THE new chief of the Royal Air Force is a North Wales man who was inspired to join the RAF after seeing jets fly from RAF Valley on Anglesey.

Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston CBE, who became Chief of the Air Staff on July 26, was brought up in the village of Bethesda and went to school in Bangor.

He took up his new role following a ceremony at the RAF College at Cranwell and is now the professional head of the RAF, leading a service of some 35,000 RAF personnel and 5000 Civil Servants, together with over 700 manned and unmanned aircraft.

He takes office at a time when the service is very busy on a number of operational commitments, both in the UK and across the world.

A former pupil of Ysgol Friars in Bangor, Air Chief Marshal Wigston was also a member of Number 1557 (Friars School) Squadron RAF Air Cadets, where he first developed an interest in aviation and the RAF.

After his time at Ysgol Friars, he attended Oriel College Oxford in 1986, being awarded an RAF sponsorship as part of his studies.

Following University, he began his RAF pilot training, becoming a fast jet pilot on the Tornado in 1992. Subsequently, he completed a number of flying tours in the aircraft, including operational tours in the Middle East, which included command of Number 12 Squadron.

He said: “When growing up in North Wales and at school in Bangor, it was the sight and sound of aircraft from RAF Valley that made me want to join the Air Cadets and then the RAF.

After 33 years of RAF Service, it’s a great honour for me to be new Chief of the Air Staff, leading the Royal Air Force to deliver air and space power to protect our nation.

As part of this, I look forward very much to returning to RAF Valley, together with our other RAF units in Wales, to see the huge range of vital work that continues to be done in Wales to enable the RAF to carry out its mission”.

As well as an accomplished career as an RAF fast jet pilot, Air Chief Marshal Wigston has also held many senior positions in ground based roles.

These have included serving at a number of RAF operational locations across the world, including at the Al Udeid Airbase, Qatar, as the Chief of Combat Operations, at Basrah International Airport, Iraq as Commander of the RAF’s 903 Expeditionary Air Wing and a year in Afghanistan as the Director Air Operations in the Headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force.

These operational roles have also been interspersed with many other RAF tours, which have ranged from the MOD in London, to being the Commander British Forces Cyprus and the Sovereign Base Area. Before becoming Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Wigston held the position of Air Member for Personnel and Capability, looking after the planning and delivery of RAF capability, including its people, equipment, infrastructure and training.

Air Chief Marshal Wigston is married to Kate, a solicitor, and they have two grown up children.