Air Cadets volunteer retires after 64 'unbelievable' years

Ken Stedman has retired after 64 years of training young air cadets how to fly, with some going on to fly h

Ken Stedman has retired after 64 years of training young air cadets how to fly, with some going on to fly helicopters and military jets - Credit: Ken Stedman

A Royal Air Force Air Cadet volunteer has retired after 64 "unbelievable" years of training air cadets to fly aircraft.

Ken Stedman, from Ipswich, first joined the Stowmarket squadron as a cadet in 1958 at the age of just 13.

Now 77, he retired in May after training more than 600 cadets, many of whom have gone on to become commercial pilots, helicopter pilots, or military pilots.

Ken Stedman has been teaching air cadets how to fly and says the greatest thing is seeing the accomplishment on young people

Ken Stedman has been teaching air cadets how to fly and says the greatest thing is seeing the accomplishment on young people's faces - Credit: Ken Stedman

He said: "I've helped loads of people over the years.

"That's what I will miss most, helping and training the cadets.

"I have trained over 600 students, male and female, from scratch to solo.

"When you send them on their solo trips, the boost it gives a youngster is unbelievable.

Ken Stedman joined the Air Cadets in 1958 when he was just 13.

Portmoak, Scotland, Advanced glider training in the 90s - Credit: Ken Stedman

Most Read

"The greatest thing I got out of it is actually watching a young cadet come to us at 16 years old and by the time they walk out the door – and you see the look of accomplishment on his face, and you see how much it has lifted them – it is incredible.

"One of the lads came to us and he was bullied in school, he was underconfident, and I got him flying solo and he has gone on and the difference that it made to his life is unbelievable."

In 1967 he was commissioned as an officer in the RAF Volunteer Reserve in Stowmarket.

Ken Stedman has retired after 64 years of voluntary work, training air cadets so they can fly solo

Ken Stedman pictured with his wife Eileen - Credit: Ken Stedman

John Stone, who joined the air cadets in 1986, said: "He always makes time to support his staff and cadets and certainly has given his time and personal expense to achieve goals for the volunteer gliding school and the wider RAFAC."

Over the years, Mr Stedman has won many awards, including 45 years of long and meritorious service in 2008, chief of staff commendation in 2011, and in 2016, he won a consistent outstanding service, dedication to duty and persistent pursuit of excellence award from 22 RAF Group.

He said: "I've had a very good time. Not many people give these years, but I have hung on and carried on teaching youngsters.

"I miss it dearly, of course I do."

He is continuing his work in his family business with his son and daughter at 'Industrial Powders and Paints' in Ipswich.