A400m Atlas trip

On Tuesday 13th February 2024, we arrived at the Squadron at 0430! This was no ordinary trip. We left in the minibus at 5am, we drove to Maidstone, where we […]

On Tuesday 13th February 2024, we arrived at the Squadron at 0430! This was no ordinary trip.

We left in the minibus at 5am, we drove to Maidstone, where we met up with 305 (Ashford) Sqn cadets and staff and proceeded to travel to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

We had been invited by former cadet of 2433 and CI of 305, Sqn Ldr Richard Doyle, to go and look at some very big planes. Not just any planes. These were the Atlas A400m.

In the morning went to one of the hangars to have our photo taken in front of one and an exclusive talk by SengO, Sqn Ldr Doyle and his Sgt.

After lunch in the Junior Ranks Mess, we went over to the departure lounge to book in. We were going flying! It is just like a commercial airline where they check you in and give you a ticket. Then through a metal security arch, through to the waiting area. We waited for a while and then an RAF bus came and picked us up to take us to the plane. We all got on the bus and what seemed to be a slow journey, going passed several Atlas and Voyager, and C17s planes. We had a short talk on the tarmac (in the rain) about the plane, while it was having final checks, however we did watch another A400m take off and then a Voyager. So, it was all very exciting!

We went inside the plane and were shown where we were going to sit. We sat facing each other and had the tricky task of putting on our seat belts! The crew did the safety brief, which was a bit worrying when they told you about emergency exits and ditching in the sea! There was no going back, as they put the ramp up! It seemed like ages; we were given ear plugs and bottles of water. We heard the engines go on ready for to move off. Looking back it was amazing how the time ‘flew’, that afternoon. The Atlas started moving, and we all veered right as the engines lifted us up the air. A cadet from each Squadron, was allowed up in the cockpit for take-off and landing.
After we were in the air, we could get up and walk around. There aren’t many windows in the Atlas, however the cadets took lots of pictures and videos. Groups were allowed to go into the cockpit and see the pilots at work. We went over to MOD St Athan, near Cardiff and did practice landings, going down to 150 feet, then going back up. At first it was a bit scary, but then we got used to it. The cadets and staff in the back had to sit down when they did it. When I was in the cockpit, it was getting dark, and you could really see the lights of the runway quite clearly. Then we accelerated back up and turned to do another circuit. We did this about 6 times. So, each group could see what was going on. At about 1800 we went back to RAF Brize Norton and landed safely, watching the crew go through their safety checks, and waited for the bus to arrive to pick us up to go to the departure lounge. It was truly an amazing day, that 38 staff and cadets won’t forget in a hurry.
Thanks go to Sqn Ldr R Doyle and the staff and crew of our A400m Atlas, RAF Brize Norton. Royal Air Force , Also to everyone who made it possible.

Photo credits go to the RAF photographer and Cdt Charlie Masters