recommendation will then receive final approval and a certificate of appointment will be issued to the successful candidate.

Staff cadets

All cadets who are over the age of 18, must complete a "BASIC" (Basic Adult Staff Induction Course) or "Duty of Care" course and have the prefix "Staff Cadet" before their rank. These Cadets wear a rank slide with the words 'STAFF CADET' embroidered below their rank insignia (or on plain slides for those of cadet rank). A staff cadet has extra responsibilities over cadets who are under the age of 18, including a duty of care to younger cadets and NCOs, and special training is provided for this. These cadets have also been cleared by DBS. Staff Cadets are considered adult members of staff after this point so are segregated from the Cadets in accommodation and washing facilities.

Cadet classifications

Not all cadets who join the ATC can expect to receive promotion. However, all cadets can progress through the training system and, by passing exams, achieve different classifications. The classification levels are Junior Cadet, Second Class Cadet (this is automatically achieved on enrolment), First Class Cadet, Leading Cadet, Senior Cadet and Master Air Cadet. In order to achieve these qualifications, cadets study a variety of subjects through tuition from the instructors and/or self-study from Ultilearn. Each successive qualification generally allows a cadet greater participation in ATC activities. Cadets who have achieved the Master air cadet classification have completed their academic training and can attain a BTEC Level 2 in Aviation Studies (Equivalent to 4 GCSEs A-C).

Instructor Cadet is not a classification as such, but rather a qualification. Cadets need to be at least 16 years of age to take part in this one day course, which allows them to teach other cadets. Although this is not compulsory, ATC Wings ordinarily feed this hand-in-hand with the Staff Cadet Course (see below). Upon successful completion of this course, the cadet will be awarded a yellow lanyard to distinguish them. This is worn over the left shoulder and fastened to a small black Royal Air Force button or the left shirt pocket button when not wearing a jumper.

Marking methodology

Leading Cadet and Senior Cadet exams consist of assessment criteria each containing two questions. A cadet must achieve either 1 or 2 marks (50% or 100%) for each module in order to pass. All exams are now taken online on a system called Ultilearn.

First Class Cadet

First Class is also commonly referred to as 'Basic Training'. A variety of methods are used to test a cadet's understanding of the subject, including practical tests and exercises to test ability, and interviews/quizzes to test knowledge. All junior cadets also have to pass a practical Drill Test to become first class. The drill test is a sequence of simple drill manoeuvres essential for forming squads and a good foundation to build on for more advanced drill.

Leading Cadet

For a cadet to become a leading cadet, they must have already gained first class status. They will then have to complete 3 examinations: Navigation on Land using a map and compass, Principles of Flight and Airmanship Knowledge.

Senior and Staff Cadet (old syllabus)

Prior to September 2010, for a cadet to become a senior cadet, they had already to have gained leading cadet status and taken 2 exams from a choice of 8 subjects, examined in the same way as for the Leading cadet syllabus. The 8 subjects were: Air Navigation, Pilot Navigation, Satellite Communications, Propulsion, Airframes, Advanced Radio and Radar, Aircraft Handling and Operational Flying.

The highest academic classification was Staff Cadet. For a cadet to become a staff cadet, they had to have already gained Senior Cadet status, be 15 years old, and to have sat and passed two more exams from the same subject list as for Senior classification, along with an interview with a wing staff officer and an assessment of teaching a lesson they would then be awarded their yellow lanyard.

Senior and Master new syllabus

An "Instructor Cadet" yellow lanyard

In September 2010, a new classification structure, syllabus and examination process came into force. The following subjects are available: Piston Engine Propulsion, Jet Engine Propulsion, Rocketry, Aircraft Handling and Flying Techniques, Air Power, Airframes, Avionics and Aircraft Electrical Systems, Military Aircraft Systems, Basic Air Navigation, Basic Principles of Pilot Navigation, Advanced Radio and Radar, and Data Communications. Master Air Cadet has its own new badge for the brassard which shows an ATC Falcon surrounded by laurel leaves.

Instructor Cadet and Junior Leaders

With the change of the classification structure in September 2010 the classification of staff cadet changed to become Instructor Cadet. An Instructor Cadet is denoted by a yellow lanyard worn over the left shoulder. Only Master Cadets will be permitted to wear the yellow lanyard. Whilst being a Master Cadet, there must also be a necessary Method Of Instruction Course which then grants the ability to wear the lanyard.

A Qualified Aerospace Instructors Cadet wearing the blue QAI Lanyard
Qualified Junior Leaders Cadets wearing the maroon JLs Lanyard

Alongside Instructor Cadet there is another classification lanyard that can be awarded to cadets who are interested in specialising in teaching aerospace subjects. These qualified cadets are known as Qualified Aerospace Instructor Cadets (QAIC) and wear a light blue lanyard over the left shoulder. The Qualified Aerospace Instructors Course has been running since September 2008. The course is held at RAF Linton-On-Ouse and as of 2011 also at MOD Boscombe Down. The course is held from early September to Easter of the following year, beginning with a selection weekend in early September, and 7 total weekends (as of QAIC 8, prior to this there were only 6 training weekends) from late September until early March.[25] The course culminates in a 'Graduation Week' which is organised to coincide with the Easter holidays to avoid clashing with school programmes. After completing training in various modules they carry out an assessed lesson, earning the blue QAIC lanyard and flight suit badge. Along the way the achievements of the students have been recognised by the Institute of Leadership and Management who offer an ILM Level 2 Certificate to graduating students and by the Royal Aeronautical Society who offer affiliated membership.[26]

For those interested in fieldcraft teaching and leadership there is the Junior Leaders Course. Successful completion of the course awards the participant a maroon lanyard to be worn over the left shoulder and a junior leaders badge to sew on to the left sleeve of their No.3 Service Dress (field uniform) to show they are a qualified Junior Leader. The course runs from September to Easter, involving nine weekend training camps and an assessment week s aimed at older cadets - you must be 17 or older in the year you begin the course. It's also open to Sea Cadets and Army Cadets and culminates in the award of a Level Three Certificate[27] in Team Leadership from the Institute of Leadership and Management.[28][29]

Adult staff and ranking

The staff who run the ATC at unit level are of 3 types: commissioned officers, senior NCOs and civilian instructors (CIs). All uniformed staff must attend training courses run by the RAF at the ATC Adult Training Facility, RAF College Cranwell (ATF), usually within a year of appointment, with further courses as they progress up the rank structure. Commissioned Officers wear a gilt "VRT" pin upon their rank braid, while Warrant Officers and NCOs wear a gilt 'ATC' pin.

Adult Staff Ranks
Commissioned Officers Insignia Non-commissioned Officers Insignia Civilian Staff Insignia
Officer Cadet (Off Cdt)


Sergeant Sgt (ATC) Civilian Instructor (CI) None normally worn,
although may be seen
with a lapel pin or
an armband, or may
be wearing a sweatshirt
or polo shirt with a logo.
Pilot Officer (Plt Off)


Flight Sergeant FS (ATC) Chaplain None normally worn,
although may be seen
with a lapel pin
Flying Officer (Fg Off)


Warrant Officer WO (ATC)
Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt)


Warrant Officer* WO (ATC)
Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr)


The ATC pin worn on the

bottom of shoulder rank slides

and lapels of those that are

NCO's (ATC).

Wing Commander (Wg Cdr)


The VRT pin worn on the

shoulder rank slides

and lapels of those that are

RAFVR(T) officers.

Group Captain (Gp Capt)
Air Commodore (Air Cdre)

*Ex-regular Warrant Officer, Regional & Corps Warrant Officers or (formerly) granted to other ATC WO's for long service.


