Cdt Ella Castle was one of several cadets from 450 who visited the US earlier this year to help at the Sun 'n' Fun Airshow. She tells her story below...
From the 23rd of March until the 7th of April, myself and five other 450 cadets took part in the annual Sun N’ Fun international camp to Lakeland, Floria. We were a team of 45 cadets from Kent, Essex, London and Surrey wing that had signed up to volunteer at the air show at Lakeland international airport. Nothing could have possibly prepared me for the experience I was about to have; I honestly think I had the best time of my life!
The first week was very hard work, with many flights working for roughly 12 hours a day! This included air marshalling, crowd control, registration, and generally filling any roles that were needed around the airfield. For the first few days we set up camp and had time to adjust to the weather and our new surroundings, including a very unwanted guest… cockroaches! We were also visited by many different wildlife, such as recluse spiders, snakes and possums, Sgt Moffatt even shared a portaloo with a frog!
But by Monday we were hard at work, but our efforts were greatly rewarded by the locals, ranging from flights to Arcadia to visit RAF war graves in a variety of light aircraft thanks to local pilots, to both CWO Hillam and Stride gaining a flight in the B-25! There were also many trips in the first week,such as numerous trips to Walmart, and a once in a lifetime chance to witness Tampa Bay’s Air traffic control tower in full swing.
On the Wednesday morning, nine of us woke up at the far too early time of 4:30 to help assist set up the balloon’s for the launching that morning. It was a great experience, and in teams of 3 to 4 we managed to put up our very first hot air balloon! Unfortunately the wind speed was too high, so the balloons had to be packed up again very shortly. A number of people including myself also got chosen to go the “Splash in” at Lake Agnes, which was a day exclusively for sea planes. We had to ensure nobody got too close to the entry to the lake and “wing walk” on the hottest day of the trip! It was lovely being by the water and the whole group got highly rewarded for our effort’s with a flight in a Beaver, which was amazing!
We also met some truly amazing people, sharing the camp with students from the Aeronautical high school on the airbase, and the Civil Air Patroll (which is basically the American equivalent of the Air Cadets!). We all got invited to a lot of bbq’s and parties, many of which we all attended without haste! It was also both the CWO’s birthday’s during our stay in Floria, which included them being dragged onto stage with crowns and cakes! Some of us also got the chance to try our hand at a variety of different workshops on base, such as wielding, woodwork, fabric design and metal work, which were very time consuming, but great fun!
On the second week we visited main attractions, such as Kennedy, Busch Gardens and Universal, which were amazing as ever! On the Thursday we took a trip to Macdill Air Force base in Tampa Bay where we had a guided tour around the Air Traffic Control tower and a C-29, to be left to our own devices on the beach! Cwo Stride and I alongside four other cadets got chosen to go and meet some Special Forces Paratroopers on the base, which included re-packing parachutes to having a go on a $5000 simulator! We also managed to get two afternoons of shopping into our busy schedule, taking full advantage of military discounts!
Florida was my first ever camp away with the ATC and I am so grateful to have been given this special opportunity! I would recommend applying next year to anyone who has a passion for aviation and wants the opportunity to meet some amazing people, and have amazing opportunities!