Flying high with RAF Air Cadets

27 June 2024

As part of Armed Forces Week 2024, Leonardo Training Governance Lead, Peter Watkins, explains how seven years in the Royal Air Force Air Cadets has inspired his 20-year-old son, Kian, to study aerospace engineering while also taking up a commissioned role with the cadets.

Having spent 26 years in the Royal Air Force (RAF) before completing my service in 2018 – when I joined Leonardo – I think that my role as an Avionics Technician conducting trials, tests and evaluations inspired Kian a little bit, seeing me go on various detachments and exercises.

Combining this with him very much being a lad of rights and wrongs and rules, Kian really liked the idea of the cadets, which was an opportunity to meet people and build his friendship network.

Rising through the ranks

Kian joined the RAF Air Cadets at the age of 13, enjoying a variety of experience and opportunities, and ultimately making the rank of Cadet Warrant Officer. It gave him the opportunity to do a myriad of activities outside his normal sphere, including weapons training, drill and ceremonial camps, aerospace camps, and participating in the coronation of King Charles III and Camilla in May 2023.

Kian Watkins outside Buckingham Palace representing the RAF Air Cadets as part of the King's Coronation.

In October 2022, in recognition of Kian’s outstanding contribution to the cadets, His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of South Yorkshire, Professor Dame Hilary Chapman DBE RN, appointed him as a Lord-Lieutenant Cadet. This involved him attending a range of engagements across the county, including Armed Forces Day and Remembrance Sunday.

Kian and Peter Watkins at the Battle of Britain Parade, South Yorkshire Air Museum (2023)

Passion for flying

The cadets also gave Kian the opportunity to fly; he has a real passion for it and secured his private pilot’s license before leaving the cadets. Being awarded an Air League scholarship, with support from the cadets, meant he received 12 hours free flying tuition, which was a great opportunity for him.

He had the opportunity to put his flying skills into practice when, during his final year of cadets, Kian was invited to participate in the International Air Cadet Exchange in France, where he spent time with German, Swiss and Australian cadets, and had the chance to fly around the Alps.

What next?

After finishing school, Kian spent a year working for Affinity Flying Services as a flight line aircraft handler – marshalling and refuelling RAF training aircraft. He then began his aerospace engineering degree at the University of Birmingham in autumn 2023.

Rather than serving in the Forces, he ultimately wants to work in industry and wants to use his pilot’s license as part of his career – in terms of aircraft test and evaluation, such as being on board an aircraft operating test equipment. Such is his passion for the subject, Kian has set up a new aerospace society at Birmingham University.

But cadets remain close to his heart too. Now, as an adult volunteer, Kian is an Acting Pilot Officer. He recognised how much the Air Cadets has given him, so is keen to give back to the next generation of cadets.

Armed Forces Network Group

Leonardo's Armed Forces network group connects and supports our veterans, reservists and military family colleagues and communities. Additionally, it assists new employees as they transition from military to civilian life.

For the wider Leonardo UK business, the group helps enhance our collective sense of pride in being part of UK and allied defence, through sharing stories from our veterans, reservists and military families.

Transition from military service

Leonardo’s commitment to the Armed Forces Community is pledged through our support of the Armed Forces Covenant, while we have been awarded the UK MoD’s Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award.

We understand that the transition from military service to civilian life can be a major challenge for some people. To address this, we work with the Career Transition Partnership to provide initial and ongoing support.

We also have a dedicated Armed Forces Network Group which supports Leonardo UK Armed Forces veterans, reservists and spouses or partners of serving members.

Developing your career

Leonardo’s growth in the UK has resulted from the skills, energy and dedication of our people. We are committed to equal opportunity and offering personal fulfilment through the highest quality education and development.

Looking to the future, we want reinforce our competitive position in the UK and other markets. To meet this challenge, we offer an environment for qualified people with the will to succeed and a passion for excellence to fulfil their potential and enable our company to stay at the forefront of innovation and technology.

Company Benefits

At Leonardo, we believe that our employees work best when they are able to achieve balance between work and other aspects of life. That’s why we are committed to designing policies and developing a working environment that promote the benefits and wellbeing of all our employees.

Interview Support

When we invite you for an interview, we want to hear about you; your achievements and what you can bring. By thinking about the role you are applying for, align your skills and experience to it. Make it easy for the Hiring Manager to decide you are the best candidate they can select for the role.

When preparing for your interview, review the company website and enhance your knowledge as much as possible, such as where Leonardo is present, who our customers are, and what is important to us i.e. sustainability, corporate social responsibility. Look at our mission and values and consider how your own values align to us. Read some of our employee profiles, speak to anyone you know who works for us, and follow us on social media.

We carry out Competency Based Interviews (CBI). To help you prepare, we suggest you make yourself aware of the BACK model:

  • Background – What was the situation and what was your goal?
  • Action – What action did you take?
  • Consequence – What was the outcome / end result?
  • Knowledge – What feedback was received? / How was the success measured? What did you learn from this experience? / Is there anything you would have done differently?