I’ve been thinking through this post since I heard the news yesterday about the tragic accident at RAF Scampton – where Flt Lt Sean Cunningham was killed yesterday in an accident.
Sean, who most recently flew as Red 5 in the Red Arrows, started his RAF flying career at the East Midlands University Air Squadron (EMUAS) – he joined the squadron the same day that I did in 1996. I joined then because I was interested in finding out more about flying and possibly a career in the RAF.
By that stage Sean, who was among the most focussed and single-minded in our intake, had already completed his private pilot licence (PPL) training. While the rest of us were still grappling with the basics of flying training, Sean was always happy to help us out and share his experiences. I have some very happy memories of flying training as well as the partying side of my time on the squadron. I remember a particularly excellent summer spent on camp at RAF Kinloss in Scotland:
While most of my contemporaries from the squadron went on to careers in all walks of life, Sean and a handful of the most talented pilots went on to join the RAF, complete their flying training and go on to fly operational tours in combat zones all over the world.
When Sean was selected for the Red Arrows it made me think back to those early days at EMUAS and how he stood out as an immensely talented and thoroughly nice chap. When the Red Arrows flew over our campsite in the New Forest this summer I was truly proud to tell my two boys about Sean and what it took to be a Red Arrows pilot.
My thoughts are with Sean’s family, friends and the rest of the Red Arrows team at what must be an unimaginably difficult time for them.
We should be very proud of people like Sean and many others like him in our armed forces. They are people that are willing to give everything to pursue their dreams and serve our country.
Thanks Sean. It was an honour and we have lost a true gentleman.