Air cadet successes and promotions have been celebrated at a special ceremony rounding off a stellar 12 months for one of the region’s top squadrons.

The teenagers from 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron ATC were presented with a host of trophies and certificates, including the Cadet of the Year, at the group’s annual Sabena prize giving day.

Now in their 61st year, the Sabena Awards – named after the former Belgium national airline which donated a trophy to the squadron for the best all-round cadet – recognise the hard work and dedication of the youngsters.

The cadets were joined at a ceremony at Christ’s Church C of E Primary School in North Shields by proud parents, squadron staff and Tynemouth MP, Alan Campbell, who handed out the honours.

The prestigious Sabena Cadet of the Year was won by Flt Sgt Liam McConville, 17, a pupil at St Thomas More RC Academy in North Shields.

He said: “I feel incredibly lucky and proud. I really love being an air cadet and the opportunities it has given me. Over the past four years I have had the chance to try out so many things from flying and gliding to shooting, parachuting and scuba diving, and have learned so much like first aid and leadership skills.”

“This award shows how far I have come and means my time in the air cadets has not gone unnoticed.”

Officer Commanding, Flt Lt Dan Laidler, said the recipient must have conducted themselves to an exemplary standard across the squadron and at events at Wing level routinely and selflessly, and been a role model to other cadets on the unit.

He commented: “The Sabena Awards are the culmination of a very hard year of work by an outstanding group of young people. Choosing who should win is always a very difficult decision, but in the end it was the hard work, commitment, team spirit and willingness to go that extra mile that saw FS McConville walk off with this esteemed trophy.

“It reflects his excellent contribution to the Air Training Corps in Tynemouth, and the respect he is held in by fellow cadets and staff alike. He is an outstanding role model and he can be justifiably proud.”

Other trophies presented at the ceremony were:
Best First Class Cadet: Cadet Jamie Sorby, 14
Best Leading Cadet: Cpl Ethan Lloyd, 16
Best Senior Cadet: Sgt Calum Hartwell, 16
Wing Commander Knowles Shield for Master Air Cadet Exam: Cpl John David Adams, 16
Best Bandsman: Cadet Leona Mason, 14
Best Marksman: Cpl Kai Korzonek, 16
Best Sportsperson: Cadet Julia Rogers, 14
Squadron Leader Kennedy MBE Cup for Best Non-commissioned Officer: Cpl Darryl Hall, 17
Best Dedication to Community Service: Cadet Abbey Stobbs, 15

A number of promotions were also made. Cadets Lauren King, 17, and Abbey Stobbs, Tom Jenkins, and Rivo Roost, all 15, saw themselves elevated to the rank of corporal.

Meanwhile, three corporals were handed their sergeants’ stripes: Darryl Hall, 17, and Jack Sherrin and John David Adams, both 16.

Cadets also received certificates for academic and training achievements, including accreditations for Heartstart emergency lifesaving skills.

Two cadets, Cpl Korzonek and Sgt Adams, had completed their first static line parachute jump in September from a height of 3,500 feet, and were presented with their certificates.

Flt Lt Laidler said it had been a privilege to have been involved with the 61st Sabena Awards.

“They are a true celebration of just how much our cadets achieve, whether that be learning a new skill, excelling academically or contributing to the community.”

“This has been a phenomenal year of successes. All this year’s Sabena winners and promotions can feel justifiably pleased of their achievements, as can everyone from the squadron both individually and collectively.”
“I would like to thank all the cadets for their continued enthusiasm and commitment to the squadron in moving it forward to achieving ever greater things.”

The Sabena Awards have been running since 1954 and are so named because the former Belgium national airline which at that time flew out of Newcastle Airport donated a trophy to 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron for the best all round cadet.

The squadron itself is one of the oldest in the country having been set up in 1941 to help prepare young pilots for wartime service.

It has recently welcomed a new intake of cadets but is keen to attract any additional young people aged 12-18 who are interested in the wide range of activities it has to offer.

The squadron meets twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays at its headquarters in Military Road, North Shields, and cadets take part in a range of character and confidence building activities from flying to adventure training, shooting, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme, and parachuting, as well as a host of community initiatives.

Cadets can also study for a BTEC diploma in aviation skills and regular training camps are organised at RAF bases across the UK and overseas.

Any potential cadets interested in joining 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron or wanting more information should either email: 346@aircadets.org or go to www.346sqn.co.uk.