They called us space cadets. This is mainly because all members of the Air Training Corps were good for was taking up space, and we were not in a position to disagree with huge RAF blokes who were getting paid to muck about with fighter jets. They must have been SO pleased to get a group of spotty, useless teenagers posted to the engine maintenance guys on one of the Hawk training squadrons at RAF Chivenor.
We were on summer camp, getting to experience the RAF life for a week with free meals and lodgings. This was everyday life for these poor sods, and frankly, we were getting in the way of their skiving off.
They barely put up with us, allowing us to do those all-important tasks that didn’t involve any actual work, like making tea for thirty, emptying the bins and cataloguing the squadron’s priceless porn collection. One of the enlisted chaps, however, wasn’t quite on message and if you were lucky, he’d let you do stuff that involved some sort of skill or responsibility. Like arming the ejector seats, or making sure nobody had eaten the pilot’s emergency chocolate rations.
So, it came as a pleasant surprise to find myself under SAC Geezer’s wing, and we had a special job to undertake. Problem: a plane needed its 10,000 mile service and an oil change, and had to be moved from one side of the airfield to the other. Would I like to come? Duh, alright then.
We were dropped off by the Hawk in a Land Rover, and the driver gave us the keys to the plane and sped back to the hangar for a hard-earned tea break.
Not knowing what I should be doing, Geezer indicated that I would, perhaps, like to sit in the co-pilot’s seat while he fired the thing up and taxi-ed it back to base. I climbed in the back, and promised, on my dog’s life, not to touch anything, especially “that thing there that sets off the guns. Oh, and the ejector’s probably armed too, so best not to pull that handle either, come to think of it.”
“Stick these headphones on, cos it gets a bit noisy. And do as I say.”
Gulp. Whatever you say, boss.
He fired up the monster and began rolling it along the taxi way. For a bit.
“Got the hang yet?” he asked, “I’m taking a nap now, you steer it back. If the control tower wants us, we’re Bravo Delta.”
It was only then that I realised that he had unfolded a copy of that morning’s Sun newspaper, and after a few minutes looking at the curvaceous charms of Ms Fox on page three, slouched back with the thing over his face and began to snore loudly.
Me, six squillion pounds of military aircraft and a dozing squaddie.
Yes, it did enter my mind to shut the canopy, crank it up to eleven and take off somewhere to impress a certain female cadet whose chest kept me awake at nights, but I knew I’d never get away with it. And we certainly didn’t have the fuel to carry out a few selected bombing raids – school, Cunt-eye’s house*, Downing Street.
So I steered it round in circles until the Air Traffic Control people got annoyed (“Bravo Delta – what the fuck’s going on?”) and drove it back to the hangar where I excitedly told my peers of my incredible tale.
And did anyone believe me? I got one of my armpits shaved for bullshitting, and left half naked in an old Nissen Hut, miles away from camp, where the only sounds were – hark! – my mate Gary getting a late-night knee trembler off one of the officers, a woman twenty-five years his senior.
Staggering back to my billet, I told the guys, who shaved by other armpit for bullshitting, again. I’ll never learn.
* I really ought to tell you about Cunt-eye at some stage. The cunt-eyed twat.