Officers are commissioned into the Training Branch of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve - the RAFVR(T). The RAF(VRT) is non combatant and there is no training for any form of active duty, or integration into the duties of other full-time or reserve duties. The RAF (VRT) officer is concerned only with that of Air Cadets. Unless an officer has previous service, he or she is commissioned as a substantive Pilot Officer, termed Officer Cadet until the Officers Initial Course (OIC) at RAF Cranwell is completed.[note 3] Promotion to Flying Officer normally occurs after two years. Former regular commissioned officers usually start at Flying Officer, subject to certain conditions. After 9 years commissioned service, or upon becoming Officer Commanding of a squadron and completing an Officers' Senior Course (OSC), the rank of Flight Lieutenant (acting unpaid) is bestowed. Commonly, the most senior rank in the VR(T) is that of Wing Commander, but most recently the ambassador to the Air Cadets will be appointed to the honorary rank of Group Captain in the RAFVR(T).

Squadrons are usually commanded by VRT Flight Lieutenants, who are also found as Wing and Regional staff officers along with Squadron Leaders and Wing Commanders. Particularly large squadrons are sometimes commanded by Squadron Leaders (usually when the squadron has 100 or more cadets).

NCOs and WOs

Adults may also be appointed as senior NCOs, these being ranks within the ATC. Adult NCOs/WOs are uniformed in the same way as their RAF counterparts with two exceptions: a small gilt ATC badge is worn on the rank badge and Warrant Officers wear a different rank badge (unless they have previous regular or active reserves warranted service). The ranks of Adult NCOs/WOs are Sergeant (ATC), Flight Sergeant (ATC) and Warrant Officer (ATC).[note 4]

There is currently some discussion about whether ATC NCOs should hold RAF VR(T) positions, like officers do. Presently, ATC NCOs are not subject to Queen's Regulations.

Civilian instructors and chaplains

Civilian Instructors, known as CIs, play an important role in training cadets and, in many ways, are the 'backbone' of the Squadron. Unlike adult NCOs and Officers, CIs do not wear uniform, although until recently greens were acceptable for fieldcraft and shooting activities, flying suits are still to be worn by those serving on AEF's or VGS', for safety reasons, which override other dress regulations. CI's do not officially form part of the chain of command in the squadron, but they may hold what might be called Command posts. It is expected that any cadet, irrespective of rank, should and will listen to CI's and obey relevant instructions given. A Civilian Instructor's recognised dress consists of a light blue polo shirt and dark blue sweatshirt bearing the name of the corps and "Royal Air Force", in an effort to standardise the means by which CIs are identified. CI's are addressed as Sir or Ma'am by cadets when speaking to them or Mr, Mrs, Miss then surname by staff speaking to them or by anyone who is referring to them when they are not present, neither "CI" and surname or "staff'" are correct forms of address. Staff is the term of address for service personnel junior to NCO rank.

Many CIs are ex RAF or ex military or have skills that complement the aims of the ATC.

Some CIs may hold positions such as the Squadron Adjutant or Training Officer within the squadron.

Similarly, ATC chaplains are usually civilian members of the local clergy (although forces chaplains may join as Service Instructors). Civilian chaplains also do not normally wear uniform, and are generally addressed as 'Padre' by all ranks or alternatively as 'Father'.

Service instructors

Members of the full-time and part-time (Reserve) Armed Forces often assist at ATC Squadrons in the role of Service Instructor they engage in instructional duties which are often related to their serving role. Service Instructors wear the uniform of their parent unit and are addressed appropriately, with ranks junior to NCO being addressed as "Staff".

