Over sixty members and friends of the Orihuela Costa Branch of the Royal British Legion spent last Thursday morning as guests of the director, Colonel Emilio Gracia Cirugeda, on the occasion of their visit to the Academia General del Aire (AGA), and the Centro Universitario de la Defensa in San Javier.
The visit was hosted by Cabo (Senior Airwoman) Rosa Iglesias Rodriguez who got the proceedings underway by showing a film, in English, explaining the history of the station together with its current facilities and resources.
There followed a casual stroll though the base, alongside the military runway and the control tower, to the Engineering Squadron, where the visitors were left to explore in their own time. Aircraft available to pour, or lust over in some cases, included the Casa C-101EB Aviojet, Beechcraft T-34 Mentor, Hispano HA-200 Saeta and the CASA T-35C Tamiz (ECH-51) and a couple of out of service Cessna 172’s.
The San Javier Airbase was initially established in 1926 when it first accommodated the School of Naval Aviation, so from the very beginning, the barracks has been linked to the training and education of young pilots.
It was in those early days that Naval Aerospace built most of the hangars and buildings in the base, little of which has changed over the years.
After the Civil War, San Javier became part of the newly created Air Force. In this new era, the primary mission was once again the teaching of flight. This saw the establishment of the la Escuela Premilitar, the Air Training School, responsible for the training of pilots complement, with the first class of 400 students taking up their places in 1940. It became the General Air Academy by Royal decree three years later, since which time over 6,000 students have successfully passed through it’s gates achieving over 800,000 flying hours.
The first woman student entered the academy in 1988 with the arrival of María Eva Lequerica de Jaén. Since then the proportion of female students has grown steadily, and today exceeds 10%.
However in modern times the Academy is rather more than a school for pilot and flight training. Created by Royal Decree 1723/2008 UCD is an institution of higher education for future officers. It is also a learning centre for the Cartagena University where students are taught Industrial Engineering at the University Centre for Defence (UCD) in the Academy grounds.
This new model of Military Education, which accommodates in the region of a hundred students, opened its doors in 2009. Successful candidates now pass out from the campus with a Bachelors Degree in Industrial Engineering.
In recent years competition for entry into the academy has been especially keen with only 78 out of 2,500 candidates accepted for the air academy in 2012.
The first three years of a student’s academic service consists of basic studies and introductory flight training. The fourth year is then devoted to the specialisation chosen with a fifth year, if necessary, for further concentration on that specialisation.
In addition to Pilot and Engineering training the Academy is also responsible for providing general military training for the Quartermaster Corps of Engineers and the Air Force, technical training for entry to the Quartermaster Corps of the Air Force and general military training of Common Corps of the Armed Forces, when the Directorate General of Education and the Ministry of Defence Recruitment determine such needs.
There is also a Language School, a Tactics and Weapons Systems Wing, Air Traffic Control and a Navigational Wings where those students who don’t quite achieve the standards required for phase 2 of pilot training are given the option of alternative training and Air Force careers.
The General Air Academy is also the training center for pilots of the Spanish Air Force Acrobatic team, the Patrulla Águila (Eagle Patrol). Formed in 1985 the display team consists of 12 Spanish-built CASA C-101 Aviojet training jets, seven of which actually fly in airshows.
They can regularly be seen flying over the skies of the Mar Menor in close formation as they practise their intricate manoeuvres. The pilots are all present or former instructors from the Air Force Academy. They have currently amassed over 25,000 flying hours and participated in more than three hundred civilian and military airshows and festivals. They are supported by a large team of technicians, mechanics and engineers.
With the turn of the century the AGA is now the only official pilot training academy of the Air Force, to be fully able to meet the challenges posed by technological developments and changes in the global strategic landscape and with its 1500 staff and students, we must also remember just how important it is to the local economy.
Following the visit to the Academy members of the RBL retired to the excellent Los Caracoles Restaurant in Pilar de la Horadada where they wined and dined into the late afternoon.
Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/42808/