Air cadets from Spalding had a brush with royalty this week when they met the Duchess of Cambridge.
The former Kate Middleton, now wife of Prince William and mother to Prince George and Princess Charlotte, was at RAF Wittering, near Peterborough, on Tuesday in her capacity as the Honorary Air Commandant of the RAF Air Cadets.
It is a role the Duchess has held since December 2015 and she met a number of the 150 young Air Cadets who were on a Skills Development Camp during half-term week.
The aim was for the royal guest to see a range of activities during the camp which are a key part of the RAF Air Cadet experience.
Many of the cadets on the course were from 1406 (Spalding) Squadron but they were unaware they would be meeting such a high-profile figure during the camp.
Punctual, the Duchess arrived at the base a few minutes before 11.30am, having travelled from London by train to Peterborough Station and then taking the remainder of the journey by car.
She was driven from the station’s entrance to a bright, but breezy and chilly, airfield.
It was the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Sir Hugh Duberly, and the Lord Lieutenant of Rutland, Dr Laurence Howard, who had the honour of greeting her first.
The Duchess was also introduced to Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty, Commandant of the Air Cadet Organisation, and the station commander Group Captain Richard Pratley before being led to her first experience by Flight Lieutenant Neil Moxon, Officer Commanding 5 Air Experience Flight.
There, the Duchess had the chance to see a Grob Tutor up close and greeting her at the wing were cadets Erin Hope, Joshua Wait and Emily Empringham, all three from the 1406 (Spalding) Squadron.
It was definitely not something you do every day and I don’t get nervous about many things, but I was a little bit nervous about thisFlight Sergeant Jordan Avery (18), of Spalding
Erin told the gathered media beforehand that she was “definitely nervous”.
But all went smoothly and the Duchess happily climbed into the small aircraft which is routinely used to train first-time flyers.
However, the Duchess kept her feet firmly on the ground and was shown the controls of the aircraft by Cadet Sergeant Jordan Beralaso, a qualified aerospace instructor from Spalding.
Afterwards, he said the visit had passed by in a blur and added: “It’s one of those things where I just can’t remember the whole thing.
“I only found out a few days ago which was long enough to start to panic, but not long enough to get into a real state.
“She was so nice though and she seemed very relaxed.
“We spoke a little bit about William and the difference between the Grob and the helicopter.
“She seemed very interested in the Grob and the controls.
“It was definitely a moment of fame and something to remember.
“Hopefully, it will help to raise the profile of the cadets which can only be a good thing.
“But it went by so quickly.”
The Duchess’ next stop was taking the controls of a flight simulator, a little back-to-front, as Air Cadets would normally train on the simulator before taking to the air.
It was indoors and the Duchess remarked with some relief as she stepped inside: “It’s definitely warmer in here.”
Flight Lieutenant Michael Salter, an adult volunteer from Spalding, was on hand to explain the purpose of the flight simulator which simulates a journey over the skies surrounding RAF Wittering in a Valiant motorglider aircraft.
Beforehand, he said: “It’s my job to teach people on the flight simulator and today is no different to that. “I’m told she hasn’t done it before, but I’m sure she will be a natural.
“I’d be surprised if she hadn’t asked her husband for a few tips as every pilot will have trained on something similar.”
Flt Lt Salter helped the Duchess get a handle on the steering column before she was left to “fly” the plane, with lots of giggles coming from her.
As she finished her flight, she told Flt Lt Salter: “It was very good but it’s quite an unusual feeling.”
Flight Sergeant Jordan Avery, who had already completed the flight simulator training, was in the seat having a go when the Duchess arrived and he was greeted with: “You’re one of the experienced ones.
“It’s my first go so be kind.”
Afterwards, Jordan (18), who lives in Spalding, said: “It was definitely not something you do every day and I don’t get nervous about many things.
“But I was a little bit nervous about this.
“She did really well on the sim and it was a pretty good first go.”
It was then back outside for the Duchess who took part in a game called Riverbank which involved hopping back and forth over a rope on the command of outreach manager Flight Lieutenant Bruce Petitt, along with about 14 cadets, the youngest just 12.
Those that hopped forward or backward when they had not been told to were “out” and the Duchess even won one of the games, much to her delight.
But later she stumbled forward when she had clearly not meant to and laughed as it was “declared” she was out.
Heading back indoors, the Duchess had a quick break before she moved on to the weapons room in her whistle-stop tour.
There, eight cadets were dismantling unarmed guns while the Duchess watched.
She took time to speak to each of the four pairs, asking about their ambitions and whether they enjoyed the course.
She listened intently as Flt Lieutenant Debra Evans explained how the three-day weaponry course works.
The Duchess’s final stop on the visit was to sign “Catherine” in the visitors book and have an official photograph taken with the 62 cadets and their instructors.
She was also presented with a limited edition RAF Air Cadet 75th anniversary print by Air Commodore McCafferty before bidding farewell to those who had greeted her.
Before leaving, the Duchess told Dr Howard that it had been a “really good day” and that she had enjoyed seeing a range of what the cadets do.
Then her car whisked her away at 1.30pm prompt.