On Wednesday, 4th February 2015, the departure of seven RAF operated training aircraft from Wyton signalled the end of military flying from the Cambridgeshire airfield.
Having departed Wyton, the Grob Tutor aircraft, used for Elementary Flying Training by Cambridge and London University Air Squadrons and No.5 Air Experience Flight, made the short journey to their new home at RAF Wittering.
Commanding Officer RAF Wyton, Wing Commander Ola Fashade, himself a previous member of the University of London Air Squadron, said: “Following the 2010/11 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the decision was taken to converge various parts of Elementary Flying Training, Flying Units at Wyton scheduled to relocate to new airfields as a result. This decision was taken to ensure a more efficient use of resources and assets; delivering better value for the taxpayer without impacting operational output.” He went on to say: “Wyton will continue to develop and evolve as other organisations from across the country relocate here.”
The cessation of military flying at RAF Wyton brings to completion the MOD’s rationalisation of light aircraft operations in the region. University Air Squadrons and Air Experience flying activities will be concentrated at RAF Wittering, whilst Elementary Flying Training will be conducted at RAF Cranwell.
The Light Aircraft Flying Task contract at RAF Wyton has been delivered by Babcock for more than 15 years. Speaking ahead of the final military flight out of Wyton Airfield, Ken Cornfield, Managing Director, Air business unit, Babcock International Group said: “Babcock has enjoyed an excellent relationship with the RAF at Wyton, and we have been working closely with them as they prepare to move their flying operations to RAF Wittering.”
Squadron Leader Rich Kellett and OC ULAS, Sqn Leader Ben PlankMr Cornfield added: “All 50 Babcock employees involved in the delivery of the Light Aircraft Flying Task contract at Wyton have been offered the opportunity to relocate to RAF Wittering, and we do not anticipate any job losses. We look forward to continuing to support the RAF in their new location and welcome the challenges and opportunities that a return to flying at RAF Wittering will create. Our team providing base support services to RAF Wyton will remain unchanged.”
In a message to Station personnel, Officer Commanding Cambridge University Air Squadron, Squadron Leader Rich Kellett said: “On behalf of Cambridge and London University Air Squadrons and No.5 Air Experience Flight, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all personnel who have served at RAF Wyton over the years. The support and guidance we have received has been excellent, without which we could not have operated as effectively as we have.”
“We have very fond memories of our relationship with the local community, and it is with a true sense of honour and pride that we remember our experiences of representing the RAF at events in and around Huntingdon. We are very much looking forward to our future at RAF Wittering, and if we are fortunate enough to receive a similar level of support as we have at Wyton, I have no doubt our future will prove to be as equally successful.”
Having witnessed the departure of the last military aircraft from Wyton Airfield, Wing Commander Fashade said, “The Station will undoubtedly look back on its rich aviation history with pride over the coming months, and I look forward to celebrating its past and evolving future with the people of Huntingdon when we exercise our right of Freedom to the Town later this year.” CO RAF Wyton added: “Despite the end of military flying at Wyton, we are fully focused on the task at hand, to enable all the Units now at Wyton to deliver their operational outputs.”
The transformation and continuing evolution of RAF Wyton is underpinned by the successful delivery of a £308M project to redevelop the base for the new organisations now resident. Strategically, Defence will aim to maximise its use of its landholdings, and exploit the benefits delivered. Approval of additional unit moves is currently being considered, and would very likely see a further increase in employee population at Wyton.
With parts of the Wyton airfield now surplus to MOD requirement, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), appointed Crest Nicholson as its development partner for the site. An operating arm of the MOD in the United Kingdom, DIO is responsible for the day to day estates activity, through a wide range of maintenance, construction and sustainability issues.
DIO Director of Asset Strategy Matthew Punshon said: “DIO’s priority is to provide the right sized estate to enable military effectiveness which is affordable over the long term. Where this allows us to release surplus land for development, it means that new homes can be provided where they are needed, and helps to achieve wider government policies for housing supply and sustainable development.”
The site will provide much-needed new homes, including a proportion for private rent and self build, and associated infrastructure and community facilities, including schooling facilities, improved public transport connections into Cambridge and Huntingdon and a district centre with shops, a doctors’ surgery and supporting community facilities.
It is anticipated that the circa £1 billion project will generate around 2,500 new jobs in the area and a further 5,500 construction jobs.
Editor: Sgt Rees
RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2015