Mid-Air Meeting for Captains

Hot on the heels of his 100th cap as Captain of the New Zealand All Blacks and a convincing 34-16 win over Wales, Richie McCaw took to the skies with RAF Spitfires Rugby 7s player Flt Lt Steve Mills in an RAF Puma 2 before honouring his heritage with a tour of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby.Hot on the heels of his 100th cap as Captain of the New Zealand All Blacks and a convincing 34-16 win over Wales, Richie McCaw took to the skies with RAF Spitfires Rugby 7s player Flt Lt Steve Mills in an RAF Puma 2 before honouring his heritage with a tour of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby.

Flt Lt Mills, an RAF pilot and captain of the Puma 2, showed the most-capped All Blacks Captain the capabilities of the newest Support Helicopter in the RAF fleet. The Puma 2, capable of carrying the All Blacks team or up to 16 fully equipped troops, picked up McCaw during a routine training sortie to demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities and share insights into how qualities such as teamwork and leadership exist in both flying and rugby.

Mills explained: “Flying a helicopter like the Puma 2 requires a great deal of teamwork, just like achieving success on the rugby pitch. Whilst there may only be one pair of hands on the controls at any one time, the whole crew contributes to the mission and only by working together can we complete it successfully. The same is true on the pitch. My experiences with the RAF Spitfires Rugby 7s contribute a lot to my day job and my day job contributes a lot to my actions on the pitch.”

McCaw, who is also a qualified pilot, became an honorary Squadron Leader with the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) in acknowledgment of the parity between his leadership and integrity and those qualities the RNZAF requires in its personnel. He was joined in the Puma by two cadets from the Thames Valley Wing who were thoroughly delighted at being given the opportunity to meet the international star as well as undertake an air experience flight on a Puma 2. Whilst almost literally speechless at the experience, they did manage to agree that it was “absolutely inspiring, although a bit surreal to start with.”

Group Captain Simon Paterson, Puma Force Commander and Station Commander at RAF Benson, said: “We were delighted to be able to demonstrate the fantastic capabilities of the Puma 2 to Richie McCaw. As the captain of arguably the most successful sports team in the world, his support means a great deal to the team here at RAF Benson. Alongside the obvious morale boost, inspiring athletes such as Richie have a very positive influence as they  so clearly demonstrate courageous leadership and fantastic teamwork that can complement the skills learnt in service with the RAF. We’re extremely pleased that he enjoyed the experience and are very grateful that he was able to take time from his busy Avanti schedule to inspire the next generation.”

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