The defence secretary has ordered an internal inspection of the UK’s military flying training after Sky News revealed the system to generate RAF pilots is in crisis.
The move by Ben Wallace is an embarrassing blow for Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, the head of the Royal Air Force (RAF), a defence source said.
Mr Wallace gave his chief of the air staff the task of fixing the RAF’s problem-plagued flying training pipeline as his only priority more than two and a half years ago.
However, leaked documents exposed by Sky News last Friday showed that nearly 350 trainee pilots – more than half of the total pool of RAF, Royal Navy and army trainee aviators – were in limbo as of May.
They are either holding for a slot on a flying training course to open-up or taking a refresher course.
It can also be revealed that these so-called “holdies” have effectively been warned the leaking of the documents that shed light on their predicament might even worsen their situation rather than improve it.
A message, which has since been seen by Sky News, was distributed widely throughout the RAF, warning against leaking information to the media.
RAF leadership in ‘tailspin’ over leaks
The author of the official-sounding note said they suspected Air Chief Marshal Wigston and the rest of the senior RAF leadership “are in a total tailspin about this”.
“They will feel let down and disappointed,” the note said.
“They will now be less likely to view the student cohort’s predicament favourably, too.
“Would you, in their position. The military is all about trust, if you betray that knowingly by leaking reams of official information (it’s not exactly a small slip-up in a personal post on social media!), then you can expect that betrayal will have…