'˜Best female air cadet' picked to fly with Red Arrows display team

IT is an experience that would turn most people's stomachs '“ even at the thought.
Joanna Kelly with Red Arrows pilot Flt Lt Tom Bould. Picture: contributedJoanna Kelly with Red Arrows pilot Flt Lt Tom Bould. Picture: contributed
Joanna Kelly with Red Arrows pilot Flt Lt Tom Bould. Picture: contributed

But the chance to fly with the world-famous Red Arrows aerobatics display team prompted nothing but excitement for thrill-seeking teenager Joanna Kelly.

The 19-year-old was selected to take to the skies with the RAF’s elite having being crowned best female air cadet in Scotland and Northern Ireland in a national competition.

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Joanna, from Pleasance, said: “It was even better than I thought it would be, especially because we didn’t expect there to be any formation flying. That was a treat for us.

“It was absolutely amazing, especially when the jet peeled off sharply from the rest before landing. It was just incredible.”

Joanna, who is a member of the 142 (Trinity) Squadron Air Training Corps, was one of nine RAF Air Cadets chosen to fly in a Red Arrows Hawk fast jet. She was paired with Red Arrows pilot Flt Lt Tom Bould – known by his call sign, Red seven.

She said: “None of it really sunk in until we were moving. Beforehand it was as though, ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to fly with the Red Arrows’.”

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Joanna touched down at the world’s biggest airshow at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, on Thursday where she was greeted by Carol Vorderman, who is an honorary group captain in her role as RAF Air Cadet ambassador.

She said: “The Air Cadets is a fantastic organisation and I’m very proud to be a part of it, especially in our 75th anniversary year.

“Many of the Red Arrows have been cadets themselves, and this is one of their ways of rewarding them and recognising the importance of the Air Cadets within the RAF.”

Joanna joined the Air Cadets in her native North Yorkshire when she was 13, allowing her to gain three BTECs in aviation studies, public services and music, as well as becoming a qualified aerospace instructor.

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She now studies computer science and electronics at Edinburgh University and hopes to join the defence industry on graduating.

She said: “Being in the Cadets has given me great opportunities like extra qualifications and industry connections. It has definitely influenced my dream to become a systems engineer in the defence industry.”

The RAF Air Cadets is one of the UK’s largest youth organisations, providing more than 40,000 young people with training, adventure and opportunities to fly.

Joanna joined with more than 1000 of them on duty at the Royal International Air Tattoo, which this year saw the UK debut of the Royal Navy and RAF’s advanced stealth fighter, the F-35B Lightning.

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The event was attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Joanna said: “I would recommend any young person to try out the Air Cadets. I have not come from a military background – it was simply something to do in the evenings. The opportunities it has thrown up have been amazing.”