University Air Squadrons

[CFS | EFT Introduction | DEFTS | UASs | Tutor Sqn]

There are 14 University Air Squadrons spread throughout the UK, each one linked to several universities within 50 or so miles of its airfield. They were set up as early as 1925 by Lord Trenchard, the 'Father’ of the modern Royal Air Force and they provide free flying training for selected students.


To join a UAS you must become a member of the Volunteer Reserve.  Membership entitles you to fly in military aircraft of the RAF and you must also satisfy age, educational, and nationality requirements.  Broadly speaking this means you need to be:

         Older than 17 and a half years on joining and younger than 23 and a half years old on graduation.

         A full time undergraduate with 2 A levels or equivalent, studying for a first degree with at least 5 terms remaining before graduation.

         A citizen of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or of the Republic of Ireland.


As undergraduates, your first priority is to study, get your degree and enjoy university life, with all the advantages that undergraduate status implies.   Membership of the University Air Squadron falls into 2 categories:

         Sponsored University Bursars (UBs).

         Volunteer Reservists (VRs).

UBs are sponsored students, selected by the Directorate of Recruiting and Selection (DofR&S). They are Officer Cadets (OCs) who receive a bursary, which varies in value according to branch, on the understanding that they will, on satisfactory completion of their degree studies and UAS training, join the RAF for at least a short term commission (minimum 6 years ground, or 12 years flying).

VRs are unsponsored officer cadets (OCs) of the RAFVR and as such are eligible only for attendance pay, travel costs and messing allowance.  They have no formal commitment to join the RAF and can leave (or be dismissed) the squadron at any time.

The Flying

Students selected as pilot members fly an RAF training syllabus of up to 90 hours over three years.  Students are expected to fly once a week during term time and during vacations.  At Summer, Easter, and Christmas camps additional continuous flying instruction is made available.  The instructors are full time RAF officers, all of them qualified flying instructor graduates of the RAF’s Central Flying School.The flying syllabus teaches basic handling of the aircraft including circuits and landings before students are sent on a ‘First Solo’ after about 15 hours, sometimes less.  Thereafter ‘the sky’s the limit’ and you will receive expert instruction in all the flying disciplines of aerobatics, instrument flying, navigation and formation flying, but not quite enough to qualify for the Red Arrows Aerobatics Team.  The current UAS aircraft is the Tutor (pictured above), manufactured by Grob GMbH of Germany, which has recently replaced the British Aerospace Bulldog.

Ground Training

All students, flying and ground branch, are expected to do Ground Training.   Ground Training takes place on one evening per week in term time and there is a requirement to complete two weeks of continuous training each year, usually during the annual summer camp, in order to qualify for a cash ‘bounty’ of between 100 and 155.  The minimum period of ground training is 40 hours in year 1, 30 hours in year 2 and 20 hours in year 3.  Provision is made for Ground Branch Officers who will not graduate as qualified pilots.

Sport and Adventurous Training

Sport is an integral part of service life and 38 sports are recognised by the RAF, 32 of them receiving funding from Service sporting bodies. So it is in the UASs.  Inter-sqn competitions take place throughout the year and for gifted students BAe offers financial assistance for people of national sporting standards. Adventurous Training Centres in the UK and overseas are available and UASs do engage in leadership training and personal development.  Cold weather survival, rock-climbing, sailing, windsurfing, skiing, mountain biking and abseiling are all activities in which past students have become involved, though many of these activities will require a not inconsiderable personal contribution, especially if overseas travel is involved.


Membership of a sqn as a VR does not commit you to joining the RAF.  You need to be a good time manager to fit in the one half day a week for flying and the one evening per week in term time for Ground Training, not forgetting your continuous period of training during vacations.  One thing is certain; the sqn will become a much more important part of your life than you imagined and you will gain far more from it than any other aspect of your time as a student.  Go on! Check the website of your UAS.

Joining a UAS

Recruitment to the UASs is carried out every year at the Freshers’ Fair and during the Autumn term.  After a preliminary filtering interview you may be invited for a selection interview conducted at the University.  Successful candidates interviewed in October can be attested members of the VR and flying by December with no absolute commitment to join the RAF.

Links to the University Air Squadrons

Joining the RAF

Many patriotic students are so attracted by the flying and the lifestyle, that they apply for RAF sponsorship either through the UAS or through the Careers Information Service. This necessitates a visit to the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre (OASC) at The RAF College Cranwell. Successful students may be offered a bursary worth up to 4,000 pa in exchange for a commitment to take at least a Short Service Commission (12 years for Pilots, 6 years for ground branches) after graduation. Entry to a permanent commission guarantees pensionable employment for 16 years. Pay rates for a Flying Officer starting from Feb 04 are 15,603 - 27,47 pa rising to the minimum rank of Flight Lieutenant (31,853 - 37,883 pa).


Date Last Updated : Monday, December 8, 2003 10:00 AM

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