RAF pilot grounded by cuts to defence

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Young Rob Patton was just days away from realising his boyhood dreams of flying in the RAF.

The Rugby man had undergone months of tough training, including trudging through feet of snow and taking part in intense mock battles.

But a week before graduating as a Flying Officer, he was distraught when told he would be unable to fly RAF jets - because there wouldn’t be enough for all the recruits.

Flying Officer Patton, 24, said: “After 12 years of gearing up for it, it felt like the rug had been pulled from under me.

“I’d been inspired by the film Top Gun as a boy. I’d always loved planes - as a child, you look up to the sky and see them, and you marvel. So this was very disappointing for me.”

The former Lawrence Sheriff pupil joined the town’s Air Training Corps as a teenager and began his officer training at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire in July last year.

Flying Officer Patton is now trying to find another job in the RAF and may become an air traffic controller, although redundancy is a possibility. He is also considering becoming a commercial airline pilot.

But he was nevertheless a proud man at his graduation on March 17. Rob said: “The ceremony was tremendous - you’re there in all your garb, and it all runs with military precision. It was a really good day.

“The RAF has been good about helping with the resettlement. I was told the news in a very personal way, one to one by an officer. He seemed very understanding.”

Flying Officer Patton’s father, Steve, who lives in Bilton, said: “The ceremony was not as joyous an occasion as we would have liked, due to our ‘wonderful’ bankers and the resultant military adjustments.

“But his mum and myself are so proud of what he has achieved.”

A spokesman for the MOD said the number of student pilots in the flying training pipeline has been reduced by up to 170 because of cuts to the RAF’s fleet.

He added: “It is regrettable that student pilots have been removed from all stages of the flying training programme - but this has been essential to maintain manning balance and to sustain future capability.”