See also

Other elements of the Community Cadet Forces

Other MoD sponsored cadet forces

Air Cadet organisation

Related articles


  1. Squadrons and ATC Wings are generally "charities excepted from registration" Charities Act 2006 section 3A. This means they enjoy all of the legal benefits of a registered charity without the burden of registration. Every year the civilian committee has a mandatory duty to submit, by 31 July in every year, a simple income/expenditure account to Headquarters Air Cadets (HQAC) via Wing HQ
  2. Flight Lieutenant John Alan Quinton was an RAF navigator on a Wellington aircraft, which was flying an air cadet on an Air Experience Flight in 1951. During the flight, the aircraft was involved in a mid-air collision and Flight Lieutenant Quinton gave the only parachute within reach to the cadet, pushing him out of the aircraft. His quick thinking and heroic action saved the life of the cadet but cost him his own, for which he was posthumously awarded the George Cross.
  3. Unlike RAF Officer Cadets at the RAF College or RAFVR Officer Cadets of the University Air Squadron, RAFVR(T) Officer Cadets are, in fact, commissioned. In coming years this is likely to change and the non-commissioned Officer Cadet RAFVR(T) rank will be introduced, bringing the RAFVR(T) in line with the RAF and RAFVR.
  4. Prior to the 'LaSER (London and South East Region) Review' of 2003, the adult ranks of Sergeant and Flight Sergeant did not exist, meaning that the non-commissioned rank structure of a squadron was more straightforward i.e. Cadet, Cadet Corporal, Cadet Sergeant, Cadet Flight Sergeant, Cadet Warrant Officer, Adult Warrant Officer. This has been disturbed by inserting the ranks of Sgt (ATC) and FS (ATC) and WO (ATC). The rank of Sgt (ATC) is senior to all cadet ranks, including CWO. However, this does allow a wider scope for developing staff who do not wish to become commissioned officers, and brings the ATC's adult rank structure more in line with those of the other cadet forces, whose adult ranks begin at Sergeant or service equivalent.


  1. 1 2 "MOD Sponsored Cadet Statistics 1 April 2016" (PDF). GOV.UK. Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
  2. Welcome to the Air Training Corps, Air Cadet Organization, 2007, archived from the original on 16 January 2007, retrieved 17 January 2007 In 2013, the officer in command of the ATC was Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty.
  3. Air Cadet Organization: Annual Report 2006, RAF Cranwell: Air Cadet Organization, 2006
  4. 1 2 MoD - reserves and cadet strengths, table 8a page 17. April 2014.
  5. 1 2 Air Cadet Publication 31: General Service Training, Section 1 - The Air Training Corps, Lincolnshire: Air Cadet Organization, 2000, pp. 1–1
  6. "Ministry of Defence - About Defence - What we do - Reserve Forces and Cadets - DRFC - History of the Cadet Forces". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 28 November 2012.
  7. Air Cadet Publication 31: General Service Training, Section 1 - The Air Training Corps, Lincolnshire: Air Cadet Organization, 2000, pp. 1–3/4/5
  8. GVCAC HQ website. "The Girls Venture Corps Air Cadets". Archived from the original on 21 September 2008. Retrieved 28 September 2008.
  9. 1 2 Central & East Region
  10. 1 2 London & South East Region
  11. 1 2 North Region
  12. 1 2 Scotland & Northern Ireland Region
  13. 1 2 South West Region
  14. 1 2 Wales & West Region
  15. "Air Cadets (ATC) Squadron Finder & contact details". Retrieved 28 November 2012.
  16. Expand Your Horizons: Adult Volunteers, Lincolnshire: Air Cadet Organization, 2007
  17. H.R.H. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Monarchy Today, 2006, archived from the original on 12 August 2012, retrieved 23 October 2008
  18. RAF Form 3822: Cadet Record of Service, Lincolnshire: Air Cadet Organization, 2004
  19. 1 2 "Air Cadets News". Best of the best... Swansea squadron wins Lees Trophy. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
  20. "Longbenton Squadron are the Lees Trophy Winners". Air Cadet News. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
  21. 1 2 "2409 Sqn Presented with Morris Trophy by Commd't Air Cadets". 17 November 2007. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011.
  22. Sqn Ldr Wilson (17 July 2010). "126 Squadron Wins The Morris Cup". South and East Midlands Wing. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  23. "Droitwich Squadron wins the Morris Trophy". Air Cadet News. Retrieved 2013-11-28.
  24. "General Service Training". Air Cadet Publication. 31 (Section 1 - the air training corps): 31.1.3–9 Methods of Address. 2000.
  25. "QAIC 8 Covering Letter" (PDF). Air Cadets North. QAIC Support Admin Centre. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
  27. Junior Leaders Course 18 Calling Letter. Officer Commanding Junior Leaders. 19 May 2016. p. 13. a. Phase Training.

External links

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