Frequently Asked Questions


Why do Cadets wear uniform?
The Air Cadets is a youth organisation affiliated to the Royal Air Force and therefore Cadets wear the same uniform as regular RAF personnel.
Who supervises and leads Cadets?
All squadrons are commanded by an Officer of the Royal Air Force Air Cadets who is assisted by Adult Non-Commissioned Officers and Civilian Instructors. All staff have had criminal records checks to work with young people and are fully qualified in the activities they’re involved in.
Can Cadets learn to fly?
Yes, all cadets will have the opportunity to fly at one of the Air Experience Flights provided by the Volunteer Gliding Squadrons located around the country. Additionally, cadets can apply for scholarships up to Private Pilots Licence level.
How much time will my son/daughter have to give each week?
Typically Cadets will attend the Squadron twice a week for up to 2½ hours a night. Outside of these evenings, there are many activities to do at weekends and in the school holidays. The amount of time a Cadet wants to commit to is up to them and is flexible based on school work etc.
Are Cadets expected to join the military?
No. Although the Air Cadets receive some funding from the RAF, we are not a recruiting organisation. While some cadets do choose to join the military, the training provided by the Air Cadets is held in high regard by civilian employers too and there is no pressure on cadets to consider a service career.
At what age can my son or daughter join?
Cadets can join from 12, as long as they are in year 8 at school, however for some activities such as flying, cadets must be 13¼. For other activities like scholarships, cadets must be 19.
How much does it cost?
Most activities are centrally funded through the RAF which helps to keep costs down. Cadets may be required to pay towards some activities, for example a week long annual camp might be £40 – a small amount considering what’s involved. We also charge subscriptions of £15 per month to cover running costs.


What about disabled people, can they join?
Absolutely! If you’re disabled you are very welcome provided your handicap doesn’t prevent you from taking part in a reasonable number of activities, or is likely to cause you safety problems. We will be happy to speak to you about this.
Do I have to pay for my uniform?
No, the uniform is free but you have to look after it. You may have to buy your own shoes though.
What sort of expeditions are available?
There are a huge amount of expedition opportunities, some overseas, Cadets from 361 (Gateshead) Squadron have gone to places like Cyprus and Gibraltar but the most well known and popular option is the Duke of Edinburgh Award which entails overnight expeditions. They’re great fun and there are lots of other expeditions that pop up regularly.
How long will I be at the Squadron each night?
Each session lasts around two and a half hours, from 1900 to 2130. This gives you plenty of time to complete homework and to deal with other commitments you may have.
How many times a week do you meet?
We meet twice a week on a Tuesday and Friday evening.
How old must I be to join?
You can join when you’re 12 as long as you are in year 8 at school and usually leave when you’re 20. The latest age you can be to join is 17.
What sort of activities do the Air Cadets do?
We get to do a huge variety of activities such as flying, gliding, target shooting, adventure training, sports, camps, drill, academic studies and lots of other things. There’s never a dull moment.
I think I might be interested. What do I do now?
Here at Gateshead Squadron, we run intake nights.

Our next intake of recruit cadets is detailed on the ‘How to join’ page, where you can join the other potential cadets on your first night and make friends for life. On this night you will begin your training and join the RAFAC properly.

In the mean time you should come down and collect a pack, then complete the paperwork to bring with you on that first night and have a look at some of our pre-joining activities to get you prepared for being an Air Cadet (don’t worry these aren’t compulsory).
I’d like to meet new friends too. Is there a social side to it?
Yes! The civilian committee on our squadron will be busy organising all sorts of social events, some to raise funds for the cadets and some just for fun. Most people are surprised to find that as well as enjoying the work they make a lot of new friends and have a great social time when they join as a cadet.

Adult Volunteers

Will I be paid?
You will be provided with all the necessary equipment for your role, including special clothing and uniform where applicable. As an officer or non-commissioned officer you can, however, claim for up to 28 days’ pay per year. Don’t forget, you’ll experience many activities and training opportunities, all for free!
Will I need to have a police check?
Yes. Anyone who works with children must be willing to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. This is a legal requirement and can take about three months, so until it is complete you will not be able to take sole charge of cadets. You’ll be training during this period anyway so your progress won’t be affected.
What happens if I join and then find it doesn’t suit me?
This kind of work doesn’t suit everyone, but when you join us you will be given every opportunity to find a role that you feel happy with. We are particularly keen to ensure that you are suited to and happy with your role, as your enthusiasm can directly impact on the cadets.
Do I need to have experience of working with children?
No, but you do need an understanding of the needs of teenagers. So if you are a parent with children or have had any contact with the children of friends or family, you will have some idea of what’s required. Obviously, if you have any direct experience, such as teaching or sports training, you will have an advantage.
I’m retired but I’d enjoy working with youngsters. Is there an age limit?
There is no upper age limit as a civilian instructor, although uniformed officers retire at 55. Many of our volunteers are retired or semi-retired, which gives them more time to spend with us.
It sounds very energetic. Do I need to be really fit?
We like our volunteers to be reasonably fit so they can join in the physical activities, but other qualities are equally important. We need people who can deal with paperwork and homesick cadets at camp just as much as someone who can hike across the hills with them.
I have a full time job / home to run / children. How can I spare the time for voluntary work?
Most of our volunteers have busy lives too, and many of them work full time. Most activities take place in the evenings and at weekends, and no-one’s expected to take part in everything. Many people get involved initially because their children are cadets – they start off helping out informally at events and open days. As long as you can spare a few hours a week, you’ll be made very welcome.
Can anyone be a volunteer?
We welcome all responsible adults (aged 20 years upwards), male or female, from all social backgrounds, cultures and religions. You don’t need to have any prior military experience, just enthusiasm and commitment.