This week We’re catching up with former student, Andy Caldwell, who is now a commercial airline pilot!
Andy told us:
‘I attended Winstanley College 2002-2004 and I studied Biology, PE, 20th Century History and Chemistry.
I initially wanted to join the Royal Air Force straight from college, however, after applying for a scholarship I was advised to go to University and join an RAF University Air Squadron. So, off to Leeds Metropolitan Uni I went where I was selected to join Yorkshire Universities Air Squadron. This is a part of the RAF where, alongside your normal Uni studies, you are taught to fly by the RAF in a bid to attract graduates. Alongside flying, you get to do lots of activities, sports and expeditions whilst being paid a little to help you through University life.
Following Uni, I straightaway joined the RAF as Aircrew (Weapons System Operator). After a few years of training I ended up flying on the CH-47 Chinook Helicopter. During my nine or so years in the RAF I flew on exercises all over the world, including Morocco, Jordan, France and the USA. Being on the RAF Chinook force I was heavily involved in Operation HERRICK, which was the UK involvement in Afghanistan. I did five operational tours of Afghanistan, where the most rewarding/emotional task was flying to recover injured personnel from the battlefield as part of the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) where we often came under heavy enemy fire.
In 2016 I decided it was time for something new and began training to become a commercial airline pilot. After a couple of years of training, including eight months of intensive flying training in New Zealand, I was successfully selected by British Airways to fly the Airbus A320 on its short haul fleet. Although I am still involved in aviation it is a very different world to my former career in the RAF; it is challenging in other ways and no two days are the same. It is definitely not a 9-5 job!
Looking back, I only have great memories from Winstanley and on the rare occasion I do get to come home to Wigan it always amazes me how much it seems to have changed since my time there. I feel it set me up well for University and my career thereafter.’