A small but momentous ceremony took place on Wednesday evening to mark the opening of the school’s new flight simulator. Head Master James Hodgson snipped the ribbon on the high-tech simulator that will provide pupils with the opportunity to practise realistic flight training.

The school has been looking to invest in a flight simulator for some time, principally for the RAF section of our Combined Cadet Force (CCF). We aim to get our RAF cadets flying as often as possible, and there are opportunities for them to do so with the Cambridge University Air Squadron. However, these sessions are limited and often cancelled due to weather or pilot/aircraft availability, which is extremely disappointing for the cadets.

The provision of the flight simulator enables the cadets to undertake regular, realistic flight training. They can put their ground training into practice and fully exploit the actual flying sorties when they arise.

The objective was to build a simulator that was sophisticated enough to provide realistic and worthwhile flight training and this meant a three-screen, ‘wrap-around’ system with real controls. After the computer element of the simulator was purchased, it was then enhanced with a custom-made cockpit incorporating a flight seat from a Nimrod aircraft. The cockpit was made with the kind help of the school’s Design and Technology department. It was then further enhanced with the addition of flight instruments, cockpit radio and autopilot, purchased using a grant kindly supplied by the Bedford School Trust.

The system is capable of simulating 24 different aircraft and variants, from the Cessna Skyhawk, the Grob Tutor training aircraft (which is the aircraft the cadets actually fly with the Air Squadron), ASK21 glider, Boeing 747s, C130 Hercules and Sikorsky S-76C helicopter to the F4 Phantom II, B52 and even a space shuttle.

The system is already being used to provide valuable flight training to our CCF cadets, as well as being used by other boys in the school.

CCF Commanding Officer Major Peter Lumley-Wood told us, “We believe the system is the most advanced operated by any Cadet Force and our RAF liaison officer is aware of no other like it (operated by cadets) anywhere in the country. It has been the culmination of a wide collaborative effort across the school, and I would like to thank the Bedford School Trust, the Design and Technology Department and, of course, the officers of the Corps for working so hard to bring it to fruition.”

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