Michael flies high with top RAF award

Michael receiving his Trophy from 'Red One', Sqn Ldr David 'Monty' Montenegro, watched by his parents Nigel and Wendy; and tv presenter James May looking envious of Michael's newly-presented award.
Michael receiving his Trophy from 'Red One', Sqn Ldr David 'Monty' Montenegro, watched by his parents Nigel and Wendy; and tv presenter James May looking envious of Michael's newly-presented award.

A STUDENT at the University of Ulster enjoyed his first trip to London last week, with the icing on the cake being the presentation of a coveted national award for his outstanding ability as a pilot.

Michael Jennings, 19, from Drumbo was presented with the 2014 Royal Air Force Charitable Trust Trophy for Flying Excellence at the RAF in Concert event at the Cadogan Hall, in London, by the Bands of the RAF. He received his award from the leader of the RAF’s aerobatic display team, the Red Arrows, Sqn Ldr David ‘Monty’ Montenegro.

The Trophy is awarded annually by the Trust to the top-performing Air Cadet who, in the opinion of the Air Cadet Organisation (ACO), has shown both outstanding flying ability and personal qualities.

Currently a Cadet Warrant Officer with 817 (Lisburn) Sqn and 664 Volunteer Gliding Sqn (VGS) at Newtownards, Michael will be leaving Cadets when he’s 20 in January, and rejoin as an adult Civilian Gliding Instructor at 664 VGS.

He says: “My vision is not 20/20, so unfortunately I can’t join the RAF as a pilot, but I’d like to gain my PPL and fly civilian aircraft, and also fly the Grob Vigilant at the VGS, teaching cadets how to fly.”

He is currently studying Electronic Engineering at the University of Ulster.

Michael said: “The RAF in Concert was absolutely incredible.

“The band were not just playing music, they all had their own individual character and it just made everything they did both funny and entertaining.

“It’s not often you leave an orchestral performance with a sore stomach from laughing!

He added: “I met James May and Air Marshal Sir Kevin Leeson, Chairman of the Charitable Trust, and the highlight was being able to talk to the Red Arrows, asking them how they got to where they are today and how they started flying.

“It was amazing to be able to talk to the best aerobatic display team in the world so casually!

“The night was definitely one of the highlights of my life so far.

“It was an honour to meet so many new and friendly people, thanks to the Charitable Trust. I cannot thank them enough!”