High-flying teen Bridget wins her gliding wings

Bridget Donaldson Air Cadet
Bridget Donaldson Air Cadet

A HIGH-FLYING student is reaching for the skies after acing a gliding scholarship.

Seventeen-year-old Bridget Donaldson, who is a member of 404 Morpeth Squadron Air Cadets, completed a gliding scholarship at RAF Topcliffe in North Yorkshire last April.

And now not only has the King Edward VI School student joined the staff as a cadet member, but she is also in training to become a flying instructor herself.

“I am really looking forward to undergoing my instructor training as the Air Cadets have offered me so much and really made me the person I am today so I feel that it is very important to give something back to them,” she said.

“I am especially grateful to them and the RAF, who have paid for all the costs of me being a member of staff at RAF Topcliffe.

“Once I have completed my flying instructor training I look forward to teaching young cadets to fly, which will hopefully encourage them to pursue an RAF career. Flying is a real passion of mine, and I look forward to passing on my knowledge and watching others develop.”

Bridget has long dreamt of becoming a fast jet pilot and her quest to notch up the air-miles began in earnest when she applied for the RAF Topcliffe scholarship in 2011.

Throughout the intensive week-long course, Bridget was taught the principles of flight and airmanship, as well as learning to fly the RAF Vigilant T1 Motorized Glider, a glider with an engine.

She said: “It was more than six months before I heard that I had been successful in my application for a gliding scholarship. When I found out, I was overjoyed as this is something I have wanted to do since I joined Air Cadets at the age of 13.

“During the gliding scholarship I experienced a taste of life in the RAF which further motivated me to become a fast-jet pilot.

“I loved the gliding scholarship as I enjoyed the demanding nature of the course and the constant need to keep on top of my progress, whether it was revising for the final exam or preparing myself for the next day’s sortie.”

After the course, Bridget was further encouraged to fly the aircraft solo, however due to adverse weather conditions on her final day this was not possible.

Despite the conditions, she was still sent for a ghosted solo, where an A-category pilot sits in the right-hand seat and does not intervene. She completed the flight successfully with no need for intervention and was awarded silver solo standard wings.

Bridget said: “I was gutted not to have gone solo at the end of my course as I had put a lot of work into it, however I was not too disappointed as I was delighted to have achieved my silver wings and was also hopeful to come back as staff to complete advanced training.”

The student was invited back to apply as a cadet member of staff at the base and after going through a rigorous selection process in September, she was asked to join the team.

Her work involves carrying out ground and flying duties, completing safety checks, supervising cadets and maintaining the aircraft, as well as training to be a flying instructor. It also means that she has to be very committed, travelling to RAF Topcliffe every weekend.

Bridget said “When I heard that I had been successful I was delighted as I aspire to become an RAF fast-jet pilot when I finish my A-Levels and this would enable me to further develop new skills while also becoming more competent in my flying.

“The fact that I have the opportunity to fly RAF motorized gliders is fantastic because many Volunteer Gliding Squadrons only fly conventional gliders so the opportunity to fly a glider with an engine is a real privilege”.

In October, Bridget flew her first fully solo circuit, achieving her gold wings – an amazing feat which few people achieve. Her probationary period has just ended so she will now start her flying instructor training, which will allow her to teach young cadets to fly, inspiring the next generation of RAF pilots.