Frequently Asked Questions

What sort of activities do the air cadets do?
We get to do a huge variety of activities such as flying, gliding, target shooting, adventure training, sports, camps, drill, academic studies and lots of other things. There is never a dull moment.

How old must I be to join?

You can join when you’re 13 and usually leave when you’re 20. The latest age you can be to join is 17.

Is there a good balance between the exciting activities and more serious disciplined activities?

Yes, there are lots of opportunities to do fun activities as well as the more serious side of things, but the focus is always on enjoying yourself while improving your skills.

What sort of expeditions can be done through the Air Cadets?

There are a huge amount of expedition opportunities, some overseas, but the most well known and popular option is the Duke of Edinburgh Award which entails overnight expeditions. They’re great fun. But there are lots of other expeditions that pop up regularly.

Is it easy to get on with people and make new friends?

Yes! Everyone is very friendly and you always feel welcome. As we’re all cadets we have loads in common.

What about disabled people – can they join?

Absolutely! If you’re disabled you are very welcome provided your handicap doesn’t prevent you from taking part in a reasonable number of activities, or is likely to cause you safety problems. Your local squadron staff will be happy to speak to you about this.

How much does it cost?

Most ACO activities are centrally funded through the RAF which helps to keep costs down. Cadets may be required to pay towards some activities, for example an annual camp might be £40 – a small amount considering what’s involved. Most squadrons also charge subscriptions of around approximately £10 per month to cover running costs, transport etc.

At what age can someone join?

Cadets can join from 13, however for some activities, cadets must be older. For other activities like scholarships, cadets must be 19.

Are cadets expected to join the military?

No. Although the ACO receives some funding from the RAF, we are not a recruiting organisation. While some cadets do choose to join the military, the training provided by the ACO is held in high regard by civilian employers too and there is no pressure on cadets to consider a Service career.

How much time do cadets have to give each week?

Typically cadets will attend the Squadron twice a week for up to 2½ hours a night. Outside of these evenings, there are many activities to do at weekends and in the school holidays. The amount of time a cadet wants to commit to is up to them.

Can cadets learn to fly?

Yes, all cadets will have the opportunity to fly at one of the Air Experience Flights provided by the Volunteer Gliding Squadrons located around the country. Additionally, cadets can apply for scholarships up to Private Pilots Licence level! Cadets can go at least once a year but as some cadets focus on other activities sometimes you can fly much more frequently, it’s fantastic!

Who leads and supervises cadets?

All squadrons are commanded by an Officer of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training Branch) who is assisted by Adult Non-Commissioned Officers and Civilian Instructors. All staff have had criminal records checks to work with young people and are fully qualified in the activities in which they are involved.

Why do cadets wear uniforms?

The ACO is a military youth organisation affiliated to the Royal Air Force and therefore cadets wear the same uniform as regular RAF personnel.

What uniforms do cadets wear?

Cadets wear blue uniform for classroom activities and green uniform for field exercises.

How do cadets obtain uniforms?

Most uniform is issued by the squadron or section for the length of time they are a member. Cadets may have to purchase items such as shoes or boots but these can be purchased cheaply from military surplus stores.

Can parents be involved in the Air Cadets?

Absolutely! The organisation is very encouraging of parents who can help informally, and we’re always looking for volunteers. You can join as a uniformed member of staff, a non-uniformed Civilian Instructor or even as a member of a Civilian Committee.