Lee Calderwood – a steady acquisition of 6,000 flying hrs

Long-time friend and colleague Chris Bartlett shares Ascent Senior Maritime Instructor Lee Calderwood’s success in reaching a milestone 6,000 flying hours – and looks back over his career.

Once confident that The Falklands’ conflict was over, Lee Calderwood joined the RAF in 1983. His stomach rejected fast jets and he instead trained as a Search and Rescue helicopter pilot, where things were much more sedate. He graduated from the Sea King Training Unit based at RNAS Culdrose in 1987, where his deep and enduring admiration for the Royal Navy began.

Lee completed many courageous rescues while serving on SAR Flights at RAF Brawdy, RAF Leconfield, and RAF Valley, before deciding that the world of training delivery would benefit from his knowledge and experience, and becoming a QHI in 1997. Lee flew the Wessex at RAF Shawbury, before joining the Griffin HT Mk1 Implementation Team (SAR) at the Search and Rescue Training Unit RAF Valley.

Now confident that relationships with the Argentinians had improved, in 1997 Lee took command of 78 Sqn in the Falkland Islands and, having proved himself somewhere remote, was allowed to come home and take command of C Flt 22 Sqn RAF Valley, flying the Sea King HAS Mk 3, complete with comfy seats and tea making facilities.

In 2003, Lee decided to give himself a new challenge – the RAF’s loss was the world of herbology’s gain. Throwing himself into this new venture with his customary vigour and attention to detail (as anyone who’s received an email from him will affirm), Lee gained a BSc (Hons) degree in phytotherapy and set up a small holding on the Llyn Peninsula. Sadly, an outbreak of foot and mouth put an end to his small flock of pedigree sheep, as well as his dreams of a quiet life as a gentleman farmer.

But as one door closes another opens, and Lee returned to aviation as the Senior Instructor at the Sea King Simulator, working for Thales. where he entertained many an aspiring young aviator with his stories of daring rescues. Recognising his talent, in 2014 Cobham asked him to lead their new AW139 team as Chief Pilot, delivering training and improving the quality of SAR services in Algeria, Albania, Trinidad and even Curacao.

The world now a safer place, Lee joined Ascent in 2017, where he oversaw the development and introduction of the FTDs at RAF Shawbury. But he still hankered for a return to the cockpit and so was quick to accept the position of Senior Maritime Instructor at 202Sqn RAF Valley and a return to his much-loved North Wales. Here he has clocked up additional flying hours, hitting the milestone 6,000 this spring.