The Mayor of Wallingford Takes Flight

Written By: Rebecca Hunt

On 15th August 2017, RAF Benson welcomed the Mayor of Wallingford, Michael Kidley and his wife, the Lady Mayoress Christine to the Station for a familiarisation visit.

A visit arranged for every new Mayor, the afternoon provides a valuable insight into the hard work of the Force and the current commitment to Operation TORAL in Afghanistan. Upon their arrival, Mick and Christine were escorted to Support Helicopter Force Headquarters for a brief chat with the Station Commander, Group Captain Hamish Cormack, who welcomed them to the station and thanked them for their continued support.

Upon finishing their refreshments, they were taken to Joint Helicopter Support Squadron (JHSS) to be met by Captain Mark Hale, the Squadrons’ Operations Officer. Capt Hale presented an in-depth brief on the role and history of JHSS and its valued contribution to both RAF Benson and operations in Afghanistan. Seeing an opportunity, Mick explained to Capt Hale his close bond with both the station and Wallingford during his time in the military:

“After trade training I was given the choice of posting either to RAF Stornoway or RAF Benson, after long hard thought I chose Benson. This is the interesting part – I got on the train from my home to Reading and then a bus to Wallingford; I never thought for one minute standing under the Town Hall in Wallingford that I would be Mayor one day.”

Mick and Christine were then taken to the hangar to be shown the equipment currently used, and a demonstration of how quickly JHSS personnel can be assembled; each personnel explained their part of the work carried out.

Next, a visit to 28 Sqn to be shown the strength of the Chinook helicopter.

Mick and Christine were taken aboard a static aircraft and were given insight into the many capabilities the mighty Chinook holds.

The final stop was a visit to 33 Sqn for the showstopper; a flight experience for the Mayor on-board a Puma helicopter. Greeted by Sgt Simon Craig, they were escorted to the Operations Desk before being given a practical safety demonstration and kitted up with a helmet. Crew and Puma ready, Mick was walked onto the airfield whilst Christine watched from the 33 Sqn crew room with a well-deserved cup of coffee.

After his flight, the Mayor of Wallingford said: “The crewman strapped me in, plugged me into the intercom and within a few minutes we were airborne. I flew in the Wessex many times but the Puma is so smooth. We left Benson and went towards Henley, then we turned towards Reading and had a good look at the town. Within a few minutes we were over Wallingford and oh so soon we were back at Benson and walking back to the hangar.”

“Thanks to all who made our afternoon enjoyable, especially to the Station Commander, Group Captain Cormack, Mrs Hunt, Ms Hamilton, organisers and most of all, 33 Sqn.”

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