Carol Vorderman counts down to take off

Carol Vorderman counts down to take off

A youthful looking Carol Vorderman beamed yesterday as she became the first woman to be named an honorary ambassador for the RAF Air Cadets.

Just weeks after splitting from her pilot toyboy lover the radiant 53-year-old looked in good spirits at RAF Syerston, near Newark, Notts.

The former Countdown presenter was welcomed at the air base by Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford at around 10.30am.

NTI_CAROL_VORDERMAN_54Carol – herself a qualified private pilot  – was later unveiled as the only female Group Captain Ambassador in the flying organisation’s 76 year history.

Still managing to look glamorous in her own RAF uniform, Carol laughed and joked as she spoke to several young cadets throughout the morning.

Yesterday (Thurs) a delighted Carol, who has an MBE for her services to broadcasting, said: “I am truly honoured to be appointed as an ambassador for the RAF Air Cadets.

“I can’t wait to meet the cadets, and the adult volunteer staff who give so much of their time to support them.

“The cadets themselves are a shining example of the best of British youngsters, standing with them on a parade square will be a great privilege.

“The Air Cadets is open to all and has squadrons all over the UK. Many are taught to fly gliders even before they get their driving licence.

“They have great fun with many taking part in adventure training, all kinds of sport and the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

“Lots of good engineering and technology practice even allows cadets to learn and achieve BTECs.

NTI_CAROL_VORDERMAN_50 “I am the mother of two children who have been either part of Air Cadets or University Air Squadron and they both loved it.

“This is like coming home. I was studying for an engineering degree at Cambridge in 1978 and desperately wanted to join the RAF as a pilot, but sadly back then they wouldn’t accept women in that position, so after I graduated I went off into another life.

“I finally got my Private Pilot’s Licence last December. Things are very different now and I know a number of incredible female RAF pilots.

“The Air Cadets is an inspiring organisation for young people to join and the RAF is a unique family to be a part of.

“There will now be two of us at home who are part of the RAF in one way or another.”

One onlooker, whose son was among the cadets, said: “Carol seemed delighted with the accolade and looked much younger than 53. She’s never looked better and was really enjoying herself.

“You couldn’t wipe the smile off her face and had time for all of the young cadets that wanted to meet her.

“Considering she’s broken up with her partner recently she seemed in great spirits.

“You think the RAF link would have reopened old wounds, but she was really bubbly. Maybe she was just putting on a brave face.”

In September Carol called time on her relationship with with former Red Arrows squadron leader Graham Duff, who is 14 years her junior.

The couple were last seen in public as they walked the red carpet at the London Palladium on September 3.

NTI_CAROL_VORDERMAN_35Carol gained her Private Pilot Licence (PPL) in December 2013 and her night rating in March 2014,

She is continuing with higher level pilot qualifications in training for a planned solo flight around the world in 2015.

She has long been associated with RAF-linked charities including the Royal Air Forces Association, the RAF Benevolent Fund and the Bomber Command Memorial committee.

She even led the Salute Area in Green Park in London when the Queen unveiled the RAF Bomber Command memorial in June 2012.

Her two children were both members of the Combined Cadet Force at school, and Carol’s daughter Katie holds an Officer Cadet rank within the Cambridge University Air Squadron.

Katie will now have to salute her mum when they meet in uniform.

Commandant Air Cadets Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty said: “We are thrilled that Carol has agreed to be our ambassador.

“Her legendary mathematics skills and enthusiasm for engineering, combined with her new-found aviation expertise, will inspire our young people and promote the air cadet experience to new audiences.”

Pictures by Tom Belcher