SKIPTON'S Oliver Birdsall is well on his way to achieving his long-held ambition to become a pilot, thanks to the opportunities provided to him by 264 (Skipton) Squadron Royal Air Force Air Cadets.
Oliver had the ambition to become a pilot since being a young boy. He counted down the days until he was able to join the Skipton squadron and eventually did so in 2016 at the age of 12.
 He worked incredibly hard to become a good cadet and won a series of awards including: Constant Endeavour Award, The Warrant Officer’s Inspection award, the Commanding Officer’s award – for going above and beyond, and the Aviation Studies award. He was soon promoted to the role of Cadet Sergeant. 
At the age of only 18, following an exhaustive selection process, Oliver, a former student at South Craven School, Cross Hills, was selected from over 160 applicants to become one of only a few cadets to be trained as Qualified Aerospace Instructors in the whole of the UK and the first ever from Skipton.

Oliver's very proud father, Steve Birdsall, CEO of Skipton-based infrastructure consultancy, Gaist, said after selection his son and his fellow students worked in syndicates of four to undertake a rigorous academic programme that mixes aviation and educational theory with hands-on flight simulation, air traffic control and aerodynamics exercises and an introduction to the doctrine and application of air power, essay writing and presentation development and delivery.

Mr Birdsall said: "Alongside his A-level studies, Oliver undertook this incredibly intense study, giving up his weekends to attend residential training at air bases. Each night he worked late into the evenings trying to manage a huge study workload so that he could pass the instructor's course as well as pass his maths, engineering and physics A-levels.

"In April 2022 Oliver finally graduated at RAF College Cranwell. Oliver's syndicate was selected as the best at presentations and had the privilege of lecturing to over 100 top RAF senior officers and pilots. Since graduating as an instructor Oliver has gone on to be a wing aviation instructor and gives up his spare time to train and prepare young people to fly real aircraft using the latest in virtual reality simulators. He also attends events up and down the UK promoting science, technology and maths to young people, all this while working at Gaist with his father during his gap year.

"In 2022 Oliver had the opportunity to represent Gaist on a trade mission to India, visiting four cities across the country and meeting diplomats, government officials and ambassadors. And all this by the age of 19.

"Yesterday, July 19, Oliver stepped down after seven enjoyable years at 264 Squadron ahead of him starting a degree course in aeronautical engineering at Leicester's De Montfort University. This is the next step in fulfilling his ambition to become a commercial helicopter pilot."

Mr Birdsall added: "Oliver’s story highlights the incredibly valuable service that the Royal Air Cadets offers to the young people of Skipton. In this age of online social media, the Air Cadets offers young people a ‘real life’ place to meet socially and learn new skills, discipline, commitment and team work. The Air Cadets offer young people a range of activities for personal and professional development and teaches them the importance of team work and self-discipline.

"As Oliver now has to leave the Cadets to take up his place at university and further his career in aviation, 264 Squadron is still there inspiring the next generation to stretch themselves and reach their full potential."

Find out more about Skipton 264 Squadrom Air Cadets on their website: