New Zealand’s record-breaking Rugby Union captain Richie McCaw has visited RAF Coningsby.
McCaw arrived at the base just days after captaining the All blacks for the 100th time in their convincing win over Wales last Saturday.
While at Coningsby, McCaw took to the skies with RAF Rugby 7s player, Flight Lieutenant Steve Mills in an RAF Puma 2.
Flt Lt Mills, an RAF pilot and captain of the Puma 2, showed the most-capped All Blacks captain in history the capabilities of the newest support helicopter in the RAF fleet.
The Puma 2, capable of carrying the All Blacks team or up to 16 fully equipped troops, picked up McCaw during a training exercise.
His visit to RAF Coningsby gave an opportunity to demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities and share insights into how qualities such as teamwork and leadership exist in both flying and rugby.
McCaw, who is also a qualified pilot, became an honorary Squadron Leader with the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) in acknowledgment of the parity between his leadership and integrity and those qualities the RNZAF requires in its personnel.
McCaw’s late grandfather Jim was no stranger to working with the RAF, having flown numerous missions during World War II and being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroic actions that saw seven German ships destroyed.
McCaw’s grandfather was also successful in destroying V1 flying bombs in 1944; actions that echo the role that RAF Coningsby performs today, with aircraft permanently on standby ready to defend the UK.
The visit to Coningsby began with McCaw opening the Strengthening Suite in the Station Gymnasium.
He then had the opportunity to fly in a Typhoon as part of a routine training sortie.
A tour of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby allowed McCaw the chance to pay homage to his heritage while learning more about his grandfather’s colleagues in the RAF. He then took the opportunity to meet current and future RAF personnel, sharing his experiences from both on and off the field.
The station rugby team, accompanied by several local school teams, were given the chance to take part in a ‘once in a lifetime’ question and answer session with the inspirational sporting hero.
Freddie, 12, from St Hugh’s School, Woodhall Spa, was delighted to have his All Blacks shirt signed by McCaw.
He said: “It was a huge privilege to meet Richie, it was very kind of him to come and meet us. He is a huge idol for us to look up to.”
Station Commander, Group Captain Jez Attridge said, “We were fortunate to have Richie McCaw, captain of the All Blacks and of the most successful sports team of all time visit RAF Coningsby.
“It was a powerful experience for the whole force here: his positive engagement with our people from children through to our contractors will live long in their memories. “Additionally, if Squadron Leader McCaw can mix being a professional rugby player with duties in the RNZAF, we show that the RAF Reserves can offer similar rewards to many people in the UK. Finally, we owe a debt of gratitude to the McCaw family.
“Richie’s grandfather was a Tempest pilot during the Second World War. He shot down 19 V1s targeted at London.
“Generations of families would not be here if he hadn’t left New Zealand to join in the defence of the UK and we will not forget him or the other Commonwealth people that came to our aid.”