Royal Air Force
Administrative Apprentices Association

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Member Articles

Loop-the-loop With A Wartime Fighter Ace – Howard Thomas (301st)

Our thanks to the very ‘keen eyed’, Dave Ainsworth (304th) who spotted the following article which appeared in the ‘Peterborough’ Column in the Daily Mail Edition on Wednesday 17th March 2021, which is reproduced below.  Dave also correctly identified the author by looking through the 301st Entry Scrapbooks on our website.Unfortunately, due to copyright issues, we are unable to reproduce the Cartoon, but a suitable replacement photo appears in its place.

We are sure that this short article will stir the memories of many of our Member’s who, no doubt, have had very similar experiences!


An RAF Chipmunk

“There I was, waddling like a duck across a runway to a two-seater Chipmunk training aircraft.  I say waddling as I was strapped into a parachute that bashed against my bottom as I tried to walk.  It was 1964, I was 16 and had signed up to the RAF as an apprentice.  This was to be my first flight experience at RAF Cosford near Wolverhampton.  My pilot, a jovial middle-aged fellow, could see I was a nervous first timer, but after take-off on a beautiful day I relaxed and started to enjoy looking at the scenery.  After five minutes, he asked whether I’d like him to perform some gentle aerobatics.

‘Sure,’ I said, trying to sound manly and confident.  The Chipmunk is very light, and he flipped it over into a barrel roll.  We then manoeuvred downwards into a fast spiral descent called a falling leaf.  Finally, we soared upwards into a loop-the-loop.

‘How was that?’ he asked. ‘There’s a sick bag to the right of you should you need it.’

True, my stomach was in my mouth, but I still found this to be an enjoyable experience, never to be forgotten.

On landing, a ground crew member took me to one side. 

‘I was watching the display,’ he said.  ‘A lot of first-timers vomit.  Your pilot does throw the plane around a lot, but you were in very safe hands.  You’re honoured, you know.  He’s a former Battle of Britain pilot.’

I hadn’t realised it at the time, but I now know it had definitely been an honour and a privilege.


Howard Thomas Ex-301st Entry