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Hampshire & IOW Wing RAF Air Cadets are flying high!

Hampshire & IOW Wing RAF Air Cadets welcomed special guests on Sunday 12th May for the official opening of the Southern Aerospace Centre - a high tech facility offering virtual reality aviation training to RAF Air Cadets across the south of England, housed at 424 (Southampton) Squadron.

The facility was made possible following a successful funding bid to The Connaught Trust which resulted in £100,000 being awarded to the Wing. Additional funding from the South East Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association (SERFCA) financed the supporting infrastructure and together enabled the installation of two Aerospace Centres within the Wing: the Southern Centre in Southampton and the Northern Centre in Aldershot.

Air Commodore Simon Harper OBE MA Chartered FCIPD RAF was invited to officially open the high-tech virtual reality Southern Aerospace Centre, which was named The Brooks Suite in tribute to David Brooks, a Civilian Instructor with 424 (Southampton) Squadron who sadly passed away before the project completion.

Air Commodore Simon Harper said, “Hampshire and the Isle of Wight has a remarkable aviation history and heritage. This legacy provides the ideal backdrop for the RAF Air Cadets’ Southern Aerospace Centre that will inspire and enthuse the next generation of aerospace specialists and pioneers. I am extremely grateful for the support of The Connaught Trust and the South East Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association who have turned the vision, energy and passion of the RAF Air Cadets into such an important and unique facility.”

The equipment has enhanced the training experience of hundreds of RAF Air Cadets as many of the skills honed through VR experiences are directly applicable to real-world scenarios in both civilian industries and military operations. These skills include strategic thinking, effective communication, teamwork, and leadership under pressure. Thanks to the equipment, the Wing has achieved a 100% success rate for first solo in flying and gliding scholarships.

One cadet explained, “With the new simulators, it is a more immersive experience and better preparation for flying. When you get into a plane, you realise that the simulator was very realistic!”

The opening event welcomed over 20 VIP guests including the Lord Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Valerie Laurent; Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire and Chair of The Connaught Trust, Colonel Charles Ackroyd and SERFCA County Chairman and Trustee of The Connaught Trust, Commander Anthony Stickland. Guests were given the opportunity to participate in a range of activities and demonstrations. Cadets showed off their flying skills and guests were able to have a go at flying a range of virtual aircraft, including Red Arrows jets. Other demonstrations included a STEM workshop, e-Sports and Rocketry display.

The Connaught Trust is a UK registered charity, with a Board comprising individuals who have proud association with Reservist organisations and has funds available to promote military efficiency within the Cadet and Reserve forces in the South of England. The trust gives grants to units based mainly in Hampshire and The Isle of Wight, but also to beneficiaries located in the adjoining counties of Berkshire, Dorset, Surrey, West Sussex and Wiltshire. For more information visit


  1. Cadets await the arrival of guests.

  2. A guard of honour welcomes the VIP guests to the event.

  3. Air Commodore Simon Harper speaks to the cadets as he walks through the guard of honour.

  4. L-R Air Commodore Simon Harper; Wing Commander Mark Trevena, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire and Chair of The Connaught Trust, Colonel Charles Ackroyd.

  5. The Southern Aviation Centre equipped with VR Flight Simulators, funded by The Connaught Trust.

  6. SERFCA County Chairman and Trustee of The Connaught Trust, Commander Anthony Stickland and Commodore Simon Harper hear from a cadet how the equipment has benefitted them.

  7. Cadets demonstrate their flying skills.

  8. Cadets show Commodore Simon Harper how they plot flight routes on a map.

  9. Commodore Simon Harper and Commander Anthony Stickland view rockets designed and created by cadets.

  10. The plaque is unveiled by Commodore Simon Harper to name the suite.

  11. The plaque shows the Wing logo and the name "The Brooks Suite."

  12. Wing Commander Mark Trevena and the cadets thank all the guests for attending.

  13. A group photograph of all attendees.


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