A CADET is flying high as he looks forward to a royal appointment following a year supporting the Queen's representative in Northumberland.
Matthew Whitehead, a student at Bede Academy, in Blyth, has just completed 12 months as a Lord Lieutenant's Cadet during which he met Prince Edward and attended a garden party at Alnwick Gardens.
The 18-year-old has been rewarded with promotion to Royal Air Force cadet warrant officer - the highest rank possible for a cadet - and an invitation to a royal garden party at Buckingham Palace, which he will attend with his mum Christine Whitehead.
Matthew, who is studying for his A levels in mathematics, history and economics at Bede Academy, joined No 1000 (Blyth) Squadron in the Durham and Northumberland Air Training Corps six years ago.
He was the first in his squadron to be appointed Lord Lieutenant's Cadet, an honour bestowed in recognition of outstanding service.
He said: "When I was 12 I wanted to be a pilot. One of my friends joined the cadets so I went along to see what it was all about."
Matthew is now aiming for a career in the RAF as a legal officer after studying law at Durham University.
"As I got older I decided I want to study law but I still wanted to be in the military, so this career allows me to do both. You have to be a fully qualified solicitor as it involves advising station commanders on legal matters, but you are also a commissioned officer in the RAF," he explained.
Matthew, whose mum is a primary school teacher and dad John is a lawyer based in Bedlington, attends his squadron at the TA Centre in Blyth twice a week and also takes part courses and weekend and week-long camps.
Among his achievements is passing the cadet junior leaders course, which only 776 cadets have achieved in 17 years. Run by serving RAF officers, the course involved seven months of training culminating in an eight-day test in the field, earning Matthew a maroon lanyard for his uniform.
Although he will soon be too old to be a cadet, he is planning to stay with his squadron by joining the RAF Reserves once at university.
Matthew added: "The qualities that you gain from being in the cadets complement what we do at Bede Academy, things like leadership, discipline and serving others.
“I've learned a lot and want to give something back to my squadron by helping train the young cadets, and eventually I might even get my own squadron to run."