By Dean Sowerby, Apprentice, QinetiQ Training School at MOD Boscombe Down
Dean gives us an update on how things are going in his apprenticeship programme at the QinetiQ Training School.
Most notably, we attended the Lightning Gate Guard unveiling after its revamp, a project we apprentices were heavily involved in – the mechanical apprentices in my year sanded the old coat of paint off in preparation for a new one and also carried out some preliminary repairs on the spine. The unveiling was a great success and as QinetiQ apprentices we were proud to be involved in the refurbishment of an important part of our site.
A gate guardian is a withdrawn piece of equipment mounted as a symbolic ‘guard’ at the main entrance of a military base. Commonly, gate guardians outside airbases are decommissioned examples of aircraft that were once based there.
The gate guardian here at MOD Boscombe Down is the Lightning T.4. XL629, an aircraft used by the Empire Test Pilots School from 1966 to 1975. It retains the colours it wore while in service and has been displayed outside the `Blue Gates’ at Boscombe since 1977, mounted at an inclined angle on two angle-iron frames under the fuselage and a tubular strut under the port wing.
It was decided that our BCE Apprentice School could undertake the repairs as part of our apprentice curriculum. Not only could the in-house refurbishment be completed for a fraction of the cost quoted by external companies, but it also provided us with a great opportunity to apply some of our newly acquired maintenance skills.
We had 10 weeks to sand the airframe and make the necessary repairs to a satisfactory standard that would allow us to complete that part of our curriculum. And now the Lightning, with its gleaming face lift, proudly ‘guards’ the gates at Boscombe once more.
The award-winning training site at MOD Boscombe Down has been successfully training aircraft technicians for the over 40 years, but QinetiQ also offers apprenticeships in business administration, management, project management, information systems, sales, software engineering and facilities management. With over 35 locations across the UK, the opportunities are impressive.