October 6, 2016 (by Asif Shamim) - On Wednesday 5th October Flight Lieutenant Derek Oldham touched down at Royal Air Force Brize Norton to celebrate his 50 years service in the Royal Air Force.
Flight Lieutenant Derek Oldham touched down at RAF Brize Norton on Wednesday 5th October to celebrate his 50 years service in the RAF. [RAF photo]
Flight Lieutenant Oldham joined the RAF straight from school in October 1966 and is currently a Reservist Pilot in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF). A long, varied and enviable flying career which is still on-going, he has flown over 16000 hrs on chipmunks, Jet Provosts, Varsities, Britannias, Bulldogs and Hercules C- 130K and J. Over the last 50 years he has seen active service on many worldwide operations including the Falklands, Gulf Wars and the Balkans.
He has been involved in many humanitarian efforts including 1973 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) repatriating refugees between Pakistan and Bangladesh and the 1984 Famine Relief in Ethiopia. He was also one of the first to qualify in the new role of Air-to-Air Refuelling in 1982.
Qualifying as an instructor in 1975 this is where his skills have shone through in his exceptional career. He has instructed, supervised and evaluated at all stages of flying training, including Flying training, Conversion training, Tactical training, Instructor training (CFS) and Standards and Evaluation (STANEVAL). Whilst the normal retirement age for RAF pilots is Age 55, Flight Lieutenant Oldham was extended in Regular Service to age 65 such was the unique value of his experience and unequivocal ability. Held in the highest esteem by both peers and superiors alike, there are few aviators on the Hercules who haven’t benefited from his tutelage both in his role as a Flight Instructor and as Standards and Evaluation Pilot over the last 40 years.
Of particular note is his lead role in the introduction of the Hercules C-130J in the early 1990s and the significant contribution he still makes to this day. He was responsible for development of the C-130J RAF aircrew documentation, including Instructor and Student training and initial/upgrade software training packages. He worked with Lockheed Martin (LM) during the initial acceptance phase and liaised continuously with both LM and British Aerospace throughout the last 2 decades to ensure smooth development of capability and training delivery, both airborne and simulator. Even today he is rewriting the ab-initio training syllabus and his knowledge from the early trials on C-130J were recently used for emergency procedures during the last flight out of Bastion on Operation HERRICK.
Officer Commanding Number XXIV Squadron, Wing Commander Daz Rawlins said “Derek works on No. 622 Squadron as a reservist, but provides a service to No. XXIV Squadron as a simulator instructor. He has seen some incredible changes, it is testament to the strength of character of Derek, which his has consistently shown over his air force career, as a regular and reservist, that he has moved with the times. I don’t think there is anyone here today that hasn’t benefited from his tutelage over the years. ”
It has been an immense benefit to the RAF Air Transport fleet to be able to retain his skills through his Volunteer Reservist service; his empathy with all ranks and skill levels has ensured the finest instruction and delivery of experience can continue, and he remains the person to turn to for advice on global operations. His aviation enthusiasm is also evident in his role as a volunteer Steward at the Boscombe Down Aviation collection at Old Sarum Airfield.
Flight Lieutenant Derek Oldham said: “I always wanted to fly aeroplanes and I joined the RAF with that intention, and I have always enjoyed it so I’m still here.”
At the young age of 68, his service continues to be extended in the RAuxAF well beyond the normal retirement age such is the exceptional quality of this individual. Flight Lieutenant Oldham’s dedication to the Service, boundless energy and willingness to share his vast experience for the benefit of others is above and beyond the call of duty and is truly inspirational.